The Whippet is lightning quick; reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. He is an amiable, dignified, and gentle soul, but give him something to chase and he’s all business. The Whippet is from north country Victorian England. Coal miners enjoyed dog racing and rabbit hunting, but they couldn’t afford, or have the space for athletes like Greyhounds so they bred a smaller version of the Greyhound. By the turn of the 20th century, emigrants to New England brought their Whippets and Whippet racing for money or entertainment caught on. The AKC registered its first Whippet in 1888.
The Whippet has a lean body with long legs, enabling it to run at high paces. The Whippet is 18 to 22 inches tall and weighs 25 to 40 pounds. They have the classic “inverted S” lines of the sighthound. The deep chest and trim waist; a lean head supported by a long, arched neck; and slim but sturdy legs combine in a picture of an agile, fleet-footed athlete.
The Whippet’s coat comes in every variety of colors. The coat is short and smooth and needs little maintenance beyond regular weekly grooming with a brush and the occasional bath. And although they don’t shed as heavily as other breeds, you’ll still want to keep a lint roller on hand. The Whippet’s short coat and skin type makes it a good fit for people with mild allergies. This breed produces a light oil on its skin, resulting in less dander and minimal shedding.
Whippet’s life expectancy is 12 to 15 years. They are happiest when running full speed ahead and sleeping curled up on their or their owner’s bed. They are quiet inside the house, occasionally barking if there’s something worth barking at. Running outdoors freely is one of the Whippet’s favorite activities, but care must be taken to protect them from areas that are open to street passages. Like all sighthounds, they love to chase anything that moves, and that includes neighborhood cats; however, they get along well with family cats and dogs and are gentle with children.
The Whippet is one of the most obedient of breeds. They are also among the most demonstrative, enjoying cuddling and playing with their family. This affection is only reserved for family members, however, and they are not social butterflies. A sensitive dog, whippets are attached to their family and do not like to be separated from them.
Whippets can live in an apartment if they have the opportunity for a good sprint a couple of times a day; as long as they get adequate exercise, they are quite pleasant and quiet inside.
They do not like being cold and hate hard surfaces. Whippets like to be with their owner and even want to be making contact when they sleep. They are gentle and non-aggressive. The biggest danger to people is their wagging tail that can leave welts on you once it gets going and smacks your leg. They are hopeless as protection dogs.
Caring for a Whippet
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Whippet.
The Whippet should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to becoming overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
Whippets need 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise and will enjoy romping and running in a fenced yard or on leash. A Whippet should never be allowed to run off leash during walks. Whippets have a strong prey drive and will pursue other animals for several miles. Underground electronic fencing is not recommended for Whippets. They will ignore the shock if they see something to chase. A 5 or 6 foot fence should be enough to confine your Whippet. Without daily exercise, a Whippet can become destructive. When their exercise needs are met, Whippets are generally quiet and calm dogs.
Whippets are whip-smart but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to train. They tend to be independent thinkers, but they can be swayed by positive reinforcement techniques that involve food rewards. Although they’re known for their independent temperament, which can make obedience training challenging, plenty of Whippets successfully complete obedience training. Whippets love beds, sofas, and chairs which quickly become their domain and you won’t have much luck in training the Whippet to stay off the furniture. A Whippet isn’t likely to garner High in Trial during obedience competitions, but he can excel at such canine sports such as lure coursing and agility.
The Whippet frame is not well suited to carrying excessive weight. While young Whippets may appear gangly and have difficulty keeping their ribs covered when they are in the period of rapid growth, a mature adult should not appear ribby but should have two to four visible vertebrae, and the hip bones should not appear sunk into dimples of fat. A Whippet at a healthy weight will likely appear “skinny” to those accustomed to heavier-bodied, less fleet breeds, but maintaining your Whippet at the correct weight through lifelong portion control will extend his life and avoid many of the orthopedic problems that are both painful and expensive to repair.
Generally healthy, the following conditions may affect Whippets:
- Anesthesia Sensitivity: A normal dose of anesthesia for any other dog of the Whippet’s size can kill a Whippet, probably because of the breed’s low percentage of body fat.
- Eye diseases
- von Willebrand’s Disease: A blood disorder that affects the clotting process due to the reduction of von Willebrand factor in the blood.
The ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the nails should be trimmed often if not worn down naturally, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort.