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Cirneco dell’Etna Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Traits, Care & Facts

Quincy Miller

By Quincy Miller

Cirneco dell'Etna Dog

Height: 16 – 20 inches
Weight: 16 – 30 pounds
Lifespan: 12 – 14 years
Colors: Chestnut, tan, white
Suitable for: Active families, those with older children
Temperament: Easy to train, intelligent, energetic, athletic, destructive

The Cirneco dell’Etna (pronounced “cheer-NECK-o”) is an extremely athletic Italian sighthound that was originally bred to hunt rabbits. Also known as Italian Greyhounds, these dogs can be extremely fast and energetic.

As a result, these dogs aren’t ideal for sedentary owners or those living in cramped apartments. They need room to stretch out their legs, and they can turn destructive if their energy levels get out of hand.

Not many people know about the Cirneco dell’Etna, but that’s not the fault of these wonderful dogs. If you’d like to learn more about these pups, the guide below will answer all your questions.

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Cirneco dell’Etna Puppies

Cirneco dell'Etna puppies
Image Credit: Ricantimages, Shutterstock

Cirneco dell’Etna puppies look like a shrunken version of the adult dog. All the features are already there: the oversized ears, the lean torso, and the extremely long legs. They’re distinctive-looking animals, and their appearance is bound to be divisive.

They’re already hyperactive as puppies, so don’t be surprised to see them bouncing off the walls from the very first moment you see them. Those energy levels don’t dissipate much as they age, so if you don’t think that you can handle them as puppies, you’re not likely to enjoy them as adults.

These dogs tend to be independent as adults, so it’s important to start their training as soon as you bring them home as puppies. Socialization is also key, so start introducing them to new people and places as soon as possible.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Cirneco dell’Etna

1. You’ll need a formidable fence.

These dogs are incredibly athletic, and their prowess extends beyond the racetrack. They’re also incredible jumpers, so don’t expect a 6-foot fence to keep them contained if they see something worth chasing on the other side.

The fact is, they can probably scale just about any normal-sized fence, so your best bet is to eliminate sightlines or keep them inside when unattended. They’ll chase their prey for as long as it takes, so if they clear the fence, you may never see them again.

2. They can sneak up on just about anything.

When they’re not outrunning their quarry, Cirnecos will stalk them — and they can be completely silent when doing so. In fact, they’ve even been known to hunt and capture birds.

If you scare easily, this dog may not be right for you. Also, you’ll have to watch where you step, because they can sneak up on you at any time.

3. They’re incredibly rare outside Italy.

The AKC estimates that there are only 200 or so Cirnecos in the United States. That’s one reason that they’re so hard to come by as puppies — the supply just isn’t there.

The upshot, of course, is that if you do track one down, you can rest assured that you’ll be the only person on the block who owns one.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Cirneco dell’Etna 🧠

Cirnecos love to be around people, especially their families, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll mindlessly follow your orders. These dogs are independent, and they’ll absolutely disregard your commands if they feel like they know better, which is why training is so important.

The good news about that is their brains will quickly soak up anything you teach them. They hardly ever need to be told anything twice, so training can be done quickly. The catch is that you’ll need to keep things interesting because if you fall into a rut, they’ll soon tune you out and let their minds wander.

They thrive on positive attention, so use praise to train them rather than punishment. According to Sicilian lore, these dogs hold grudges their entire lives; we don’t know whether that’s true or not, but it’s probably best not to find out.

They do best when kept close to their families, as they can turn destructive if left alone too long. That destructiveness can range from chewing up shoes and furniture to digging up your yard; they can also escape and seek other companionship if the opportunity arises.

All in all, these dogs are bottomless pits for attention, so they’re not ideal for owners who plan on spending most of their time at work. If you’ll be around them for the most part, though, they’ll repay your love and devotion many times over.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

You may need an entire family to raise a Cirneco, as these dogs are extremely active. It may behoove you to recruit as many people as possible to help with walks and playtime (not to mention snuggle time).

Fortunately, these dogs tend to make great family pets, especially those with older children. They’re loyal toward their owners and love to cuddle up next to you when they’re not running all over creation.

They’re not that welcoming toward guests, although they’re not prone to aggression either. Don’t expect them to show your friends the same love and affection that they smother you with on a near-constant basis.

Given their high energy levels and propensity to run around at top speeds, they’re not ideal for homes with very small kids. They could easily bowl over a little one while racing around, and seniors may need to be careful around them as well.

They can adapt to apartment life well enough, provided that you give them plenty of intense exercise on a daily basis. Once they’ve emptied their tanks, they’re extremely low-maintenance, but you may need to take them for a run at the park before work every morning. Otherwise, a home with a big yard (and a tall fence) is best.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

While Cirnecos will never be mistaken for the most social of breeds, they generally tolerate other dogs well (with the only exception being other Cirnecos of the same sex, especially if neither animal is fixed). They love to tear around the yard, so having someone to chase and be chased by will keep them entertained for hours.

They’re not ideal for homes with smaller pets like cats or rodents, though. These dogs have extremely high prey drives, and while they can outrun just about any other dog on the planet, it’s their silent stalking abilities that could prove disastrous for other pets.

You can mitigate these tendencies somewhat with proper training and socialization, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to neutralize them to the point that you would be comfortable leaving your Cirneco alone with your cat for an extended period of time.

They’re not prone to aggression if they see other dogs on the street or at the park, but they will absolutely drop everything to chase a squirrel or other small creature. As a result, you should never let them off their leash, and you should always be prepared to have to restrain this small rocket at a moment’s notice.

That prey drive is also a big reason that leaving them unattended in the backyard is a bad idea. If they see something to chase, they’ll stop at nothing to do so, even if it means finding a way to escape containment

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Things to Know When Owning a Cirneco dell’Etna

Cirneco dell’Etnas are an interesting breed, as they boast an equal mix of high- and low-maintenance tendencies. As a result, they can be challenging for first-time owners.

Since the breed isn’t well known outside of Italy, most people have no idea what kind of challenges lay in store for them if they adopt one. The information below should help you feel more prepared for life with one of these strange (but wonderful) animals.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Cirnecos are kind of like small camels. They were bred to be able to hunt game for hours at a time with little food or water, so they may not bug you for food as often as another breed of dog would.

However, when given a chance to eat, these pups will chow down until they burst. They’ll definitely overeat if given the opportunity, and as a result, these dogs are prone to obesity. Their fragile frames can’t handle extra weight, though, so letting them become obese is one of the worst things that you can do.

We recommend feeding them a high-protein kibble, as that will keep them full while offering plenty of fuel for their frequent bursts of speed. Only serve them a set amount at scheduled times, however, as allowing them to free-feed is a recipe for disaster.

Watch out for ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, or animal by-products. These are hard for most dogs to tolerate, and besides that, they’re full of empty calories — not something you want with a dog that’s already prone to obesity.

You can give them healthy snacks as a treat, but don’t think that you need to use them as training rewards. These dogs are motivated by praise and attention, and you can likely get the same results without the extra calories.

Exercise 🐕

Surprisingly enough, Cirnecos don’t need much exercise. However, they do need extremely intense exercise.

A long, slow walk isn’t going to do much for these dogs (although they’ll still appreciate it). What they need are short bursts of high-intensity exercise, like sprinting at full speed.

If you don’t have enough space in your backyard to accommodate these periodic zoomies, then you’ll need to find an enclosed park that does — emphasis on “enclosed.” If you let these dogs off-leash, even for a few moments, they’re liable to spot something to chase and take off, never to be seen again.

Allowing them to burn off their energy in short sessions — around 20-30 minutes or so — should be all the activity these dogs need. After they’re done, they’ll likely curl up on the couch for the rest of the day.

If your Cirneco doesn’t get their daily minimum requirement of exercise, though, they’ll likely use that leftover energy to become destructive. They can wreak havoc on your belongings, and don’t be surprised if they make your yard look like it’s under attack by a squadron of gophers.

Training 🦮

These dogs are intelligent and eager to please, which generally makes them easy to train. Don’t be surprised if they pick up on your commands almost instantly.

However, you’ll need to vary your training sessions up to keep them interested, as they’ll quickly grow bored by the same-old routines. Also, you’ll be competing for their attention with everything else they can see, so you’ll need to be more interesting than whatever else is happening at the time.

It’s essential that you train and socialize them early and often, though. These dogs can have strong independent streaks, and you don’t want them thinking that they’re the boss. This can lead to all sorts of behavioral problems down the road, including aggression.

One of the most important commands that you can teach a Cirneco is “leave it.” You’ll need to be able to call them off if they spot something worth chasing, and being able to do so reliably could save their life (not to mention the neighbor’s cat).

However, you should never rely on the command alone to stop them if they’re in the middle of a chase. It’s a good tool to have, but it’s no substitute for a strong leash.

Grooming ✂️

Cirnecos have short, wiry coats and don’t require much in the way of maintenance. You’ll still want to take a natural bristle brush to them every week just to keep their shedding under control, though.

Brushing also helps redistribute the oils on their skin. These dogs are prone to skin allergies, and brushing can help keep them under control. You can talk to your vet about other remedies like oatmeal baths or coconut oil.

They don’t need to be bathed often, and washing them too frequently can strip them of their skin oils. You can limit baths to whenever they become visibly dirty.

Their long ears can trap dirt and debris, and that will lead to infections if they’re not cleaned out regularly. Aim for once a week at least.

Cirneco dell'Etna
Image By: tkach-artvitae, Shutterstock

You’ll need to trim their nails as needed, as too-long nails can be painful for them. However, they’re generally not fond of the nail-trimming process, so it may be a bit of a rodeo. You may be able to file their nails down naturally by letting them walk and run on hard surfaces like pavement, though.

Their teeth should be brushed regularly, and you should also schedule periodic dental cleanings with your vet.

Health Conditions ❤️

These animals were bred to survive and function in punishing conditions, and their health seems to be good as a result. That doesn’t mean that they’re not prone to a variety of health conditions, however.

Before we start listing all the things that can go wrong with these dogs, it’s worth noting that since there are so few of them around, it’s hard to come to accurate conclusions as to what issues they’re truly prone to experiencing.

The conditions below represent a “best guess” as to their likely health issues. Your Cirneco could sidestep all the issues below or develop totally new ones, so don’t take this list as gospel.

Minor Conditions
  • Sensitivity to anesthesia
  • Skin allergies or mange
  • Toe injuries
  • Muscle tears
  • Cold intolerance
Serious Conditions
  • Obesity
  • Hypothermia
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia

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Male vs Female

As with their health issues, there’s not enough information about these dogs to draw solid conclusions about the differences between the two genders.

That being said, males do tend to be a little larger, but only by a few pounds and a couple of inches. They’re both similarly intolerant of same-sex members of their breed as well, so if you want to own multiple Cirnecos, make sure you don’t double up on one gender.

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In Conclusion

The Cirneco dell’Etna is a rare and mysterious breed, and you can likely be the first person on your block (and maybe in your entire town) to own one. They can be equal parts laidback and demanding, and as a result, they’re not ideal for the inexperienced dog owner.

They need their fair share of high-intensity exercise, but as long as you provide that, you should have a docile and relaxed pooch on your hands. They’re loving and loyal to family members but can be aloof toward guests. They’re also squirrel-seeking missiles just waiting to be unleashed.

All in all, the Cirneco is a wonderful dog with a personality all their own. They’re not for everyone, but if you can meet their unique demands, you’ll have a fantastic family dog — not to mention a pup that’s sure to be the talk of the neighborhood.

Featured Image Credit: Zoja Emelianova, Shutterstock

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