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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
This lively and friendly Sicilian hound is an excellent companion and watchdog who requires regular exercise — 20 to 30 minutes daily — and plenty of quality time spent with family members, who he’s likely to follow from room to room. Tip: Install a tall fence in your yard because the Cirneco dell’Etna is also a stellar jumper.
It’s believed that the Cirneco dell’Etna descended from dogs who were left behind by the Phoenicians along Sicily’s coast. The breed was depicted on Sicilian coins minted as early as the 3rd century B.C.
The outgoing Cirneco (the plural is Cirnechi) weighs between 18 and 27 pounds, making him suitable for just about any home. Thanks to his innate athleticism, he’s a natural at agility and lure coursing, and he also does well in obedience, rally, and tracking. The Cirneco has a reputation for being easier to train than some other sighthounds — as long as you keep the training sessions short.
Sighthounds are sensitive to movement, so your Cirneco will happily chase cats and other small, furry animals. For this reason, be sure to confine him to a yard with a tall fence. Not only is the Cirneco an expert jumper, but he’s also a digger — if he can’t clear the fence, he may just burrow beneath it. And don’t waste your money on an underground electronic version: He’ll blow through it without a backward glance. You should also keep his jumping skills in mind if you plan to leave food out on a counter or table. Since the Cirneco is a typical hound, he’ll steal edibles whenever — and wherever — the opportunity presents itself.
Like most dogs, the Cirneco can become bored, noisy, and destructive if he doesn’t have other dogs to keep him company or if he doesn’t receive enough attention from his people. Despite his chase instinct, if a Cirneco is raised with other pets from an early age, he can live amicably with cats and small dogs.
When it comes to grooming, the Cirneco is low maintenance: His short, glossy coat is easy to care for — just give it a weekly brushing to remove dead hairs. You should also trim his nails, brush his teeth, and clean his ears regularly. With his thin coat and bony body, it goes without saying that the Cirneco needs to live indoors, preferably with access to soft furniture or pet bedding. He isn’t built to withstand cold weather, so don’t be surprised if you find him snuggling under the covers with you at bedtime.
The Cirneco (pronounced cheer-NAY-ko) dell’Etna, also known as the Sicilian Greyhound, may resemble a small Pharaoh Hound, but he’s a distinct breed of Italian origin, with his own color markings, tail shape, and triangle-shaped ears. He gets his name from Mount Etna, on the Italian island of Sicily, where his ancestors hunted rabbit and hare. He stalks silently — so much so that he can even sneak up on birds. Today, this rare breed is predominantly a family companion.
The Cirneco was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 2006. The breed is also part of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service, the first step toward AKC recognition. In 2012, the Cirneco dell’Etna will be admitted to the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class.
The breed standard calls for the Cirneco to be alert and gentle, with an independent temperament. This curious and playful sighthound loves to be with people. He’s also smart and trainable, especially if you use such positive reinforcement techniques as praise, play, and treats. Although he’s small, the Cirneco is a hunter at heart. Always keep a tight hold on his leash — if he spots a squirrel, he’ll give chase. However, a stern tone of voice should be enough to bring him back to you.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Since there are so few of these dogs, little is known about the health of Cirnechi. In general, they appear to be a hardy breed, but they can get muscle and toe injuries while running. A reputable breeder will discuss potential health problems with you, including any conditions that she has noticed in her own lines.
Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic disease, and only breed the best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy can develop a genetic condition. In most cases, he can still live a good life, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine. And remember that you have the power to protect your Cirneco from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping him at an appropriate weight is a simple way to extend your Cirneco’s life.
The Cirneco has a glossy, tan- to chestnut-colored coat that’s easy to groom: Brush him weekly using a hound glove or a rubber curry brush. If you brush him consistently, he shouldn’t need a bath too often.
The rest is routine care: Brush his teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath, and trim his nails every week or two. Sighthounds are sensitive about having their feet manhandled, so be careful not to cut into the quick. If you do, your Cirneco won’t forget, making future nail trimmings more difficult.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Selecting a respected breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. Reputable breeders will welcome questions about temperament and health clearances, as well as explain the history of the breed and what kind of puppy makes for a good pet. Don’t be shy about describing exactly what you’re looking for in a dog — breeders interact with their puppies daily and can make accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
Lots of breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags to look out for: multiple litters on the premises, puppies always being available, having your choice of any puppy, and being offered the option to pay online with a credit card. Breeders who sell puppies at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
To start your search, check out the website of the Cirneco dell’Etna Club of America and look for a breeder who doesn’t place puppies prior to 8 weeks of age or sell them through pet stores. She should also provide documentation proving that she’s had her dogs checked for common health conditions.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Cirneco puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, the sex of the puppy, the titles that the puppy’s parents have, and whether the puppy is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life. If you put as much effort into researching your puppy as you would when buying a new car, it will save you money in the long run.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Cirneco may better suit your lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a good deal of time and effort before they grow up to be the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training, and he’ll probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com can have you searching for a Cirneco in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Cirnechi available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Cirneco. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Cirnechi love all Cirnechi. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Cirneco dell'Etna Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Cirneco rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Cirneco home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Cirneco, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Cirneco to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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