Before the American Kennel Club gave them breed recognition in 1888 and the English Kennel Club in 1891, Whippets had long been used as racing dogs, and were often referred to as “the poor man’s racehorse.” Whippets first appeared in America in Massachusetts when English mill operators brought them over from England. Massachusetts was the Mecca of Whippet racing for many years before the sporting event moved to various other New England states.
A cross between a standard Greyhound and an Italian Greyhound, Whippets get their name from the phrase “Whip it” meaning “quick or rapid movement.” They are little speed racers, running at speeds between 35 and 40 miles per hour. Whippets are, in fact, the fastest domesticated dogs in their size category. Regular exercise is important for these guys and they love the rush of getting to “whip around” outside and really stretch their legs.
Whippets are considered to be sight hounds which are dog breeds that hunt and live by speed and sight rather than smell. They can have larger appetites than what might be thought of for their size since they are so active and their running helps them burn lots of calories. Sometimes I wish I had the speed and metabolism of a Whippet. We should all be so lucky.
Other breed traits include black or dark colored noses, tapered muzzles and ears that are held back and semi-folded similar to their cousins, the Greyhounds.
These dogs are incredibly affectionate and sweet as well as crafty and intelligent. They know how to win races and win over hearts. Whippets can be sensitive both emotionally and physically so rough training does not work for them. They respond best to sight commands. Basically, a trainer or Whippet owner sets up a series of visual commands using their hand and body language for the Whippets to learn and follow. You want to pair verbal commands with these visual ones so that your Whippet can learn to listen, but, as a sight hound, they learn the fastest and remember the best with visual cues.
Whippets are a lively bunch and require regular exercise as well as training for safe exercise. Their ability to run fast and slightly delicate structure make them susceptible to serious injury if they are not taught correctly. Incorporate games or new trails into a Whippets exercise routine to keep them on the tips of their paw pads.
A warning to owners with multiple pets: Whippets retain their hunting instincts as do many dog breeds and may capture and/or kill cats, rodents or other small pets (guinea pigs, hamsters, etc).
They may not be the best dog to have in a household with many different kinds of pets, but they are wonderful companions to other dog breeds. They are also highly loyal to their families and can actually serve as very good house pets. This is because they know when to switch the speed off and become the vision of the docile house dog.
Coats & Grooming:
Whippets come in a wide variety of fur colors and do not have any markings that are specific to the breed. They have short fur that is smooth and very easy to groom. If you use a chamois rag to give them a proper rubdown every so often their coats will stay healthy and shiny. Bathe your Whippet when necessary and use firm bristle brushes to smooth out their coats after a run.
The great thing about Whippets other than their low-maintenance fur is their coats do not really give off that “Doggy” smell. Even after they’ve been outside for a run they do not give off a strong odor. Their shedding is about average and may pick up more or become less from season to season.
Whippets in general grow to be anywhere from 25-45 pounds. Some females can be bigger than males, but the boys usually have a few extra pounds on them over the girls.
Health Information & Life Span:
Whippets do not suffer from a lot of health problems which is an added bonus to their breed. They can get stomach upset that can lead to ulcers, but this occurs when they are not given proper nutrition to match their highly active lifestyles. This can also happen if they are not given the opportunity to be active enough. Whippets can also be prone to some skin allergies, but severe cases have been rare and have not been found to be breed specific.
Whippets can live between 12-15 years; a good average lifespan for most dog breeds.