A Whippet is a medium-sized sighthound--a group of dogs which includes the Greyhound, Borzoi, Irish Wolfhound, Pharoah Hound, Afghan Hound, Saluki, and others. These dogs were bred to hunt by sight, coursing game in open areas at high speeds. Another characteristic is the double suspension gallop (example by Bonnie Dalzel). Although one can find numerous representations of small Greyhound-like hounds in art dating back to Roman times, the modern whippet was created by working-class people of northern England by crossing Greyhounds with several other breeds, including the Italian Greyhound and a now-extinct longlegs terrier. These small coursing hounds were cheaper to feed and house than Greyhounds, but very handy at providing rabbits for the pot. They also were used to provide sport on non-working days as their owners enjoyed racing them against each other. The modern look of the breed was created by upper-class English dog fanciers, who bought the best looking Whippets and bred them selectively to appear most similar to a "Greyhound in miniature". Because color is considered immaterial in judging Whippets, they come in the widest variety of color and marking patterns of any breed, everything from solid black to solid white, with red, fawn, brindle, blue, cream. And all manner of spots and blazes and patches are seen, sometimes all in the same litter!
What kind of personality does the Whippet have?
Whippets are generally very quiet and gentle dogs in the house, content to spend much of the day sleeping on the couch! They are not generally aggressive with other animals, and although especially attached to their owners, they are friendly to visitors. They are not prone to snapping, so they are good with young children. They may or may not bark when strangers arrive, and are not suited to be guard dogs due to their trusting and unsuspicious nature. Outside, however, particularly when they are racing or lure coursing, they demonstrate their superb athletic skills and will pursue their "quarry" (even when it is an artificial lure) with the heart of a lion. To see these dogs in full stride is breathtaking!
Does a male or a female make a better pet?
Unlike many other breeds, the males are as easy to housebreak, and no more aggressive than bitches. Both sexes make excellent pets. Males tend to be slightly more loyal and enjoy repetitive play. Females can be a little more complex and strong willed, but are equally devoted to their owners. Males tend to run one to two inches taller, and three to six pounds heavier, than females.
How should I care for my Whippet?
Whippets, like other dogs, require a good quality kibble and plenty of fresh water. Grooming is minimal -- cut their nails regularly, bathe as needed, and keep them free of parasites. They are not well adapted for living in a kennel or as outside dogs. Their coats do not provide the insulation for them to withstand prolonged periods of exposure to the cold. Their natural attachment to people makes them happiest when kept as house pets. They need soft bedding on which to sleep, regular exercise, and routine veterinary care. The most important thing you can do to care for your Whippet is to protect him from being hit by a car, or attacked by aggressive dogs. Whippets generally get the worst of any dog fight, so "invisible" fences are not recommended. Protect your Whippet with a safely fenced yard, or by walking him on leash. Puppies can be chewers, so crating is recommended when you are not able to supervise their activities. Obedience training will make your Whippet a better canine citizen.
Can they live in an apartment/condominium?
Yes, provided their owners are active and can take them someplace to get exercise at least four times a week. The quiet Whippet is well suited to apartment life, provided their owners train them to stay safely by themselves or crated while the owner is away.
What kind of activities can I do with my pet Whippet?
Many enjoyable competitive sports are open to pet Whippets. Whippets, as their heritage would suggest, are outstanding running dogs and are top competitors in lure coursing, straight racing, and oval track racing. In these events, a temporary track and lure system is set up. The lure is usually a white plastic trash bag. All of these events are purely for sport, and are put on for the enjoyment of the dogs and their owners. Top competitors win ribbons and points towards running titles. No betting is allowed. Thus, win or lose, every dog goes home to be "king of the couch". With new methods of motivational obedience training being used, Whippets are becoming successful obedience dogs. Many enjoy flyball and agility. All of the above activities are open to Whippets who are spayed or neutered. For racing and coursing, your Whippet must not have any breed disqualifications, such as being oversized (see Breed Standard). The elegance and ease of grooming of the Whippet have made it a popular show dog, but to be successful at this sport, you must purchase a puppy who is considered by its breeder to be show quality. See activities page for more details.
What types of health problems do Whippets have?
Given proper nutrition, exercise, and veterinary care, most Whippets live for 12 to 15 years. They are generally healthy, and are not prone to the frequent ear infections, skin allergies, or digestive problems that afflict other breeds. Genetic eye defects have been found in the breed, but are still very rare. Because of this threat, the American Whippet Club recommends that all breeders have the eyes checked clear on their breeding stock. Hip dysplasia is not a problem in Whippets.
Will I be able to keep my Whippet off the furniture?
Probably not!. They love the sofa and will gladly warm your feet in bed at night. They make wonderful hot water bottles! Luckily for them and for you, it is easy to keep your Whippet clean and free of parasites so that he will be a welcome guest on your furniture. You can also put a sheet or throw over the "dog chair" and remove it when company comes.
Is there a long coated variety of Whippet?
There are dogs who have been referred to as "long-haired Whippets", but it is the opinion of the American Kennel Club and the American Whippet Club that these dogs are actually mixed breeds. They are not recognized by AKC or any other major canine registry, and cannot compete in events such a racing or coursing.
Where can I get a Whippet?
Breeder referrals in your area can be obtained by contacting Cathy Gaidos, the Secretary of the American Whippet Club, at 10177 Blue River Hills Road, Manhattan, KS 66503, (913) 485-2850. There are also many wonderful Whippets who have lost their homes through no fault of their own. These dogs may be available through AWC Rescue. The Rescue Chairperson, Peggy Bush, may be contacted at (214) 337-1758. Some available whippets can be seen on the Rescue page.
How can I learn more about Whippets?
Check the Whippet Bibliography and contact Cathy Gaidos (see above) for an AWC information packet.
An excellent place to see Whippets and learn more about them is a local dog show. It is best to approach the exhibitors after they have finished showing for the day. They should be delighted to talk with you about their favorite subject -- their beloved Whippets! Another good idea is to schedule a visit to the home of a breeder, where you can see Whippets of all ages and colors in a relaxed home setting.
Text Copyright Nancy Bennet