Frequently Asked Questions

What's a whippet?
"A medium size sighthound giving the appearance of elegance and fitness, denoting great speed, power and balance without coarseness. A true sporting  hound that covers a maximum of distance with a minimum of lost motion. Should  convey an impression of beautifully balanced muscular power and strength, combined with great elegance and grace of outline. Symmetry of outline, muscular development and powerful gait are the main considerations;  the dog being built for speed and work, all forms of exaggeration should be avoided." The whippet is one of three similar breeds: the Italian Greyhound, which is the smallest of the three; the Greyhound, the largest and most "famous", and the Whippet who is the middle sized with a height range of 17 1/2" to 21 1/2" for females and 18 1/2" to 22 1/2" for males (height measured at the shoulders), weight varies widely due to size, bone and muscle mass, the range can be anywhere from 22 pounds for a petite female to 50+ pounds for a large heavy muscled male in top racing condition. 

If you think this breed does not shed let us tell you ... they do! However due to it being a single coated breed with no undercoat (that fluffy stuff that floats through the air) it tends to not be quite as bad as other breeds. If the dog(s) are allowed on your furniture, though, it will have hair on it especially during spring and fall shed. If your dog is white and you wear a lot of black, invest in a lint brush!

Where do they originate from?
The whippet is believed to have originated in Northern England by the coal miners in the 1800s, officially recognized as a breed in 1890 by the English Kennel Club. Originating from crosses of small coursing greyhound, white english terrier (which is now extinct), and italian greyhound. These little dogs were not just companions but they also served their families by putting meat on the table and snapdog competitions (early on, later outlawed) as well as racing for money, hense the whippet being referred to as "the poorman's race horse" and "snapdog".

What's a whippet like?
Whippets are one of the most affectionate of breeds. Often called a 35 mph couch potato and they are at their happiest when with their family. They give 100% of themselves whether they are at home, on the race track, in the field or participating in any other activity with their humans.

They sometimes are compared to cats since they are very tidy about themselves and bathe by licking themselves or other dogs (and some even bathe the household cat). On the down side, some may take this aspect to jumping barriers (gates put up to block rooms/halls), jumping onto counters/tables to get to food products, so early training and a keen eye is your ace in the hole with these less than acceptable behaviors.

A bored whippet (any breed honestly) can be a very destructive one, when unattended we strongly suggest a safe area (dog safe room or proper sized crate) for your companion to keep him/her safe as well as your home. Generally these bad ideas, with good consistent training, will disapate after 2 years of age, but whippets are puppies for a long time. Some feel crates are cruel, but if the pup is introduced to it properly, it becomes a safe haven for your pet. We never encourage crating for excessive time as this pet deserves to be a part of your family, and also to have proper outdoor exercise.

Whippets prefer lying on soft furniture with their people, the couch ... bed ... where ever you are, they want to be. If you have more than one, they tend to pile up lying on or very close to one another. Some people prefer to not have dogs in their bed or on their furniture, in this case you will want to provide a soft durable bed in the rooms yours is allowed. Dillegence will be needed on the family's part to stick to the rules of "no dogs on human furniture" or you will loose the battle.

Many whippets do better with another of their kind due to their high social nature.

Are they indoor or outdoor dogs?
Whippets are house dogs. While daily outdoor time is a must for exercise, sunshine and fresh air, this breed doesn't do as well in a kennel situation and truly thrives with the companionship of its family. Care needs to be given during extreme temperatures too due to the lack of body fat they can succomb to high heat as well as cold temperatures. If you want an outdoor dog, you should look towards a different breed.

How are they with children?
Whippets exposed to well-behaved, gentle children do wonderfully with them. Introductions should be done with constant supervision and children should never be left alone with any dog. Due to their natural gentle nature with people, many whippets are therapy dogs working with people of all ages. They also make great Junior Showmanship dogs and 4-H dogs! We know of a few who are even service dogs doing tasks for their owners and making life a bit smoother for them.

Do they make good guard dogs?
Most whippets know no stranger, they happily greet anyone whether they have or have not met them before! Some will bark if they see someone (human or animal) coming toward their home or yard, but it's more of a greeting bark than an alarm "warning intruder" type of bark. Some never bark!

How do whippets and cats (or other furry housepets) get along?
Keeping in mind that the whippet was bred as a hunting dog, specifically to chase, catch and kill hare, having small furry pets with them can be a test of patience and faith. Some do very well with other indoor pets (cats, gerbils, etc) others never do ... indoors or out. Rarely do any do well around them outdoors, even if it is the household cat. This instinct is bred into the whippet over its history and rare is the example who has no instinct to chase. Be wary if you have little furries and introductions MUST be done slowly and only in a supervised environment. Even after introductions & acceptance, supervision is strongly suggested at all times (i.e., allowing fluffy to be with your whippet while at work is a very bad idea).

Some would suggest not having small dog breeds in combination with a whippet, we feel that depends on both individual dogs as well as the owner's dedication to training both and the whole household situation. We know of many homes with small toy breeds in combination with whippets that work well, but the owners are very attentive and supervise their pets well.

Are they easy to train?
While whippets are quite independent in mindset, most are very eager to please their owners. Because of their independent nature, positive training works much better with them, avoid doing the same thing over and over with them as they will bore with it quickly. If an owner is consistent with their requirements for good manners the dog will learn quickly. Many compete in obedience, agility, flyball, therapy work, service work and of course racing and coursing (both open field and lure cousing). 

For information on race and lure training, see the link towards the bottom of this page in the information section.

Are they harder to housetrain than other breeds?
Canines in general do not want their waste around their "den" (home) and it is in their nature to want to eliminate outdoors. One tip we have for anyone having difficulty in this area is to put your pet on a feeding schedule. Once their meals are on a set schedule their eliminating will be too and this will make housetraining much easier on both the pet and the people! We do not feel whippets are any different than any other pure or mixed breed dog in this aspect.

Is a lot of exercise a must?
In short, yes. Good exercise is always a must for whippets! Time to run at their own speed, twisting and turning helps develop their bodies as well as their minds. They need a regular chance to run. A fenced yard is very much needed for this breed for this reason as well as for their safety as they are rarely trustworthy off lead, in fact we never recommend a whippet being off lead in an unfenced or unsafe area due to the high risk of them not coming when called especially if they see what they think may be prey (a white plastic bag blowing in the wind could be interpreted as something to chase by a keen whippet). A tired whippet is a well behaved whippet, and one who gets good exercise is sound of body as well as mind.

How are they inside?
Adult whippets are calm indoors and tend to pile up in heaps of napping whippet mounds, this is one of the only breeds we are aware of that do this), however they can have great bursts of energy and "bounce" in the house. Pups tend to have much more energy and even get the "zoomies" in the house. Most whippets, regardless of age, love squeaky and fuzzy toys as well as chew toys, these will keep them occupied and (other than good exercise) will help prevent a bored destructive dog of any age.

What health problems are there?
Thankfully whippets are generally a very healthy and long lived breed (averaging 12 to 15 years). This is not to say that there are no health problems, but none are  "common". Some of the health problems include eye problems, deafness, von willebrands disorder, cardiac problems, seizures, hypothyroid, hypoglycemia, and luxating patella. Again, we repeat, none of these problems occur on a regular basis, but as with any canine, they can happen.

Whippets, as well as all sighthounds, are very sensitive to anesthesia, specifically barbituate based types, this is a result of the low fat ratio and the absorbtion of these drugs (they go to the fat cells, when no fat cells are available they go to the heart). Your job as a responsible owner is to make sure your vet understands this aspect of the breed.

Do they need any special gear?
If you live in a climate that sees cold temperatures, investing in a good coat made for a whippet is a good idea. There are several companies out there that supply the breed with high quality coats ranging in light weight to super heavy duty. Do a google.com search and type in "whippet coat" to find them.

Martingale style collars and walking leads are a neccessary item for any sighthound. A martingale is a double loop style collar that, when fitted correctly, prevents your whippet from getting loose by slipping out of the collar or lead. Most makers of these offer both the collar which allows you to use any clip leash, as well as a full one piece leash/collar combo item referred to as a martingale walking lead. These slip over the dog's head and tighten down with a plastic stopper. Both are best to have made specifically to your dog's size. No matter where you get your collar or lead, be sure that they are made with safety as a number one priority and only solid cast or welded metal hardware is used.

How much does a whippet cost?
Prices for a whippet range greatly but the average is $400-$1000. When you take into account the testing done prior to breeding, the additional expenses for a healthy pregnancy, whelping and raising a litter, puppy innoculations, microchipping, registration of the litter and the life expectancy, as well as a breeder to answer questions and help with any possible problems that may arrise, it's a small price to pay for a loving companion. Rarely does a responsible breeder make a profit on their litter of pups; their biggest concern is producing sound of mind and body puppies that will bring joy to their families AND screening potential homes to find the best situation for each of their pups.

Our Dogs' Photo Gallery...

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Information 

Multiple racing organizations explained here, by Gregg Gammie

Go here for a list of downloadable articles on lure and race training for your whippet.

Have a dog who's lost? Visit this website dedicated to helpful tips and information on finding your pet fast.

Publications

The Whippet News is a monthly newsletter put out by the American Whippet Club, cah@gte.net for more info.

The Versatile Whippet is a pamphlet published by the AWC, rlmfadden@newmexico.com for information on purchase ($7 each).

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Special thanks to photographer Rob Ling for our header photo © 2007.