The english whippet dog breed – the world’s fastest couch potato
You have probably seen or heard of the Whippet dog breed. They are like small Greyhounds, but not as edgy, more relaxed, and ready to head somewhere comfy to curl up into a small ball and doze the afternoon away!
Although they do not quite qualify as a small dog, they certainly take up minimal space around the home. When you look at the Whippet’s deep chest and long legs, it seems impossible that they could curl up into such a small ball of fur!
Whippets belong to the Sighthound breeds of dog group. This means that they hunt using their vision to track prey, rather than smell (Scent hounds) or hearing. Adult Whippets are capable of very high speeds over short distances, and may be the ultimate sprinter.
Whippet Dog Breed – Temperament
The Whippet is calm and affectionate, with an amiable disposition. They are not edgy nor nervous by nature, but if they see something to chase, they’re off! Whippets are very fast, and can cover a lot of ground very quickly at speeds approaching 35mph.
While this breed is extremely fast on the one hand, on the other hand they just love curling up under a blanket on in the corner of a sofa, and sleeping for hours. They have a very relaxed and laid-back attitude to life.
They seem to expect a comfy spot to doze, and keeping them off the sofa, couch or bed may be a problem. However, you can’t leave young Whippets alone in the house for too long, as they may develop separation anxiety. This is a sensitive breed that loves being with family members.
And between these 2 extremes we have a dog that is playful, and loves running games. Tearing around the back garden or yard chasing a ball is a favorite. And they need this exercise to make up for their love of sleeping! This degree of energy requires a well-fenced yard for these bursts of activity.
It’s important to realize that this breed needs a large space to let off steam and run at full pelt. Just taking them out for a walk twice a day is not enough – they need to be able to run at full speed, but only for short periods.
Whippets are generally calm and polite when out in public, providing they have been socialized as a puppy. They generally get on well with other dogs, and tend to stay a little aloof until becoming familiar. When it comes to the family, this breed does very well with children, providing they are not mistreated. They don’t like being surprised or touched unexpectedly.
These are quiet dogs, and rarely bark. This makes them ideal for apartment dwellers, as they will not disturb the neighbors. In addition, they take up a small space, and don’t need much room to be happy – BUT in this situation you must take the dog out several times a day for daily walks. They make a great companion dog.
The whippet dog breed has a strong prey drive, and will chase and catch any small animals – they should not be trusted with small pets such as rabbits, hamsters or gerbils, for example.
Whippet – Breed History
The Whippet dog breed has its roots in the North of England, during the reign of Queen Victoria. The working class coal miners of the area enjoyed dog racing and rabbit hunting with Greyhounds, but the size of an adult Greyhound was a problem.
Greyhounds simply took up too much room, ate too much food, and needed too much exercise. The solution was to breed a half-size Greyhound. The miners managed to produce the Whippet, which met their needs exactly. It excelled at pursuing small game. However, it’s unclear which other breeds were used with the Greyhound to develop the Whippet. It is thought that Italian Greyhounds may have been involved.
By the end of the 19th century, workers from the North of England started to migrate to the United States, taking their dogs with them. They proved very popular, and did well in the dog sports of Whippet racing and lure coursing. The American Whippet Club was set up, and the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888.
Height: 19 to 22 inches at the withers (Male) and 18 to 21 inches (Female)
Weight: 25 to 40 lbs
Average Life Span: 12 to 15 years
The color is variable, from black through to blue, brindle, fawn, and then white combined with any of the first colors.
Ease of Training
Cautious by nature, the whippet dog breed needs early socialization to become used to the sights and sounds in the street and countryside, including meeting new people and other animals. If this is done in a calm and consistent manner, Whippets become very relaxed and amiable as they grow into adulthood.
When it comes to training, Whippets behave like most Sight Hounds; they seem to have a mind of their own, and can appear stubborn. This requires a patient and consistent approach, with training sessions kept to 10-15 minutes, several times a day. We recommend puppy training classes!
While it is not hard to house-train a Whippet, nor to teach them basic commands such as to sit, stay and lie down, it is much more difficult to teach them to return at a distance reliably. If the dog sees something moving, it will give chase, and may not return, at least not for a while!
This not a particularly good breed as either a watch dog nor a guard dog. They spend most of their time sleeping, and are not really alert. Also, they are quiet dogs, and rarely bark. Even if an intruder should approach, the Whippet is most likely to remain aloof and just watch.
When it comes to deterring an unwanted guest, this breed is just not imposing enough, nor has the attitude to take much action. If protection is important to you, look for a bigger breed.
Grooming requirements are minimal. The Whippet has a very short, fine smooth coat which only needs a brief rub-down with a fine brush. They do not shed much hair at all. They do not have a “doggy” smell.
Because of their very fine, short coat, Whippets do not tolerate cold weather at all. When outdoor temperatures go below 50 degrees F, you should consider getting some sort of coat when taking your dog outside.
The Whippet dog breed has an expected lifespan of 12 to 15 years. This is a generally healthy breed, as long they are not over-fed and become too heavy. The problems that may crop up include;
- Eye disorders – progressive retinal atrophy
- Cardiac issues – heart disease
- Bleeding disorders – Willebrand”s disease
Interview with a Whippet Owner
Whippet puppies should always be bought from a reputable breeder, who will have had his breeding stock dogs checked by a vet for the problems above. Responsible breeders will not use dogs that have genetic issues.
We are very fortunate to have an interview with a Whippet owner – Paul Franklin from Somerset, UK, who owns the beautiful Whippet, Misty, featured in some photos on this page.
You can read the interview with Paul here, and gain an insight into life with this breed.
Paul also has a Blog ‘My Dear Whippet‘ with further specific information on the Whippet breed – you can contact Paul direct via his Blog.
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