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Monday, August 02, 2010

Italian Greyhounds

Italian Greyhounds are the miniature of greyhounds. Typically weighing about 7 to 12 lbs and standing about 13 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder or whithers.

They are of the sight or gaze hound variety of hunter. I.e. they hunt by sight and speed. I.G.'s were bred mainly to be toys, or companion dogs, but they were hunters at times, hunting with falcons. They can run up to 25 mph. When they walk they should prance.

The breed is an old one and is believed to have originated more than 4,000 years ago in the countries now known as Greece and Turkey. By the Middle Ages, the breed had become distributed throughout Southern Europe and was later a favorite of the Italians of the sixteenth century, among whom miniature dogs were in great demand. It is, in fact, due to its popularity in Italy at this time that the breed became known as the "Italian Greyhound." From this period onward the history of the breed can be fairly well traced as it spread through Europe, arriving in England in the seventeenth century.

Lure coursing is another activity for the Iggy, and they seem to enjoy it. Although the Italian Greyhound is a very fast dog, it is not good for racing like its larger cousin, the Greyhounds. They are just too delicate and fragile. They break legs easily. And broken legs are expensive fixes because they don't have any meat on their legs which restricts the ability of the bone to heal. You can't put a cast on their leg for long because their skin is so thin and delicate. A cast can wears sores on their legs. These sores are to the bone as there is no meat on their legs so they can be difficult to heal. For all these reasons, a broken leg is an expensive surgical fix. You have to keep in mind they are as agile as cats and will jump. So try to keep their jumping low. I just bought a new bed and mattress in order to lower the profile. Despite having a ramp, my Dresden never used it, preferring to jump. And that was how he broke his first leg. Between my 3, I've had 4 broken legs at $1,500-$2,000 per leg (here in Upstate SC). This is the time to tell you that this is NOT a good breed around children. Nothing against your children and nothing against the breed. It's just a delicate breed and accidents can happen.

They were bred to look like speed dogs... as miniature Greyts. But being so much smaller, leaves their legs vulnerable to breaks. These types of dogs have large chests in order to hold the air they need for running. They have long noses in order to heat and cool the air a little before it hits those lungs. The only big muscles they have are their thighs for pushing off. They are suppose to be skinny, with their hip bones prominent and just a ripple of rib showing. This helps keep their legs safe because weight on those skinny legs can end in broken legs and leg/knee/hip problems. But these breeds are suppose to be thin, it's the way they were bred in order to run at top speed. I.G.s have real skinny little waists which makes belly bands and girl diapers a little hard to keep on. I use an infant diaper around the waists of my boys and cinch it with an elasticized belly band, their belt if you will. Iggies have aerodynamic ears that can slick completely back or look like little hydrofoils. They run with a push from those big muscled thighs and launch fully in the air with no feet on the ground. They completely stretch out to grab more ground. It's called a double suspension gallop. Their tail is very thin and long (like a long pearl necklace with skin over it) and it tucks under them naturally. Those tails are curled and will curl naturally between their legs or, when they are on alert or excited, loops up. This tail is like a rudder. They have great eyesight because they are sight hounds. Sight hounds hunt by sight and then run down their prey. They are not long distance runners but sprinters like leopards. Other sight hounds are Greyts, Afghan Hounds, Borzois, Pharoah Hounds, Wolfhounds, etc. The Iggy is the tiniest of this type of hunter. Although, as I said, they were really bred to be toys and to just look like the big guys. Iggies have very little fur and it's short and odorless. A wipe down with a wet washcloth is about as much as you need every once and awhile. I give mine a bath about once a year and just wipe down their paws if they get dirty outside. With such thin skin you don't want to over wash them and dry out their skin.

They make good watch dogs because they will bark at unusual sounds. Iggies and Greyts can go into their "Roos". For instance my guys will start barking at something and then they look at each other and I know they are about to break forth in song. They begin roo-ing and roo-roo-ing in a sort of yodel. Go to YouTube and do a search on "Greyhounds" and "Roo" and see if you can't find a video of a group "Roo."

They are notorious for being hard to housetrain. My MoneyPenny (Miniature Pinscher) was no easy matter for 2 years but now she's a 100% housetrained. The Iggies are still not housetrained so it's diapers for them. My tiniest I.G., Persephone, uses the pee pads most of the time but Sephy will pee pee on the bed or the floor whenever it suits her. I keep my mattress covered first in large beach towels, then in super mattress pads and then the regular bedding and, so far, nothing has travelled to the mattress. So it's just a matter of changing the linens. It seems to me that Sephy does this when she's feeling neglected, anxious or mad. The boys have to have diapers and pee pads and sometime they have overages that keep me mopping up. They will stand on the pee pads but they are so tall they will pee out of the diaper, over the pee pad and right on the floor. Like little water fountains. Italian Greyts are known for their small bladders (all toys have small bladders) and lack of bladder control in comparison to other dogs. This is thought to be due to the bladder muscle being far too weak and due to many generations of breeding without removing the undesirable genetic traits. If you look at their waists and see how skinny they are, you can see how it's good possibility that their bladder muscles are underdeveloped.

They are very cold intolerant. And you, as the human being and "master-with-a-brain," have to keep this in mind. Heat rises, so the floor can be the coldest part of your house and this affects them. They don't have much fur, meat and no fat so they are colder than other breeds.

They need coats on almost all the time. During the summer you have to remember that you have air conditioning so they need a light shirt. They also need some sun protection as they can get sunburned. For a cheap summer shirt, you can use a big baby's bib and sew some elastic so that it stays around their chest. In the winter time mine get my sister, Melinda's, fleece coats and they wear them around the clock. They love to snuggle under covers and snuggle up to you. So they need a place to snuggle in when you are gone. Either your bed or snuggle sacks in a dog bed.

They should be in a fenced in yard or on a leash. They are fast and can "get on the hunt" and be gone in a NY minute. This applies to all gaze hound.

They are very susceptible to being hurt with other dog breeds. A tussle with anything bigger or more aggressive can lead to a serious injury or death because they have no meat on them and their bones are so little. I've tried some other breeds with mine that were only 5 lbs bigger and it was just too dangerous. They can be running and chasing each other and the bigger one accidentally plow into the Iggy and break a leg. This is how Dresden acquired his 2nd broken leg.

When you hold them, those long legs feel awkward at first but they know how to tuck them up.

They are very dependent and clingy with their owners. Real love bugs and need a lot of loving. They are NOT an independent breed. Their idea of heaven is to crawl under your shirt and lay right on your stomach, skin to skin. If they could merge into their owners, cell by cell, I think they would. I happen to love this but it's not for everyone. When I lay down I'm Min Pinned and Iggified. This means that they have Velcro-ed onto me and it's hard to move. They say that the big Greyts are the same.














For those who are interested in this fascinating breed you need to ask yourself some questions:
* Can you afford the expensive fixes of broken legs? Can you afford normal vetting, good quality food, dog coats and shirts, pee pads and/or diapers? It's a financial commitment.

* Is your home life such that they are reasonably safe and can recieve a lot of attention? This is not a good breed to have if you are gone all day long at work. And,with their small bladders and undeveloped bladder muscles, they can't be expected to wait 8 hours for you to come home from work. When they gotta go, they gotta go.

* Do you like dependent, clingy dogs that need a lot of love and affection? It's their personality.

* Toy dogs are usually sedentary in nature. They need some exercise but otherwise they are content to be sleeping in your lap. It's why they are called companion dogs. Iggies like to sprint but otherwise, they are sedentary. So they aren't the breed for an active person who wants a dog to jog, surf and roller skate with. Does this breed fit in with your lifestyle?

* Can you restrain yourself from overfeeding? Ounces count on small dogs and they can get fat in a hurry which, as I explained earlier, is bad for their legs.

* Do you live in a cold climate? These dogs are very cold intolerant. If you live in a cold climate, that means indoor potty or putting coats (and boots) on every time they have to go potty. It's something to consider.

Now that you've considered these important questions, I can only tell you that this is the most wonderful breed of dog I've ever had. I have loved all my Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, Miniature Pinschers and mutts but this breed has absolutely stolen my heart. They are so sweet, funny, loving, adoring. They are little velcro monkeys and I'm hooked.

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