Locate Your Breeder Here

Whippet Dog Breed Information

General Information:

Height: 18-22 inches
Weight:
15-42 pounds
Life Span:
12-15 years
Coloring:
Black, Blue, Brindle, Fawn, Red, Sable, Tan or White – solid or mixed with white.
Area of Origin:
England
Similar Breeds:
Borzoi, Greyhound, Italian Greyhound, and Saluki

History and Origin:

The Whippet was developed in England from small greyhounds and other Sighthounds such as the Borzoi, Irish wolfhound, Italian Greyhound and Saluki. They were bred for their speed and for their ability to track and chase small animals such as rabbits. They were affectionately referred to as “the poor man’s greyhound” as common folk were unable to own greyhounds both due to financial reasons as well as The Forest Laws.

Once dog racing became more popular, Whippets started gaining favor and recognition for that task. The name Whippet finally was used to describe a breed of dog in 1610 and then a more clear description was added in 1841.

The first Whippet recorded in a dog show was in 1876 where they were segregated from the rest of the gundog classes; however, there is evidence that suggests that the Whippet may have been shown for quite some time at that point.

The breed itself was recognized by the Kennel Club in 1890 and the American Kennel Club in 1888.

Personality and Temperament:

The Whippet is an independent, mixed energy dog. They are quiet in the house where they will enjoy all the creature comforts such as blankets, couches and fires and then when they are outside they will take off and run exceptionally fast, jumping and romping around.

These dogs are extremely polite and peaceful with people provided they have been properly socialized. They are still Sighthounds, and as such, cannot be trusted with small pets as their naturally high prey drive is still very much intact.

Like most sighthounds, the Whippet should not use a flat collar or a choke chain. They require a Martingale collar which is designed to not slip off a narrow-headed dog.

Unfortunately, Whippets can be a little overly nervous regarding movement and strangers if they are not properly socialized. They also become quickly accustomed to a routine and do not like when their routine or surroundings change. Loud noises can also stress them out and therefore a household where there is a lot of loud noise, change or drama may not be the best home for this bred.

These dogs can also appear snobbish in that they are very independent and can be fairly stubborn. These are not dogs who will do everything they can to please you, instead they can act as if they have selective hearing at times and this requires firm yet gentle training. At the same time they do not do well in a house alone all the time. They are prone to retaliation and, if left alone, may resort to chewing, barking, escaping and accidents in the house. This also can be the case should they not receive proper exercise.

As previously mentioned, these dogs do have a high prey drive so if you have small animals or cats, this may not be the dog for you as accidents can happen. This is also why you must be careful to not let this dog off their leash, they are extremely fast and a Yorkshire terrier may look like a prey item to them despite the fact that it is another dog. This could have legal repercussions so it is something to remain aware of. The best way to avoid incidence is to remain proactive with your choices and to not allow your dog in off-leash dog parks where there are small dogs present.

Remember that these dogs are indoor dogs as they do not like being away from their family nor do they tolerate climate extremes. They are prone to hypothermia as well as sunburn.

Exercise & Training:

The Whippet requires a significant amount of exercise. These are not lapdogs and despite how they are quiet and laid-back in the house, they will become quite destructive should you not provide them with an outlet for their pent-up energy. They require a daily routine which consists of an hour walk a day and preferably a large fenced field, where there are no small dogs or cats, where they can be allowed to run off-leash.

The Whippet is so different when he is outside from when he is inside that one might think they have two dogs. For every minute they spent lazing around, they are more than capable of making up for with their running. They are extremely fast and can turn on a dime. To these dogs, the definition of extremely fast is 35 mph which makes them the fastest dog of their size and weight.

As previously mentioned, this dog does have a couple issues that you need to be aware of, namely their nervousness, high prey drive and stubbornness.

As far as being timid and stubborn, you just need to remember that this is a very slight animal and as such your training method has to be one which shows the dog that they have no reason to fear anything, especially with you around. You will not let harm come to them. As such, if you need to correct your dog, it is best to use your words rather than physically trying to grab at them as this could lead them to panic and may result in an unexpected bite which neither party wanted.

Their high prey drive is something that they were bred for and as such is something you must not forget. Even if you do not have a cat, small dog or other small animal, your neighbors may and therefore you should take this into consideration. If the neighborhood cat ends up in your yard when the Whippet is out, they may not make it out without injury, this is something to keep in mind and do your best to avoid.

To promote mental stimulus for your Whippet, you can enroll in your local sighthound club with your Whippet which focuses on their high prey drive and desire to run hard and fast. This gives them an outlet for their pent up energy and it is both fun and entertaining for both you and your dog. There is no gambling element allowed in these clubs and betting is strictly prohibited.

Grooming:

Whippets are one of the easiest dogs to care for when it comes to grooming. These dogs do not require daily grooming as they have a very tight, short coat which sheds very little. Instead, once a week or so, the Whippet should be wiped down with a grooming glove and every 4-6 weeks they should have their ears cleaned and nails trimmed. You should bathe your Whippet once a month with a mild shampoo to assist any stuck hair on your dog.

Health and Wellness:

As fast as a Whippet is, they were unable to run away from a few health issues. Like most sighthounds, they do not tolerate barbiturates well and therefore veterinarians have to take this into consideration any time they need to put the dog under as they require a special medication.

They also have issues with their cardiac rhythm and heart issues are second most common cause of death with Whippets. Their hearts, at rest, beat slower and can even have palpitations and usually regain a natural rhythm while exercising. It is for this reason that you must ensure that the veterinarian you choose to work with you and your Whippet is familiar with the breed and this issue so they know what to look for and what is normal and abnormal for a Whippet as opposed to any other breed.

Due to the fact they are so lightly built, these dogs do occasionally have some issues with their bones breaking. To prevent this avoid allowing the dog to jump off of anything as they do not do well on landing. This is also a reason to ensure younger children are supervised when playing with a Whippet as accidents can happen and it would end poorly for both the child and the dog involved.

There are a few other issues that this breed is susceptible to namely:

  • Cutaneous Histiocytoma
    • Bright red skin cancers which can appear on any part of a dog’s body, however, are usually seen on the head. They can be from 0.5 to 4 cm in diameter and ulceration is common. These appear quickly and without warning. This usually affects dogs that are over the age of 5 yet can appear at any time.
  • Cervical Disc Disease
    • A condition which dries out the center of the intervertebral disc which leads to pressure on the spinal cord and severe pain for the dog. Diagnosis is possible via x-ray yet an MRI will enable a more clear diagnosis. Treatment is required and is in the form of surgery.
  • Cushing’s Disease
    • A condition where the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol. It can cause varied symptoms but hair loss, increased appetite, increased water consumption and urination are common. Diagnosis is difficult as there is no single test for Cushing’s.
  • Genetic Eye Defects
    • Cataracts
      • Can be genetic and causes cloudiness in the dog’s lens. Usually bilateral and only seen after 5 years old. Parents can be tested for this prior to breeding.
    • Collie Eye Anomaly aka Choroidal Hypoplasia
      • A genetic disorder which causes issues with the choroid under the retina. It can be diagnosed early yet there is no cure. This is a common issue screened for with genetic testing. Dogs that carry this gene should not be bred.
    • Progressive Renal Atrophy
      • A genetic disorder which causes a dog to slowly lose their sight and go blind. Unfortunately, there is no cure yet parents can be tested prior to breeding.
    • Hypothyroidism
      • A condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroxine which can cause a large number of symptoms such as hair loss, hyperactivity, obesity and seizures. There is no cure yet this can be easily and successfully managed with the assistance of a qualified veterinarian.
    • Megaesophagus
      • A condition where the dog’s esophagus does not push the food into the stomach and the food stays in the throat. When the dog goes to breath, it often will inhale the food particles which can cause aspiration pneumonia which can be very serious. There are many ways of managing this disease but the most common is using a feeding “chair” for the dog.
    • Myostatin Deficiency
      • A condition which causes the “bully whippet.” This causes the dog to have a broader head, shorter legs and significantly larger stature. This does not seem to cause any additional health issues other than more frequent muscle cramps. Parents can and should be DNA tested prior to breeding.

 

One thing that Whippets do well with and provides many benefits to your dog is the RAW diet. It is more work but as there are no fillers or by products you are giving your dog a much healthier food which will benefit him in the long run. For more information regarding diets and Whippets, speak to your veterinarian.

Interesting Facts about the Whippet:

  1. Whippets are the fastest dog in their weight class, able of obtaining speeds of up to 35 mph.
  2. Despite their activity level and athleticism outdoors, they are extremely quiet indoors and are well suited to apartment life.
  3. Whippets are wonderful for families with respectful children of all ages.
  4. They excel in lure coursing – a sport in which a lure referred to as “the bunny” is pulled as Whippets chase it at full speed.
  5. Lure coursing courses are usually 600-1200 yards.
  6. Despite Greyhounds being bred by peasants, they could not own the puppies they produced as none but nobility could own hunting dogs.

Organizations dedicated to the Whippet:

Breeds Similar to Whippet Dogs:

Breed Information Whippet