Today we are going to explore the world of Whippets.
Including how to find and care for your first Whippet.
Dog breeds that are built for speed all have some characteristics in common, but this smaller cousin of the Greyhound is not just a speed machine.
The breed has some features that make them great pets.
Quick Links To Whippet Information
We’ll be looking at those characteristics, such as temperament and health.
We’ll also look at Whippet breeders and rescue, colors, and much more. Let’s dive in!
So what is a Whippet? And where do Whippets come from?
What are Whippets?
Whippets belong to the dog breed group known as sight hounds.
This group embraces dogs bred for racing and coursing. Slender dogs with long legs, deep chests, and narrow streamlined bodies.
Sight hounds are all dolichocephalic, or long faced dogs and most have semi upright ears turned over at the tip.
These are the sprinters of the dog world, capable of great speed over short distances and with a passion for chasing moving objects.
Whippets are no exception and all members of the breed enjoy a good chase.
Where do whippets come from?
Whippets are descended from the larger Greyhound breed. Small varieties of greyhound have existed for hundreds of years but the Whippet was recognized as an independent breed by the Kennel Club in 1891
Whippets were originally used to catch small game, such as rabbits and rats.
However, people quickly found a fun alternative to this line of work, and began making use of the whippets for gambling.
They created rag races, where the dogs ran on straight tracks across fields, chasing a rag or piece of cloth.
Whippets are still today used for work by farmers and game keepers in England, and occasionally for sport by some in areas where Whippet racing is still popular. The British Whippet Racing Association was formed in 1967.
The modern Whippet, due to his small size and very affectionate character, is now a much admired family pet in homes around the world.
Whippets have a very distinctive look. The Kennel Club describes them as having a ‘balance of muscularity with neatness, power with elegance’.
They have a short, smooth coat which comes in a range of colors including, black, white, fawn, brindle and more.
The Whippet at home is a very sweet natured little dog. Gentle, and docile, with no trace of aggression. He likes to snuggle up on a cozy chair or in your bed, and is calm and placid around children.
These are generally quiet dogs not prone to barking at neighbors, or getting overly excited and boisterous around visitors.
In and around the house, this is generally an easy dog to manage.
Outdoors the Whippet comes to life and can seem a very different dog. Not that his disposition towards people changes – he is still as loving as ever – but because of his instinctive drive to hunt by sight.
Whippets and cats
Bred for hunting, whippets are not just keen runners, but have a high prey drive.
This means that they are likely to obsessively try and get at any small furry hutch-pets, like guinea pigs and rabbits, that you might already have at home.
They have also been known to chase and even catch and kill cats.
This is something you need to consider carefully before bringing a sight hound into your life.
Just because a your dog has been safely introduced to a cat indoors does not mean that he is safe around that same cat outside in the yard.
Remember that the sight hound’s prey drive is triggered by a moving object. Especially a fast moving object. And he is one of the few dog breeds with sufficient speed and agility to out-manoevre a cat.
If you already have a cat and have your heart set on a sight hound, then it might be best to get a puppy rather than an older dog.
Whippet vs greyhound
The main difference between a the two breeds is one of size. The Greyhound is a far larger animal. He takes up more space, and needs more exercise than his smaller cousin.
Both share the advantages of a gentle disposition towards people of all ages and the disadvantage (in a pet) of a propensity for chasing small animals. They also share the same body shape and short, easy care coat.
Like most dog breeds, males are slightly larger than their sisters once fully grown. The AKC states that the male should be between 19 and 22 inches tall at the shoulder with females reaching 18 to 21 inches.
There is quite a big range in body weight for an adult with anything between 25 and 40lbs being considered normal.
The Whippet pictures on this page give you some idea of the different colors available in these dogs.
Long haired whippet
All purebred Whippets have smooth, sleek, short haired coats.
If you are looking for a long haired sight hound you’ll need to think about a mix-breed dog.
Like Greyhounds the purebred whippet has traditionally been crossed with dogs considered to be a little ‘smarter’ to produce fast, clever dogs with more robust coats, known as lurchers.
Whippet puppies are utterly adorable with their gangly long legs and quirky ears but puppies need a lot of time and attention. You don’t have to take on a new puppy, with all the effort that entails if you’d like to bring a Whippet into your life. There are rescues all over the world.
Here are a few that you can use as a starting point
- Whippet Rescue (USA) .
- Whippet Rescue Club NSW (Australia)
- National Whippet Club of Canada
- Just Whippets Rescue (UK)
- Whippet Rescue Ireland.
Whippet racing is popular past-time in parts of the UK and National Championships are held every year. You can find out more from the Whippet Club Racing Association and from the National Pedigree Whippet Racing Association.
According to the American Whippet Club “straight racing competition for Whippets is now offered by three main organizations in the USA: the Whippet Racing Association (WRA), the North American Whippet Racing Association (NAWRA) and the Continental Whippet Association (CWA)”.
Potential Health Problems
Whippets have been bred for speed and hunting ability, and so are thankfully fairly free from some of the nasty genetic diseases that are rife in other breeds. In fact they are arguably one of the healthier pedigree dog breeds in existence today.
They do however have some cases of eye diseases with a genetic component, so if you are buying a puppy make sure the breeder has clear eye certificates for both of the parents.
They also have some incidences of von Willebrand’s Disease – a blood disorder which affects clotting. Signs of this include nose bleeds, bleeding gums, and prolonged bleeding after surgery or bitches being on heat.
Whippet Life Span
Two pedigree health surveys in the UK which took place in 2004 and ten years later in 2014 found the Whippet to have a 13 year, and 10 year lifespan respectively.
The first survey was larger and probably more accurate. It also found that this was on of the ten breeds most likely to die of old age
Finding a Whippet breeder
If your heart is set on a puppy, you’ll need to find a responsible breeder. You can find out exactly how to do that in easy stages using our Puppy Search system
Caring for a Whippet
As with any breed, socialization to a wide range of people and situations from a young age will really help to keep your dog confident and unafraid.
This is especially important with breeds like this one, that may have a tendency to shyness.
Whippets require daily exercise, including opportunities to sprints and to open up to their full speed. So you will need somewhere safe to let your Whippet off leash. You need to think about his speed (up to 35mph) and his fondness for pursuit!
Exercising your Whippet
You will need to make sure that your yard or exercise area is secure. A continuous fence of at least 5 foot should suffice to keep your dog from leaping into the neighbors garden and harassing their pet rabbits!
Proper socialization and training are essential if you ever want to let a Whippet off-lead in an unfenced location. And you will need to keep your dog well away from hazards because running dogs are vulnerable to injury if they hit barbed wire or other hidden obstacles.
Beaches and large meadows are often ideal for exercising sight hounds. You will need a bomb-proof recall, which can be achieved with dedication to training from an early age.
Using a light long line attached to a harness will help with the training process
At home you’ll also need to make your garden or yard safe for a dog traveling at speed. A thin coat and skin makes these little dogs quite susceptible to bumps and scratches.
Grooming and coats
This thin coat together with their slim build means that many Whippets will require a jumper or coat in the cold or wet weather when outdoors.
You’ll need to purchase one specifically for greyhounds and whippets, to accommodate their deep chest
Like Greyhounds, they do shed a little, but a brief weekly brushing with a soft short bristle brush is all that will be required to keep your home relatively fur free.
Whippet Dog Breed Summary
Few dogs are as distinctive as the humble whippet. Though small in stature, this breed has a big personality and an iconic look with wide appeal.
Full of enthusiasm and charm, there are a lot of reasons to consider that the whippet might be the dog for you. With their good health, great temperament and house-friendly size, they make wonderful companions.
Remember, before you purchase any puppy you must make sure you are prepared for the responsibilities of dog ownership.
Consider the chasing instincts of your chosen breed, research breeders thoroughly, visit the puppy with his mother, and even arrange to see the father if possible!
References and further reading
- AKC whippet breed information
- KC whippet breed information
- The Whippet Club UK
- The American Whippet Club
- Whippets – A Pet Owners Manual – Caroline Coile PhD
- O’Neill et al. “Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England.” Veterinary Journal 2013