The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the sighthounds, typically weighing about 8 to 18 lb (3.6 to 8.2 kg) and standing about 13 to 15 inches (33 to 38 cm) tall at the withers. Though they are in the "toy" group based on their weight, they are larger than other dogs in the category due to their slender bodies, so owners must be careful when sizing clothing or accommodations.
The Italian Greyhound's chest is deep, with a tucked up abdomen, long slender legs and a long neck that tapers down to a small head. The face is long and pointed, like a full sized greyhound. Overall, they look like "miniature" Greyhounds, though many Italian Greyhound owners dispute the use of the term "miniature Greyhound", in reference to the breed itself. By definition of the American Kennel Club - they are true genetic greyhounds, with a bloodline extending back over 2000 years. Their current small stature is a function of selective breeding. Their gait is distinctive and should be high stepping and free, rather like that of a horse. They are able to run at top speed with a double suspension gallop, and can achieve a top speed of up to 25 miles per hour (40 km/h).
The modern Italian Greyhound's appearance is a result of breeders throughout Europe, particularly Austrian, German, Italian, French and British breeders, making great contributions to the forming of this breed. The Italian Greyhound should resemble a small Greyhound, or rather a Sloughi, though they are in appearance more elegant and graceful.
The Italian Greyhound makes a good companion dog and enjoys the company of people. However, the breed's slim build and short coat make them somewhat fragile, and injury can result from rough or careless play with children. The breed is good with the elderly or a couple without any children for it prefers a quiet household but they are also generally fine with older children. They also are equally at home in the city or the country, although they tend to do best in spacious areas. They are fast, agile and athletic. Like any dog, daily exercise is a must for a happier, well-adjusted pet. Italian greyhounds love to run. The young dog is often particularly active, and this high level of activity may lead them to attempt ill-advised feats of athleticism that can result in injury. Due to their size, and in some lineages poor bone density, they are prone to broken legs. Italian Greyhounds make reasonably good watchdogs, as they bark at unfamiliar sounds. They may also bark at passers-by and other animals. However, they should not be considered "true" guard dogs as they are often aloof with strangers and easily spooked to run.
As gazehounds, Italian Greyhounds instinctively hunt by sight and have an extremely high predator drive. Owners of Italian Greyhounds should typically keep their dogs leashed at all times when not in an enclosed area to avoid the risk of even a well-behaved pet breaking away at high speed after a small animal. Like most sight hounds, the Italian Greyhound’s slender skulls are near the same width of the dog’s neck, and the use of a “martingale” style collar is advised for walking Italian Greyhounds, it tightens up when pulled while remaining comfortable slack when the dog is walking politely. This prevents the dog backing out and escaping. Breakaway collars are advised for identification, because this active and acrobatic breed could easily injure themselves when put in a collar they cannot escape from, and this leads to possible neck injuries and strangling.
The Italian Greyhound is playful, keen, affectionate, intelligent, and kind-mannered. Generally submissive and want nothing more than to please their owners. They are sensitive to the tone of one's voice and will not listen if they sense that they are stronger minded than their owner, however they will also not respond well to harsh discipline. Owners need to be calm, yet possess an air of natural authority. Can be reserved with strangers, socialize well. Adult dogs are not as fragile as they may appear. Generally they are not difficult to train provided their handler is consistent with them.
This dog can be high-strung and timid if they are over protected, and do not receive enough exercise, including a daily pack walk. They do best in a quiet household, although they do get along well with children and other dogs and cats, so long as the humans around them display leadership. In a stressful situation, do not try to reassure the dog by stroking or cuddling, as this intensifies the stress in the dog. In the dog world, when a dog is in an unstable state, and you try and give him reassurance with affection, the dog sees you as being in a weaker state than his own. This intensifies the instability. You need to give off a stronger, more stable energy the dog can feed from. Italian Greyhounds are very dependent and peaceful.
This dog needs you to be his pack leader. Dogs who are babied, and over protected will be snappish if they are frightened. Do not allow your little dog to develop Small Dog Syndrome, where the dog believes they rule the home. This can cause a wide variety of varying degrees of behavior problems. Can be difficult to housebreak. This breed is extremely fast, very active and is able to climb.
Italian Greyhounds are prone to epilepsy, slipped stifle, fractures, PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy). Dams whelp easily. Adult dogs are fairly hardy, however puppies are more fragile up until they are about eighteen months old, and they can break a leg rather easily. During this time be careful with them, but do not treat them like little babies or you will produce an unstable dog.