Whippet picture

The Whippet

The most popular of all the sighthound breeds, the Whippet is a beguiling combination of gentle companion and keen sporting hound. He can also shine at racing, coursing, lure coursing, agility or obedience, not to mention putting a rabbit in the pot. A small to medium size dog -- he can vary in weight from 18lbs to more than 30lbs - his short, fine coat can be any colour.

Whippets have been mentioned in literature and depicted in tapestries and paintings for hundreds of years and like most dogs, they have been crossed with other breeds from time to time. They were recognized as a show breed by the Kennel Club in 1890 and in 1899, the Whippet Club was formed to promote the interest of the pedigree whippet. Whippets were already well known as racing dogs but they were frequently crossed with greyhounds and terriers in order to increase their speed or determination. That situation still exists today: alongside the purebred whippet, many of whom are kept for racing under Whippet Club Racing Association rules, there are cross-bred dogs which race under British Whippet Racing Association rules for which the only criterion is that the dog should be "whippet-like" in appearance and with a short coat.

Before purchasing a puppy, newcomers to the breed should ensure that the dog they are buying is the kind of dog they want: a written pedigree or even Kennel Club registration is no guarantee that the dog is pure bred and it would be sensible to check that the breeder of the puppy is known to one of the whippet breed clubs as a breeder of pedigree stock. Most breed club secretaries keep lists of breeders with puppies to sell so that is a good starting point for someone looking for a puppy. Whippets have no known inherited diseases or defects and given a share of family life and a good daily walk, they make excellent pets and are easy to keep clean.

Before deciding on a whippet, however, it would be sensible to ask yourself the questions that a reputable breeder will certainly ask

  • Who is going to feed and exercise this dog every day?
  • Does every member of the household want a whippet?
  • Have you the time and resources to make sure that an active dog will have a happy and healthy life with you for twelve to fifteen years?
  • Are you prepared to take trouble to train your dog not to be a nuisance to others, not to chase stock or neighbours' cats? A whippet's instinct is to chase and kill what it catches.
  • Is your garden securely fenced?
  • Are your children of an age to behave responsibly with a dog?
  • Are you looking for a pet to be part of the family or is your idea of a dog something to be left in a kennel until required? A whippet will not thrive on such treatment.
  • Can you return the affection a whippet gives?

Sure you can give a whippet a happy home? Then here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

Does a whippet need a lot of exercise ?

Not while it is a puppy and still growing but the adult whippet of 15 months or more should have at least an hour's walk every day and some of that time should be running free.

How much does a whippet eat ?

The breeder should give you a diet sheet for while the puppy is growing. An adult needs an ounce of food for every two pounds of its body weight: a 24lb dog should eat 12 oz of food each day. A fit whippet will show not more than three ribs. If you can see more than three, it is too thin and if you cannot see any, it is too fat!

Is it a destructive breed - I am at work for six hours each day ?

Any dog that is regularly left alone for hours is likely to become lonely, stressed, noisy, anxious and destructive. If you are out at work every day, you cannot offer a whippet a suitable home but you could ring your local breed club secretary (the Kennel Club will give you the details) and ask if there is a breeder near you who would welcome some help on a regular basis, either walking or dog sitting.

We already have a small dog and a cat. Would they be at risk from a whippet ?

Whippets are gentle, affectionate dogs, and a puppy growing up with other dogs and cats will recognize them as "family" and happily curl up with either. Even an adult whippet coming into a cat-owning household will soon learn to live with cats, although care to supervise both will need to be taken at first. However, even though he has learned not to chase the family cat, any other cat that a whippet sees, running through the village or across the garden, for instance, will trigger an instinctive chase reaction. If the cat stands its ground, the whippet will lose interest, particularly if he has previously received a scratch from an outraged cat.

Do they need a lot of heat? They look such shivery dogs.

A whippet's coat is as fine as a racehorse's and there is no undercoat as there is in breeds like the Labrador. This means that if they get wet, they are wet to the skin. An active whippet will not notice cold and rain while running about but when he stops, he should be dried off with a towel or coated up warmly. Whippets can develop thicker, coarser hair if they are regularly left in the cold but as the sleek, satiny feel of the dog is part of his attraction, this is not just unkind to the dog but counterproductive for the owner. Because they are so warm and silky to touch, whippets make excellent PAT dogs. In winter or unusually cold weather, a whippet needs a warm, waterproof coat while walking on a lead, or in a stationary car. These can be bought by mail order, at breed club shows or from the Rescue: your puppy's breeder will advise on what to get and when. Inside the house, the whippet's favourite place is lying by the fire or against a radiator. He will appreciate being covered with a warm blanket at night (or getting under the duvet with his owner) but he does not normally shiver unless he is unwell or in an icy draught.

A dog or a bitch ?

Dogs make better single pets, they are more fun and they have a stronger desire to please - bitches tend to regard their owners as slaves to their comfort and are less likely to put their own wishes second to their owner's. If you want to compete at shows, racing, coursing or any other competition your whippet can enter, dogs do not have long periods of inactivity due to coming in season. In almost any sphere, it is easier to win with a dog!

Anything else I should know ?

A whippet is an intensely affectionate dog who wants to be with you at all times and will thrive with a touchy-feely owner. At the same time, he is a hound, an inveterate hunter and an inveterate thief. Anything left within reach is likely to find its way into his mouth. He is a sporting dog with boundless energy for country walks but once in pursuit of a rabbit or a hare, he cannot be recalled until the chase is over. At the same time, his keen desire to please his owner means he will do obedience or agility against his natural instinct. He is a wonderful companion and with a modicum of training will earn you lots of compliments on your beautifully behaved dog. He is sensitive, quick to learn, elegant to look at, easy to feed and groom.

Whippet breed guide written by : Gay Robertson (Moonlake)