We're about to go into the busiest part of our show season - four shows in four weeks up and down the country starting with the Burghley Horse Trials from 5-8 September. And we will of course have our four little monkeys, ahem, sorry, I mean Italian Greyhounds, with us on the Charley Chau show stand.
The Charley Chau Italian Greyhounds; from left to right:
Anna,Theo, Tino & Charley
Charley, Anna, Tino and Theo attract quite a lot of attention when we're out at shows, partly because there are four of them and because Italian Greyhounds are still a relatively rare breed in the UK.
Many people see an Italian Greyhound and mistake them for a baby Whippet - even Anna who is nine! You can see how people make that mistake from the photo below:
Theo with his friend Finn the Whippet
And this photo is great for highlighting the difference between the Greyhound, Whippet and Italian Greyhound in terms of size ...
From left to right a Greyhound, Whippet and Anna who is one of the Charley Chau Italian Greyhounds! Photo - Claire Millward.
Lots of people stop to chat on our stand and ask about Italian Greyhounds as a breed, and what they're like to live with.
I'm not sure anyone ever believes us when we say that they're mad as hatters! While we post lots of photos of our little monkeys looking sweet and gorgeous asleep in their beds, the rest of the time it's largely chaos at home and in the office.
Italian Greyhounds are not quiet little house dogs. They're bonkers crazy things on amphetamines! This is how it starts out when they're puppies:
Our own little Tino and friends!
And when they're older and "grown up" they graduate to behaving like this in the pub after a two hour walk through the woods on Wimbledon Common:
Italian Greyhounds need lots of physical exercise (imagine what the lunch would've been like if they hadn't had a two hour walk first) and, this is important, they have stamina. Unlike some of the larger Sighthound breeds they have the energy to keep going for hours, and hours and hours - the Duracel powered version of the Sighthound world!
Italian Greyhounds will chase anything small and furry that moves (rabbits, squirrels, etc.) and they are little Sighthounds despite being classified as Toy Dogs by the UK Kennel Club. If an Italian Greyound spots a squirrel and gives chase, the chances are that they're not going to come back when you call them until they're done chasing. This little clip is not very good quality video but you'll get a sense of how fast these little dogs can move and how much ground they can cover in the blink of an eye:
Blink and you'll miss them
Aside from physical exercise Italian Greyhounds also need a lot of psychological stimulation too and they're not generally a breed for homes where the humans are out all day at work. Italian Greyhounds want to be with their human family and they want to interact with their humans throughout the day. They're bright and curious little things and try to get involved in everything. Here's Charley helping me to water the plants:
Italian Greyhounds want to be involved in everything!
The water video is cute but imagine if you're having a really busy day, you've got lots of jobs to do and not enough time to do them in and you've got a persistent little Italian Greyhound running around your ankles asking to be played with, or cuddled, or taken out for a walk, or anything at all for that matter so long as it involves devoting 100% of your attention to them!
The scene below is pretty typical of what you can expect if you go off and speak to a friend on the phone for 20 minutes:
"It wasn't us. Honest."
Italian Greyhounds are also very agile - dangerously so. "IG-proofing" your home is no mean feat. We're talking about a little dog that's roughly knee height that can jump onto a kitchen worktop from a standing start with alarming ease. Baby gate? Pah, call that an obstacle? Of course you can train them not to jump onto a worktop or not to jump a baby gate but are they going to remember when you're not home??!!
Italian Greyhounds can fly!
Ninja-like skills (Tino is also known as 'The Little Ninja Dog') combined with pencil thin leg bones are a recipe for disaster and yes, we hear of many, many instances of Italian Greyhounds breaking their legs. Sometimes it's down to poor breeding, other times it's because they've launched themselves off something they shouldn't have been on in the first place.
I think by now that you'll have got a hint of what these little dogs are like as a breed ... they are adorable, crazy, affectionate, bloody-minded, great fun, a nightmare, impossible and generally fabulous but they're not right for every home.
If you ever think about bringing an Italian Greyhound into your home we have three bits of advice for you:
On the last point: there isn't a single responsible breeder of Italian Greyhounds in the UK advertising puppies for sale online, regardless of what they claim about pedigrees and the number of generations on their Kennel Club papers, and regardless of how much winning they claim their breeding has done in the show ring, and no matter how much you might want to take that puppy home with you.
Heed the good advice given by the Dog's Trust:
"Dogs Trust totally condemns puppy farming, the practice where dogs are bred purely for profit, often with no license and with no concern for the health or welfare of the dogs. Our overriding priority is the welfare of the dogs, both puppies and their mothers. The best advice that we can offer the public is to never buy puppies through advertisements in local papers and on the internet or from pet shops. Once the demand dries up, the puppy farms cannot provide the supply."
For more information about Italian Greyhounds please visit the Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity website where there is lots of detailed information on caring for this beautiful breed: www.italiangreyhoundrescuecharity.org.uk.