Whippet Dog – Characteristics, Facts, Training and Care

whippet breeders

Whippets may look intimidating with their sleek and athletic look, but they are sweet and cuddly once you get to know them. Being lean yet muscular, they strike a great balance between physical strength and politeness.

A whippet is a medium-sized dog that greatly resembles a greyhound. Due to their speed and strong hunting instincts, they were initially used by poachers to hunt down rabbits and small game.

Later, the working class of England started using whippets in races and competitions such as lure coursing, whippet racing, and snap dog contests. And so, they became popular as ‘poor man’s racehorse’- a term still being used today.

A whippet dog has a mellow, calm, and sweet personality, making it a great family pet. It offers the owners great companionship and works great as a therapy dog. Although they love to run around, they do well as apartment dogs as long as all exercise needs are met.

History of the Whippet Dog

whippet

The whippet dog breed is said to have originated in the 1700s. In hopes of producing a fast-working dog, the greyhound was bred with the long-legged terrier. This resulted in the whippet breed taking the speed and agility of both parents.

They had a few crosses with the greyhound to add refinements to the gene pool in terms of elegance and sleek looks.

Whippets were bred in Lancashire and Yorkshire areas of northern England. Initially, they were used by hunters for poaching rabbits and small game. They worked great as companions of farmers and working men as well.

Later they were used by working-class men for entertainment. They competed in competitions such as lure coursing and snap dog contests where the dogs catch as many rabbits as they can in an enclosed ring. The winner is the one who gets the most rabbits. It also gave the dog its initial name i.e. snap dog.

The games eventually got a bit sophisticated. Dogs were made to chase after a waving rag, giving rise to the rag race or whippet racing. It also gave the dog its name, poor man’s racehorse.

The whippet was considered a prestigious dog among the working class. Families held them in high status, sharing food, rations, and space with the dog.

They were brought to England by English immigrants, and the breed was recognized by the American kennel club in 1888.

It is due to the whippet that the canine frisbee-catching game originated. A whippet named Ashley whippet was the founder of the game due to its ability to take hairpin turns at high speed.

Whippet Dog Facts

whippet dog
  • A whippet dog looks sporty and loves being in open yards, but it does fairly well as an apartment dog.
  • They can run at a high speed and are one of the fastest dog breeds. They are lighting fast reaching speeds up to 35-37 miles per hour for short distances.
  • Whippets do not like being cold. They love to snuggle and feel warm. Make sure you get them a cozy sweater for cold weather conditions.
  • A whippet is a quiet dog. It does not bark much. Hence, it is great to keep in a city.
  • They do not perform well as watch dogs as they do not bark much and are not wary of strangers.
  • They have very low grooming requirements. Their short coat is easy to maintain and care for.
  • Whippets need a couple of intense exercise sessions each day. They release their energy in bursts and spend the rest of the day rolled up on the couch.
  • They love following their owners around the house. If not given proper attention or left alone for long periods they may develop separation anxiety. It also leads to unwanted behavior such as biting the couch and cushions.
  • Because of their sportsman spirit, they perform great in dog shows and competitions. Many whippets hold national awards and even Guinness world records.
  • Due to their strong prey drive, they are notorious for chasing small animals. Never let them off-leash in the open to avoid unfortunate outcomes.
  • Whippets are not very suitable for houses with cats. Even after lots of training and socialization, they may attack the cats.
  • Keep them in a fenced yard at least 5-6 feet high. They can jump high and underground fences are useless for them as their instinct to chase takes the best of them.
  • A dog named Ashley whippet initiated the flying disc dog game.

Quick Facts

whippets
  • Group: Hound Group
  • Origin: Northern England
  • Type: sighthound, hunting dog, sporting hound
  • Size: About 18-22 inches at the shoulder
  • Weight: Approximately 25-40 pounds
  • Color: Color immaterial
  • Coat: Short, close, smooth, and firm
  • Temperament: Calm indoors, active and alert outdoors
  • Shedding: low to non
  • Hypoallergenic: Yes
  • Exercise needs: High
  • Energy Level: High
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
  • Apartment dwellers: Yes
  • Suitable for houses with small pets: No
  • Tolerance towards low temperature: Low

Whippet Dog Appearance

The whippet exhibits the classic inverted ‘S’ shape of a sighthound. The body looks sleek, smart, gracious, and streamlined. The incredible speed of the whippet is due to its streamlined shape.

It looks much like a greyhound but smaller in size. It has a sweet slim face, a long neck, a deep chest, and long sturdy legs. It has a long and tapering tail that is naturally tucked due to the shape of cartilage bone.

whippet dog breed

Size

The whippets are medium-sized dogs. They are ideally 19-22 inches tall measured at the withers. Length from chest to buttocks is equal to or slightly longer than the height.

Weight

They range in weight from 25-40 pounds. They have an overall lean muscular build. The backline is elegant, with a natural arch. A couple of visible vertebrae are completely normal, even at a healthy weight.

Whippet Dog

Coat 

They have a short, close, firm, and smooth coat. Any variation from this type of coat is not acceptable by the American whippet club or the AKC.

Color

According to the AKC, the color is categorized as immaterial. It means that the breed can be of various colors without any specification.

Whippet Dog Temperament and Personality

whippet puppies

Originally bred to hunt small animals and to catch rabbits in dog game shows, the whippet chases any moving object in sight.

Being a sighthound, it is easily distracted by visual stimuli. It is quick to catch any fast-moving object it sees, reaching speeds in seconds. Be it a waving piece of cloth or a squirrel, the whippet will chase it.

To curb its instinct to hunt, a whippet puppy should go through early training and socialization. It should be frequently mingled with other dogs and family cats to improve association and tolerance.

A whippet loves to chase its human. It is often described as clingy. This medium-sized calm and sweet dog is a perfect couch buddy. It loves being in the lap and is very quiet indoors.

Whippets are quite attached to their family members and do not tolerate being lonely. They may develop separation anxiety if left alone for long hours.

Outdoors, it loves to run in bursts and chase after cats and small animals. Hence, it should never be left off-leash. Daily training and exercise should be done in a safely fenced area.

Their easy-going personality means that they can’t be guard dogs. You can train them to be good watchdogs, but that just depends on the personality of each dog.

Whippets with Other Pets and Children

bully whippet

Whippets usually enjoy the company of kids and younger children. They are medium-sized dogs, hence the probability of harming children because of their weight is pretty low. They love to mingle and play.

That being said, any interaction between small kids and dogs should be closely monitored. Never leave them alone to play. It is also important for children to understand what agitates the dog. There should be no poking, pulling, or punching.

It is important to teach children not to disturb the dog while it is sleeping or eating.

Whippets like the company of other dogs, especially with early socialization. They love to play with dogs in the park. If you are away from home for long hours, it’s good to find puppies to keep company.

However, it is not a good idea to leave them alone with family cats. There have been incidences where the whippet’s instincts took over. Better be safe than sorry!

Whippet Dog Health Problems

what is a whippet

A whippet dog is generally healthy. It may look lean and skinnier than other breeds but seeing vertebrae or two is not a cause of concern. Obesity, on the other hand, is a prime risk factor for diseases.

You can increase a whippet’s quality of life, and avoid orthopedic problems, by keeping its weight in check.

Always buy from responsible breeders who screen their stock of health conditions such as heart diseases, deafness, and eye disorders.

National dog club recommends health tests such as ophthalmologist evaluation, BAER testing, and cardiac exam.

Watch out for early symptoms of the following whippet health problems:

Wan Willebrand’s Disease

This condition can affect humans and dogs alike. It is due to the missing Wan Willebrand’s factor in blood that is responsible for normal clotting of blood.

The dog may show symptoms such as nose bleeds, wounds that don’t stop bleeding, stool in blood, or excessive blood in heat cycles. The condition is diagnosed at ages 3-5. It can not be cured, but management is possible through transfusions.

Eye Diseases and Deafness

Both of these conditions are genetic. Hence, it is important to buy from breeders that check their breeding dogs and present their health clearance.

Deafness can be aided by training with specialized vibrating collars.

Hip Dysplasia

Although rare for this breed, hip dysplasia is observed in some dogs. Their bodies are not designed to carry weight. Hence, being overweight can put a lot of pressure on bones resulting in joint diseases.

Care

Whippet Dog breed

Whippets do not like cold weather. When you decide to buy or adopt a whippet pup, you must have a warm cozy bed and a blanket for them. If you live in regions with harsh winter conditions, it is advisable to have lots of sweaters for them as well.

It is good to keep a crate indoors where they can sleep peacefully. A crate also ensures that there are no accidents in your absence.

It is important not to over-exercise a whippet. Over-exercising is bad for their joint and muscle health. A whippet has short periods of energy bursts, and the rest of the time is spent lazing around the sofa. Divide the adequate exercise period into two sessions and let it lounge for long periods.

They need a fenced yard, but they are great for apartments too, as long as owners are willing to take them out for regular walks.

Grooming

whippet puppy

A whippet’s short coat is fairly easy to maintain. It has minimal grooming requirements, and weekly brushing goes a long way. The coat is firm and close to the body, with a below-average shedding rate.

The whippets are virtually free of doggy odor, which means you won’t have to bathe them frequently.

Like all other breeds, nails should be trimmed regularly. They should be wiped clean after walks.

Brush their teeth at least twice a week to remove tartar buildup and bad odor. Regular brushing also improves gum health.

Their ears are also naturally free of oils and repel dirt. But, you should still clean them regularly and watch out for any funny smell that can indicate infection.

Feeding

Whippet Dog personality

Adult whippets need 1 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dog food daily. Check with your vet for a personalized meal plan according to your dog’s age, size, and health requirements.

It is important to keep their weight in check as whippets can develop health conditions if they are overweight. If you are adding a portion of home-prepared food to their diet, inform your vet and ask if it is safe.

Whippet Dog Training

whippit dog

Whippets need lots of socialization to develop preferred behaviors and temperaments. Sighthounds are usually not very good with obedience. But, a whippet is better than most greyhound-like breeds. With consistent obedience classes, you may see wonders.

It is sociable with children and other dogs. But, it might not be good with small furry animals like rodents and cats. Puppy kindergarten classes are also a great option.

Whippets need to be kept in a fenced area as they are well capable of chasing, sprinting, running, and jumping. The underground shock fence will not be enough to keep it from chasing potential prey.

Treats and positive reinforcement work great for whippets. They are sensitive and do not like being scolded. They will stop responding if you are forceful or overly assertive.

whippet dogs

Conclusion

A whippet exhibits lightning-fast speed with a sleek and elegant form. Originally bred to help poachers in catching small prey, it has always been popular among dog sport enthusiasts as a poor man’s greyhound. It is sweet, gentle, and amiable with its owners and great as a companion.

Being a cross between the greyhound, Italian greyhound, and terrier, it presents unbeatable sprinting ability in the dog world. It is both agile and mellow, with explosive bursts of energy between long hours of lounging and relaxation.

A whippet has more muscle and low body fat. It needs a moderate amount of exercise with power-packed weekly game sessions. Getting it out in a large fenced area to play sports such as lure coursing, whippet racing, and flying disc, will keep the athleticism alive.

Its short, firm, close, and smooth coat is easy to maintain. Weekly brushing will keep it shiny. Bathing is not required frequently unless it rolls in something nasty. Keep a close eye on the skin, as it is sensitive and prone to scratches.

Although it appears skinny, keeping the whippet’s weight in check is very important for its longevity and health. It may need life-long portion control to avoid orthopedic diseases.

If you are a whippet owner or planning to get one, make sure you check your local shelter first. Make sure you make your home whippet-friendly by keeping a crate, installing a 6-feet high fence, and arranging lots of cozy sweaters, as this sweet fellow can not tolerate cold weather.

You might as well prepare yourself to leave your favorite spot on the couch. Don’t say we didn’t give you a heads-up!

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Cody Mitchell
Cody Mitchell is a pet lover and a passionate pet writer. He has worked as a professional writer for over 6 years, with a focus on creating compelling content for pet-related brands. His work has been featured in major publications. When he's not writing, Cody can be found playing with his two dogs (a labradoodle and a cocker spaniel) or cuddling his cat.

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