These thoughts are as much for new owners as for previous owners.

To allow or not to allow:

I totally do think that setting up your home and yard in an iggyproof manner is the best thing to do for control of iggy joyriding.
* When I say that, I mean back your sofas up to walls if possible, if not, make certain that they are surrounded by a dense non slip rug or carpeting.
*Make certain that while your iggy is running the Iggy 900 at top speed around your home, that all chairs are kept tucked under (a good idea daily), that there is a non slip rug or carpeting at least every 5 strides, so that at a dead run they do not slide into furnishings or walls.
* Do not leave food on countertops or tables unattended ever (it only takes one bite to teach a dog that jumping on those things is profitable).
* Use a tall gate or a closed door to keep them contained in a room, preferably an unclimbable one with vertical slats. (one good jump over a short gate is enough to give them the idea to try it twice).
* Gate off stairs if you have them and they use them as part of the track, and make sure there are stair runners on slick ones.
* Check your yard area often for holes that they can stick a foot in, or fences they can climb or dig under, or large objects left out that can be run into unexpectedly.
* Make sure that if your dog wears clothing, that it doesn't bind, that it cannot cause a trip problem if the dog gets active while wearing it, can't get a leg caught, etc.

But I often hear that people over protect their new puppies and adults and frankly this worries me as much as underprotection. In order to keep an IG safe from accidents and leg breaks the above ideas are good ones, but to worry yourself to death that I can't do this, or allow that, or let my IG do whatever, is not doing your dog or yourself any justice either. To carry your dog everywhere and not let it be a dog and get exercise is not the best thing for your IG.

There is a happy medium, and you need to discover it. In fact the best protection you can possibly have against bone breaks and accidental events is in fact giving your dog (particularly puppies), a very well rounded and very active life from a very early age. The earlier the better. The more a puppy gets to run and play unfettered at a very young age, the safer of a life and the stronger of a body he/she is likely to have.

When choosing a breeder, don't just buy the cute puppy picture. Frankly all puppies are cute, and those staged pictures on the internet are there for one reason and one only. They are the store window. Don't just buy that puppy in the window. Along with your research, choose a breeder who spends a lot of time with their puppies, and allows them freedom to move about from the moment they can walk. Choose a breeder who lets their puppies run around on grass, run around on various surfaces, who gives those pups a very active start in life. The more active the better.

It is those formative moments in an IG's life that work best toward creating not only a happy puppy, but in fact a healthy one who learns early on how to negotiate their world and it's terrors and objects, how to be coordinated in what they do with their bodies, how to bounce back from their tumbles and mis-steps. It is those formative 'bone-building' times in a puppy's life that build bone density and teach your pets that they can and will motor around safely.

Once your puppy is home with you, you cannot keep him in a bubble, you may wish to but it is the worst thing you can do to protect him/her. What you can do is what I list above to set up his space properly. Minimize risk while allowing normal activity. Those doggy prams are cute and wonderful for an injured dog, but remember your dog is a dog, and needs to move a lot. Their bodies are designed for running, they are not as fragile as they look. Many breaks happen because the dog has not been allowed to muscle his body properly and build bone density. Not all, but enough. It is most important that you also give them a safe place and a reason to run around and be silly and goofy and build up their bodies and their bones and their muscles so they have built in protection against accidents.

I personally do not believe in crating a dog all day, I know many of you do so I won't berate that point. However if this is what you do, then make absolutely certain that your dog gets an equal amount of time running about each day. In winter, set up your own version of racetrack and games of fetch and chase me around and whatever you can even on the inside. ALL iggies would like to train you that cold and wet are not good for them. However they are smarter than we are, and too good at training us. They are still dogs, cute and skinny and funny, they are still dogs. They can still go out in snow and can wear safe warm clothing and go on long brisk walks, or even play in the yard. There are plenty of pictures on the internet to support the fact that IGs can and do get used to snow and rain. You do have to push that point with them early on, and once they realize they are still alive, they actually start to find some fun.

Yes you will learn to swallow your heart when it jumps into your throat once in awhile, but giving them an active life full of places to go, people to see, things to do with their bodies is the very best thing you can do for them and for you.

And once a week is just not enough. Every day should contain a lot of free play time or running time, at minimum, every other day to stay fit. They are no different than us, they just have spindlier legs. They need action to stay healthy and strong.

Many of you know I race my dogs, but I would never ever do that if I felt the surface wasn't healthy, or the location far from traffic or protected in some way, or my dogs didn't have great recalls and common sense. All my dogs will run to a person or to my car if they are in trouble. That is not an accident, it's the repetition and routine of their lives. Every week we have routines. Routines about how we leave the front door, about how we go to the hatchback for a safe place to ride, about coming home for a cookie at mom's whim. Every week we practice this. Some folk would never practice in the places I do, but I know which dog can handle which freedoms, and the second the attention wanes, play time is over. Every week I take them out for almost daily brisk walks mixed with fetch or play in a safe place for them to stay very fit and active. Harder on some who will not fetch, but then a game of 'chase me for a cookie' in a safe field helps, or some will only chase another dog, so I set that up too. Every SINGLE walk we go on there is training. Every SINGLE corner we come to involves two words...'wait' and 'ok, come'. Every single curb they come to they get used to stopping while I check the directions for traffic. That alone has saved Quin's life.

I'm suggesting that in order to keep your iggies as safe from injury as possible, planning out your life with them takes thought and a lot of action. You cannot 'protect' your dogs from injury as much as you can 'structure' their lives against injury. And keeping them in a bubble is absolutely not the way to do it. All that will do is make them a bit crazier when they do experience freedom, and less likely to be muscled and coordinated when freedom does happen so that accidents are more prevalent.

The more time as early on in life as possible that they have to be chasing/racing/running/playing dogs as part of their daily routine, the stronger/longer/happier lives they will have. And the other benefit is that you will have a dog who sleeps through the night far more easily than you think.

Worrying about your iggy's next jump is not going to help in any way. Having recently experiencing my own 9.5 yr. old jumping off a 5.5 ft. high hot tub cover ONTO a new brick walkway and swallowing my heart for a full minute, I can tell you, THINGS will HAPPEN! But I have to credit her very varied and fully exercised life as the best protection I gave her to deal with the 'OOOOPS' things that still do happen. Believe me, I watched and waited and bit my tongue as I could not stop it, if I spoke she would have lost her focus. In the end she landed, looked a bit like "oh shit, not my best idea", shook herself off and ran into the crowd of other dogs at the playdate where this happened.

Good genes are the best thing in the world, but not if you don't take care of them. There's a reason my oldies still look like they do, and genes are only a part of that.

D’Folly Italian Greyhounds

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