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Italian Greyhounds: Health and Safety

Linda lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. She has been owned by two Italian Greyhounds.


When an Italian Greyhound (aka IG or Iggy) looks at you, the look says, "You are mine, but it is your responsiblity to keep me safe." Why? "Because I am just too busy to be responsible for myself." And they mean it. It's up to you to keep them safe and it's not always an easy job. Let's talk about some useful tips for keeping your Italian greyhound safe and healthy.

If you have decided to bring an Italian Greyhound into your home, you have the responsibility for making sure your home is a safe environment for them. Only a responsible pet owner should fall in love with an Italian Greyhound. These little dogs just have no sense of danger and most think they can fly.

Unlike Labs and Retrievers and all those other wonderful larger breeds, IG's have two speeds, fast-forward and stop. They are high-energy dogs who are interested in absolutely everything around them. They are sometimes skittish, but this cannot be mistaken for rational fear. Don't let them fool you. An Italian Greyhound is not capable of recognizing what can hurt them.

Tips for Keeping Your Italian Greyhound Safe Inside the Home

Italian Greyhounds are just naturally curious and if they want something, they will climb any object in an attempt to reach it. There are things you can do to prevent your dog from getting into things that can hurt them.

  1. Never leave food laying around. There are foods that are toxic to dogs. Don't trust your Italian Greyhound to know the difference.
  2. Keep cleaning products in secure cabinets.
  3. Remember that whatever you clean your floors with will end up on your Italian Greyhound's feet. What lands on the feet ends up in the mouth. Keep them off of freshly cleaned carpets or floors that have been cleaned with chemicals.
  4. Keep office chairs with casters pushed up under a desk or table. An Italian Greyhound can take a fall from a moving chair and their legs are very fragile. Broken legs are expensive to fix.
  5. If you use chemicals in your toilet, keep the lid closed. Most dogs can't resist drinking from the toilet and Italian Greyhounds are no different.
  6. Keep doors and windows secure. An IG can be an extreme escape artist.
  7. Keep your dog's nails clipped. Nails that are too long can get hung in carpets, under transition strips between rooms and other strange places you've never thought about.
  8. Never leave an Italian Greyhound unattended on a balcony. They really do thnk they can fly and even a passing butterfly is too much temptation for them.
  9. Be VERY CAREFUL with essential oils. Scented diffusers, and air refresher sprays. Research what is toxic an unsafe for your dog.

Tips for Keeping Your Italian Greyhound Safe Outside The Home

Italian Greyhounds love to be with you and they need to be exercised and socialized. It is your responsibility to keep them on a secure lead. If they ever escape, it can end up in disaster. An IG off lead can be easily spooked and will run straight into traffic without a thought. Even the slightest noise can send them running and they are incredibly fast. They won't be caught until they wear themselves out, have an accident, or decide it's time to come home.

Collars and Harnesses

Because Italian Greyhounds have a head that is generally smaller than their neck, it is easy for them to slip out of a regular collar. All experienced breeders will tell you that the only way to keep an Italian Greyhound safe outdoors is with a Martingale collar or a harness. The Martingale collar has an additional loop that tightens when the dog is pulling against the lead. A properly fitted Martingale can be used for every day use but many IG owners only use them for outdoor activities. A busy Italian Greyhound has the potential to get the additional loop hung on indoor objects. The Martingale is a safe and effective way to control your Italian Greyhound while also preventing them from slipping their lead. A regular collar can easily slip over the smaller dimension of an Iggy's head.

When choosing a harness, choose carefully. Never choose a harness with loops around the rear hips of your dog. With so little body fat, the internal organs (kidney, liver, etc) can be injured if your dog lunges suddenly and is wearing a harness that loops around the rear hips. A favorite of many Iggy owners is the "Reversible Harness" by Linda.

Dog Parks

Dog parks are a great opportunity to spend social time with your Italian Greyhound. Regardless of how secure the fencing is in your neighborhood dog park, you can't trust your Italian Greyhound off lead. The breed is a sight hound and all sight hounds have varying degrees of prey-drive. It is your responsibility to know your dog. How will your Italian Greyhound react to that new Chihuahua puppy at the park? Will it think it's a bunny and attack or will it see it as nothing more than an opportunity to play with someone small? Don't assume. Keep your Italian Greyhound controlled until you know for sure.

Your Italian Greyhound also has the potential to be overly exuberant when meeting new friends at the park. Not all dogs welcome a newcomer who runs right up and leaps into play. They may take offense and attack your Italian Greyhound. Keep them safe. Keep them under your control until a friendship is formed.

Yippee!  Someone to play with!

Yippee! Someone to play with!

Keeping Your Italian Greyhound Safe Is Up to You!

An Italian Greyhound is a little dog with a big personality. They love their person and want to be with you all the time. They are very smart and do well in sports. These little athletes can compete in agility, lure coursing, and fly ball but be prepared for injuries. An Italian Greyhound won't slow down until they finish, win, or get hurt. It is all up to you to keep them safe.

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Owning an Italian Greyhound is so rewarding and once you are loved by one, you can't imagine life without them. An Iggy will love you like no other breed and they trust you to keep them safe. Broken bones are not uncommon in this breed and the Iggy "death scream" when a bone breaks is terrifying. Do your best to keep your dog safe and with a little luck, you'll never experience that haunting sound.

Italian Greyhounds have a life expectancy of 12-15 years. Your dog will do their job of entertaining and loving you but keeping them safe is up to you.

Questions & Answers

Question: We have hawks in our area, three I believe. Have you ever heard of an Iggy being carried away by a hawk? I do have a completely safe 6-foot wooden fence. I would like for my Iggy to enjoy some free time off leash. Would that be ok? Lastly, we have screened in our pool so our Iggy would not have access to it without me. But could one swim with me? I am trying to take all considerations into view before making a decision.

Answer: What great questions. Thank you for asking them. Having a securely fenced in yard is certainly a good idea for these marvelous little dogs. They love to run, and it is good for their little bones to get exercise that keeps them strong.

Hawks are a threat to any small animal although I have never heard of a hawk carrying off an Italian Greyhound. They can and do carry off cats, rats, and bunnies, and most Italian Greyhounds are of equal size to some of those. Maybe you could invite some crows into your yard with a bird feeder or two. Crows or notorious for battling hawks. They have no fear of them.

Your pool should not be a problem as long as it is not accessible when you are not in the area. Many Italian Greyhounds love the water and will swim with you. Just let your dog decide and don't try to force them. Italian Greyhounds are not the dog for everyone. You are asking great questions, and should you decide to bring one into your home, I think it will be a lucky dog.

Question: I found a stray Iggy and it looks very malnourished and un-fed. Any tips to for an underweight Iggy?

Answer: First, get it to a veterinarian. If it is otherwise healthy, Staley high-quality dog food and supplement with cooked chicken, rice, and sweet potatoes. Reach out to Italian greyhound groups on Facebook and post flyers in your area. Someone is looking for that little darling.

Question: I have an Italian greyhound/mini pinscher mix. He loves the dog park and playing with other dogs, but often when we get home I find his back legs got scraped up to the point of bleedinyg. I know that grey hounds tend to have thinner skin and I don't want him to continue to have scab overed legs, but I also don't want to take him from his favorite form of play. Is there any way of wrapping their legs or otherwise protecting their thin skin in the areas most affected by play?

Answer: You are correct that Greyhounds have thin skin and can easily suffer a skin tear. Unfortunately I do not have any experience with that issue antenna offer and a concrete advice. I would suggest Consulting with your vet before attempting to wrap those tiny little legs. You might also look into some custom jammies that would cover those legs. I am sorry I'm not of any more help to you but wish you luck in solving the problem. It is up to us to keep these little guys safe and it is not always easy.

© 2012 Linda Crist


Linda Crist (author) from Central Virginia on August 20, 2012:

Hi Peggy W. No, not quite the same. The Italian Greyhound is about 15 inches in height and weighs 10-17 pounds. The Greyhounds your friends adopted are typically over 70 pounds and about 30-40 inches in height. The larger, racing hounds are incredibly docile and big couch potatoes. The Italian Grehounds were bred down from them and inherited a high energy with the lighter weight. They are amazing pets but require a lot of diligence. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 20, 2012:

We have acquaintenances who adopted several greyhounds that were retired from the racetrack scene. Are Italian Greyhounds one and the same? They told us that they were amazingly docile and great family pets.

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