Blog #4 Is an Italian Greyhound the right breed for you?

Our previous blogs have hopefully provided some advice on how to find a reputable breeder and also on how important it is to wait for the right dog, but here we will focus even more specifically on the Italian Greyhound- their character, their personality, their needs – in an attempt to help prospective owners decide whether an IG is the right breed for them.

The IGRC receives enquiries on a daily basis from people who are interested in welcoming an IG into their home. Many people have already carried out thorough research into the breed while others are in the early stages of investigating more about IGs. This blog will hopefully answer some of your questions about this beautiful breed which has captured the hearts of so many.

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1. The Italian Greyhound is in the Toy Group so are they similar to other breeds in this group?
The IG may be a member of The Kennel Club’s Toy Group but IGs are a Sighthound at heart. Overseas (under FCI governing rules) they belong to the Sighthound Group and it is worth all prospective owners bearing this in mind when considering an IG. They may be small, but the IG is an incredibly energetic dog – they are a Sighthound in miniature and they must be treated as such. Some of you may have seen IGs being carried around in “designer dog-carriers” but they are not a breed which can be simply carried and caged away. They love their exercise and it is vital part of their daily well-being.

2. Do Italian Greyhounds require much exercise?
Yes. The energy levels of an IG can often surpass the energy levels of bigger breeds, such as the Whippet and Greyhound. A Greyhound, for example, will be very happy with two short walks in the morning and afternoon either side of spending the rest of the day on the sofa. The IG, however, needs much more stimulus. If you speak to any IG owners, they will probably say that they take their dogs for walks which exceed an hour at a time. IGs love to explore, run with one another, investigate every corner of the fields they exercise in, and much more! At the end of the walk, some of the energy reserves will have been used up but please do not be deceived. An IG can return from a walk and then play for a good while longer in the house. In short, an IG will sleep when necessary (and they do make the perfect sofa partners and hot water bottles) but they have an abundance of energy which most humans are envious of.

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When it comes to exercising, IGs should be walked by their owner or by someone who they are very familiar with. IGs can be easily spooked so if they are on a walk, they need to be with the person with whom they have the strongest bond and who understands their character and behaviour. This is why the IGRC does not recommend that IGs, especially those who are rescues, are exercised by external dog walkers or placed into day care centres where they may not know the people who are looking after them. IGs are not like any other breed so they must be looked after by those who have a thorough understanding of the breed.

3. Are Italian Greyhounds prone to health problems?
The most common health problem that people will associate with the IG will be leg breaks. Their slender legs can be more prone to accidents and, dogs will be dogs so accidents can and do happen. But reputable breeders have thoughtfully bred and produced IGs with improved bone density. This is just one of the reasons why people interested in an IG must do their research properly and find an established, reputable breeder.

To echo previous blogs, the internet must be used with caution when trying to find a dog breeder. The internet can be a good place to research information about the breed and to talk with IGs owners, but prospective puppy owners must be alert. Listed below are some key things which buyers should avoid:
-Puppies advertised online by breeders asking for non-refundable deposits
-Breeders who advertise their puppies as being ready to collect before the age of 10-12weeks old
-Breeders who breed numerous litters regularly (you can research a breeder’s activities with The Kennel Club)
-Puppies advertised as being “teacup” or “miniature” or having a “rare colour”
-Puppies who are not registered with The Kennel Club
-If there is anything about the advert or the website where the puppies are being advertised that sows a seed of doubt in your mind – if there is something that concerns you or you want to check whether a breeder is well-known, prospective owners can always check with the IGRC for further advice.

Once the owner of an IG, you must be sensible and employ common sense. IGs should not be allowed to race up and down stairs, they should be exercised with suitable canine companions (to run an IG with a larger, heavier build of dog is not advisable), and jumping from heights at high speed should be prevented too. Furthermore, a high quality diet should be fed so that an IG’s internal well-being is kept strong and healthy.

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Many breeders and the IGRC recommend that IG owners take out suitable pet insurance for their dog. None of us know precisely what the future holds and the time may come when your dog requires treatment which can be costly. As a dog owner, you take on the huge responsibility of caring for him or her from the moment you collect them through to the time they pass over the rainbow bridge. By having adequate insurance in place, you have the peace of mind that some of the costs of veterinary fees are covered.

4. How well do Italian Greyhounds get on with other dogs?
As with any breed, dogs must be introduced carefully and sensibly to other animals in the household. For those of you who have friends with IGs, you will notice that most IGs make friends very easily. IGs enjoy both human and canine company, playing, exercising, and snoozing together. Each dog is different, with some preferring to be the sole focus of their owner’s attention whereas others thrive on being with other dogs.

5. What is the Italian Greyhound’s temperament like?
IGs are a sensitive breed. They can be aloof at times and some IGs will be more reserved than others. What is crucial is that IGs are sympathetically handled, well socialised from a young age and throughout their life, and given routine and structure so that boundaries are established as part of their training. The IG is an incredibly loyal and loving breed, close to their owner’s side at any given time. As described above, IGs are energetic and with this comes a very fun-loving breed who will never make for a dull moment in the home.

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If the answers to any of the above questions have cast a query or slight doubt in your mind as to the IG’s suitability with you, please do not bury these thoughts. Unfortunately, too many people have a fleeting meeting with an IG, fall in love with their “cuteness” and take on an IG without truly understanding the breed. Yes, they are small and beautiful, but IGs are lively dogs who need and deserve due care and attention. Do not cause unnecessary heartbreak for either an IG or your family by making the wrong decision.

If you decide that the IG is the right breed for you, a dog who you can give much time and love to, then the next thing you need to do is to find the right breeder – please refer back to Blog #3 for more information.

Blog #3 Don’t be tricked or fooled by unscrupulous breeders

In the last IGRC Blog, we looked into the important steps that new owners should take when deciding to welcome a puppy into their home. Choosing the right breed for your lifestyle is the first important decision. Then, you must find the right breeder who will produce a happy, healthy puppy and who will remain in touch offering you advice throughout your dog’s lifetime.

The unscrupulous breeding of Italian Greyhounds has been fed by the increasing popularity of this beautiful breed – when there is demand, supply is being generated by some with little or no thought for the welfare of the brood bitches, stud dogs and their puppies. The recent prosecution of Susan Thomas (Francole), who has also been banned for life by The Kennel Club, is one case which demonstrates how the authorities are monitoring and punishing those whose breeding practices fail to meet welfare standards. Unfortunately, (and this happens in many breeds, not just Italian Greyhounds), unsuspecting prospective owners can be unwittingly brought in by unscrupulous breeders so, if you are thinking of introducing an IG into your home, please approach breeders with your eyes wide open. Here are some points to bear in mind:

i) Meet breeders face-to-face before committing to a puppy. It is essential that you meet IGs, their owners and breeders before you can 100% decide that an IG is the right breed for you and your home. There are lots of dog shows held throughout the year up and down the country where you can meet IG experts who will be able to answer your questions about the breed. You will also be able to see IGs in person, rather than photos online or in a book, which is an invaluable experience – were you expecting them to be as they were? To find an event near to you, please visit The Kennel Club website for a full list of upcoming shows.

ii) Online advertisements. Reputable IG breeders do not breed often. Consequently, they usually have a waiting list of prospective owners and do not need to advertise their puppies on the internet.

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It’s a dog’s life!

iii) After choosing a breeder, visit their premises and they may ask to see your home too. How IGs behave out and about differs greatly to how they rule the roost at home – some IGs can appear rather aloof when at a show but, in the comfort of their home surrounds, their character changes and their confidence blooms. By visiting a breeder, you can see how they raise their dogs. Are the premises clean? Are the dogs happy in their home environment? Does anything raise alarm bells in your head? If so, listen to them. Not only must you, as a prospective owner, ascertain whether the mother of your future puppy is relaxed at home, the breeder should also want to know more about you: your lifestyle, is your property suitable to welcome an IG, are you 100% committed to their puppy not just while they are cute but also fifteen years down the line when your IG is entering his senior years. It is two-way process – you must be happy with the breeder, and the breeder must be happy with you. A strong relationship should form between you and your puppy’s breeder as you may need to turn to them for help and advice over the years. If the breeder you meet is more interested in getting your credit card details for a deposit rather than asking you questions about the life you can offer one of their puppies, alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear.

iv) Visit your puppy at home, with his mother and his littermates. If a breeder offers you a “drop off” service, maybe at a location half way between you and them, alarm bells once again should be sounding out. There are not a large number of reputable IG breeders in the UK so it is possible that your breeder will be located some distance from your home – it may initially appear “annoying” to have to travel five hours to the breeder and then back again, but this is a very small price to pay to get a happy, healthy puppy. Please do not let convenience cloud your judgement.

v) Price of your puppy. If you search “IG puppies” on the internet, the price of a puppy will probably make you wince. On average, the price for an IG puppy from a reputable breeder is £800-£900. This is just a guide, but please do not be lured in to paying more simply because a puppy has a “Crufts champion” supposedly in its pedigree (there is no such thing as Crufts Champion) or because the puppy is “rare in colour or size (to read the Kennel Club breed standard for the Italian Greyhound, please click here – any claims from breeders selling puppies with characteristics not recognised by the KC should be avoided).

vi) Age of your puppy when you collect him. Quite simply, if a breeder is trying to get you to collect an IG puppy before they are twelve weeks old, question them. The IGRC recommends that puppies remain with their mother until this age because this stage in development is crucial.

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The rare moment that an IG is still!

vii) Your breeder should not be a stranger. As mentioned above, the breeder of your puppy should become a point of contact in your phonebook. Many breeders have become very good friends with their puppies’ owners because reputable breeders want to know how their stock is getting on throughout a dog’s life, from their first week in their new home through to their first birthday through to their veteran years. Does the breeder of your prospective puppy give you confidence that they will be at the end of a telephone when you may need them?

These seven point are advisory guidelines that should be in your mind when getting an IG puppy. If you get an uneasy feeling from a potential breeder before getting your puppy, it is usually wise to listen to your gut feeling. Choosing the right puppy from the right breeder at the right time in your life can be one of the most rewarding decisions that you and your family can make. Hastily buying a puppy over the internet from the first breeder you find listed online may prove to be an incredibly costly and painful mistake for you, your family and, most importantly, your puppy.

Blog #2 Patience is a virtue

Getting a dog, whether a puppy or an adult, is a huge commitment but bringing a canine companion into your home can be incredibly rewarding: dogs are loyal, loving, and constantly by your side whether you have had a good or bad day. In return for their faithful companionship, dogs need their owners to carry out a care of duty from the day they collect him or her through to their twilight years. In short, an elderly dog who requires extra care should be loved by the family just as much as the adorable ten week old puppy you picked up fifteen years ago. If you feel that you can offer a lifetime of love and care to a dog, then a four-legged friend will make a wonderful addition to your household.

When the decision to get a dog is made, the research into which dog will be most suitable must begin. When considering which breed to choose, you must evaluate your home and lifestyle. Some breeds will be better suited than others. For example, the increasingly popular Siberian Husky is a beautiful dog but they require considerable exercise (and not just an hour here and then when you can fit it in) which, when not delivered, leaves these incredibly intelligent dogs looking for other ways to be entertained. Conversely, a retired ex-racing Greyhound will be incredibly happy with a couple of twenty minute walks a day and then occupy the sofa! All dogs require their due exercise, but some need it in larger doses so their owners must work this into their daily routine.

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Our faithful canine companions require complete commitment from their owners

Other considerations that must be evaluated include: small or large breed? Puppy or adult? Dog or bitch? Rescue dog? Short coated breed with minimal grooming or a coated breed requiring regular grooming? Once you have decided on the breed, the next step is to learn as much as you can about them. What are their temperaments like? Are there any known health concerns within the breed? Would a male or a female dog be more appropriate?

So, who do you to turn to for this breed specific knowledge? In the online, instantaneous world that we live in today, it is incredibly tempting to log onto the Internet, carry out a search on your chosen breed, and follow the first website you come across. While there are a host of useful websites available online, the Internet is also home to the advertising of hundreds of puppies from unscrupulous breeders so prospective owners must be incredibly cautious not to be drawn in quickly to buying a puppy.

The Internet can be a good place to start your research, but meeting breeders face to face is the best way for you to ask all the questions you may have about a breed. For example, if you were interested in Italian Greyhounds, you would probably contact the Rescue Charity along with the Italian Greyhound Club. The next point of call could be attending an event where established breeders are known to be. The IGC hosts three shows a year where you can meet lots of IGs and talk to their owners. In addition, Crufts and Discover Dogs are two major canine events where breed booths are manned by specialists who can provide further advice about the breed.

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Don’t be fooled… IGs are not always this chilled!

By attending one or more of these events, you can hopefully get to know a couple of breeders and maybe register your interest in a puppy or older dog. They will probably invite you to visit their home, to see their dogs relaxed in their domestic environment. This opportunity allows prospective owners to see the dogs’ natural behaviour – are they a very relaxed breed or overexcitable? How is the breeder looking after their dogs? Will similar adaptions need to be made to your property to make it a suitable environment for a new dog? Is the breed what you expected it to be like? Any second thoughts? If any doubts arise in your mind, this investigative stage is the best time for them to be listened to. Getting a dog and then discovering you are not compatible leads to heartache for both the dog and the family.

Similarly, when visiting a breeder, they will ask you several questions about your home and what you could offer as a prospective owner to one of their dogs. It is essential that a good relationship establishes between a breeder and the owners of their dogs: the breeder is entrusting the new owner with one of their precious puppies, and likewise the owner needs to know that the breeder is a dependable source of advice and information should, at any stage in their dog’s life, they require assistance. Breeders should not cut off new owners as soon as they receive the money for their puppy.

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The first few months of a puppy’s life are crucial

So, you’ve decided that Italian Greyhounds are the right breed for you, and you want a puppy – what next? You will need to be patient. Established IG breeders in the UK do not breed frequently so you will need to wait for the right litter to be produced. Once born, you may like to visit the puppies when they are about six weeks old so that you can see your puppy with his mother and litter mates. Then, the collection date can be arranged. Puppies should not leave their dam until they are at least eight weeks old – this is a legal requirement. Most IG breeders prefer to wait until their puppies are slightly older: for IGs it is recommended that puppies remain with their dam until twelve weeks old allowing them to fully interact with their mother which can make training them later on easier. Therefore, if a breeder offers you to take a puppy before he or she is eight weeks old, you should be alarmed. Similarly, if the breeder is money focused, demanding deposits and pre-payments, this should also be a source for concern. And if a breeder refuses to let you visit their home, preferring to meet at a third party location, alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear.

As a new owner, you should see your puppy with their mother and litter mates, you should never feel pressurised to purchase, and you should not ignore any negative gut feelings you may have. Choosing the right puppy or dog, from the right breeder, at the right time, is central to both your dog’s happiness and your own.

Blog #1 Whisper’s tale: an IG, some sheep & the authorities!

Our first blog is told by a 10 month old IG who joined the Charity last year and who is now happily settled in their new home. Here is Whisper’s tale of running rings around the authorities!

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Here is Whisper, pictured in the centre with the green collar… butter wouldn’t melt!

“Hello everyone! My name is Whisper and I am an IG puppy who was rescued through the IG Rescue Charity in 2015. I am now very happy with my new owners and my four-legged companions. The story I am going to tell is that from an innocent walk that we went on recently which involves me, my four friends, sheep, and the police.

“My owners and I, joined by my furry friends, all went out for a walk on the moors where we all love to run and chase one another, while also investigating lots of interesting scents on the ground. Because livestock animals graze local to our walks, my owners are very proactive in training us how to behave properly around other animals. On this walk, we were all learning how to behave around sheep… My owners were clear with their instructions: dogs must not chase nor frighten sheep. While they were teaching this to us, my eye was caught by a white object some distance away. It had legs and was moving and it had friends, as my eyes soon spotted lots of white things. Right, time to investigate!

“Italian Greyhounds are rather inquisitive by nature. Whether it’s tasting the contents within your favourite mug or finding out more about white obscure objects, we want to know what’s going on! So I started off running towards the white objects that had captured my attention. My owners were calling my name I think, but my canine companions have taught me something called ‘selective hearing’ and I decided to try this out. As I got nearer to the white objects, they started to run and scatter in all directions. I tried to introduce myself to them all but none of them would listen to me – so rude.

“I soon gave up trying to make friends with the white objects and as my owners were still calling my name, I decided to return to them. I ran back, tail wagging and panting, but it soon became clear that they were rather unimpressed with me! One of them said, ‘Whisper, what were we just explaining to you? Do not chase sheep!’ The penny dropped. Those white objects were sheep!! Oooops.

“I quickly realised that I had been naughty and I’ve made a note (… somewhere…) and have vowed not to do it again. All forgiven you’d think? No, the drama was only just beginning…

“Soon after I had returned to my owners, some flashing blue lights could be seen approaching. Like my fellow four-legged friends, we were rather perplexed why the police had joined us on our walk. I am not sure what or who they were expecting, but when the police (including an armed policeman and a dog catcher) came to talk to my owners, they seemed somewhat surprised to be presented with five small dogs. Obviously the description given by the person who reported me for chasing the white things did not quite tally with the real situation. It soon became clear to the police that no harm had been caused to the livestock and they chatted and laughed with my owners while their report and assessment was completed.

“When the police left and we headed home, I was ready for a large nap! The excitement of the afternoon had been quite exhausting. I had learnt a big lesson – one must never, ever chase white things. I finished the day with a new title too – because my actions had been reported to the police and a report completed, I was given a police record. I’ve not heard of any of contemporaries getting a police record … Quite an achievement wouldn’t you say?”

Thank you Whisper for sharing one of your adventures with your new family. Mischievous but still loveable!