Breed Group: Hound
Height: 18 to 22 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 25 to 35 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 15 years
The Whippet is a sleek, beautifully statuesque, and athletic breed. Although the Whippet is not a watchdog, he is a keen sight hound capable of chasing neighborhood cats, stealing food from the kitchen counter when no one is looking, and keeping your home free of such interlopers as mice. As an added bonus, his short, smooth coat is easy to maintain.
Did You Know the Whippet is an Excellent Jumper and Runner?
Whippets were introduced to America by English mill workers who settled in Massachusetts and eventually turned the state into a mecca for Whippet racing.
The Whippet was created in the late 18th century by crossing small Greyhounds with various terriers to create a breed that could course rabbits and kill small vermin. When they weren’t betting on whose Whippet could kill the most rats, workingmen, such as miners, often raced their dogs, giving rise to the nickname “poor man’s racehorse.” Today, the Whippet is still a fast and effective hunter, but at home, he’s a calm and quiet companion who loves nothing more than snuggling on the sofa.
At first glance, the Whippet seems like the perfect dog — he’s friendly to guests and strangers, doesn’t mind snoozing the day away, has a manageable size, and doesn’t bark excessively. In other words, he may alert you that someone is at the door, but he’s far from being a true guard dog. Whippets prefer to be part of a pack, rather than an only dog, so they become very attached to their families and like being around kids and other dogs. Whippets are generally easy to housetrain, although they’re often not amused by the idea of going outside in the rain or snow.
So what’s the downside? The Whippet’s muscular yet graceful build makes him an excellent jumper and runner. If he spots something in motion, he’ll take off after it — no matter how well trained you think he is, or how frantically you call after him. For this reason, Whippets should always be walked on a leash, and they should never be allowed to roam free, unless they are in an enclosed area. Tip: With this breed, an underground electronic fence doesn’t count as a safe enclosure — the Whippet will simply dart through it. So plan to install a fence that’s at least five feet tall.
While the Whippet is often described as gentle, this word doesn’t apply to a Whippet in pursuit of cats or other small, furry creatures. If you have bunnies or hamsters, you may want to think twice about bringing a Whippet into your home. Whippet puppies raised with other pets can coexist peacefully, but instinct is a powerful thing, so it’s essential to keep them separated when you’re not around to supervise.
Like most dogs, Whippets can become bored and destructive when left to their own devices, especially if they don’t have other dogs to keep them company or if they don’t receive enough attention from family members. To counteract this, aim to walk your Whippet several times a day. You can consider taking him to a dog park at least twice a week, so he can really run. But be aware that small dogs may resemble prey to him.
Whippets love soft, cushy furniture — beds, sofas, and chairs quickly become their domain. Much like the average cat, you won’t have much luck in training your Whippet to stay off the furniture. Speaking of training, Whippets are, well, 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. A Whippet isn’t likely to garner High in Trial during obedience competitions, but he can excel at such canine sports as lure coursing and agility.
When it comes to maintenance, Whippets are known for their easy-care coats. They just need a rubdown with a chamois (not the one you use for your car, which may have chemicals on it), as well as regular nail trimming, tooth brushing, and ear cleaning, to stay clean and in good condition. If you have allergies to dogs, the Whippet may seem like a good choice because of his short coat, but he’s not a non-allergenic breed. In fact, no dog is — an animal’s dander triggers allergic reactions, not its fur. Despite their trim coats, Whippets still shed, so you will find hair on your clothing and furniture.
With his delicate, bony body, it goes without saying that the Whippet needs to live indoors, preferably with access to plush furniture or bedding. He isn’t built to withstand cold temps as an outdoor dog, and besides, he much prefers the love of his family to the backyard.
Other Quick Facts About the Whippet
Whippets used to be known as snap dogs — for the way they snapped up rabbits and rats.
Whippet puppies are cunning little creatures, so you’ll benefit from signing up your pup for obedience classes at an early age; 10 to 12 weeks is highly recommended.
The breed is revered for its graceful, athletic build, which allows the Whippet to clock speeds of up to 35 m.p.h. Read: This is not a dog that should be allowed to run off-leash in open spaces.