Breed Group: Hound
Whippets are sweet, docile dogs that make excellent companions. They are loving with their families including children and well-socialized dogs accept most strangers as well. But because their light frames are susceptible to injury, they should only be kept with older, well-behaved children. They usually enjoy the company of other canines, but being a sighthound, small pets including cats will likely elicit a Whippet’s hunting instincts. Outside, where they should be leashed or confined, a Whippet is among the most active dogs. Bred to run, they love to sprint and need an above average amount of exercise. Assuming they get the exercise they need, they are calm inside. Even though Whippets are not known for barking, they make good watch dogs, but poor guardians. They are extremely sensitive both mentally and physically and should never be treated harshly. Physical comfort is important to them. They prefer soft sofas and to sleep in the beds of their family if allowed.
With their long neck and graceful carriage, the Whippet looks like a miniature greyhound. Although compact and thin, Whippets are also hardy and strong. Of average size, they stand 18 – 22 inches tall and weigh between 25 and 40 pounds. A Whippet’s coat is short, dense, and smooth and comes in a variety of colors including black, red, fawn, brindle, white, gray, and any combination of these colors. Physical upkeep is easy; they need only rare brushing and they shed very little. Whippets are one of few dogs that lack a doggy smell. They do moderately well in heat but with their short coat and light structure, they do poorly in the cold.
Like other hounds, Whippets are intelligent, but also independent and willful resulting in a dog that is frequently difficult to motivate and train. Fortunately, for companion purposes, Whippets only need minimal training. But trainers should never handle them roughly, use a loud voice, nor show frustration as doing so will likely result in the dog shutting down. Because of their sensitivity, Whippets need to be socialized early or they can become excessively timid.
Whippets are a healthy breed. The most common problems include less than 2% of dogs suffering from heart murmurs or Hip Dysplasia, and less than 1% having hearing loss. The average lifespan of a Whippet is 12 – 15 years.
The most popular sighthound, Whippets fall in the middle of the pack in terms of overall popularity. They rank 60th in AKC popularity with about 1,800 dogs registered in a typical year.
Peasants in 18th century England owned small dogs that provided entertainment for their owners and in some cases supplementary income. They arranged “snap up” contests in which the dogs snapped up as many rabbits as possible in a given area. From this activity, the dogs acquired the name snap dog. People then bred their snap dogs with terriers and greyhounds to essentially be a smaller version of the greyhound. Throughout the breeding, they retained the running and sighting capabilities of the greyhound. Later, this new breed, Whippets, were used in rag racing, a poor man’s version of greyhound racing. Because of their affectionate personality, Whippets became treasured companions and popular sporting dogs.
The Nationa (US) Breed Club is the American Whippet Club.