Frequently Asked Questions About Whippets

(This was copied off of the American Whippet Club site)

What is a Whippet?

A Whippet is a medium-sized sighthound–a group of dogs which includes the Greyhound, Borzoi, Irish Wolfhound, Pharoah Hound, Afghan Hound, Saluki, and others. These dogs were bred to hunt by sight, coursing game in open areas at high speeds. Although one can find numerous representations of small Greyhound-like hounds in art dating back to Roman times, the modern whippet was created by working-class people of northern England by crossing Greyhounds with several other breeds, including the Italian Greyhound and a now-extinct long-legged terrier. These small coursing hounds were cheaper to feed and house than Greyhounds, but very handy at providing rabbits for the pot. They also were used to provide sport on non-working days as their owners enjoyed racing them against each other. The modern look of the breed was created by upper-class English dog fanciers, who bought the best-looking Whippets and bred them selectively to appear most similar to a “Greyhound in miniature”. Because color is considered “immaterial” in judging Whippets, they come in the widest variety of color and marking patterns of any breed — everything from solid black to solid white, with red, fawn, brindle, blue, cream. And all manner of spots and blazes and patches are seen–sometimes all in the same litter!

Where can I get a Whippet?

Breeder referrals in your area can be obtained by contacting Mary Downing at whimsy@gte.net . There are also many wonderful Whippets who have lost their homes through no fault of their own and are available through whippet rescue. The American Whippet Club strongly discourages anyone from purchasing a whippet through a pet store or other commercial breeder. See www.nopuppymills.com for information about such outlets.

How can I contact someone from Whippet Rescue?

Whippet rescue is done by an independent organization called Whippet Rescue and Placement (WRAP). Check their website at http://www.whippet-rescue.com/roster.html for a a list of national rescue volunteers.

What kind of personality does the Whippet have?

Whippets are generally quiet and gentle dogs in the house, content to spend much of the day sleeping on the couch. They are not generally aggressive with other animals, and although especially attached to their owners, they are friendly to visitors. They are not prone to snapping, so they are good with young children. They may or may not bark when strangers arrive, and are not suited to be guard dogs due to their trusting and unsuspicious nature. Outside, however, particularly when they are racing or lure coursing, they demonstrate their superb athletic skills and will pursue their “quarry” (even when it is an artificial lure) with the heart of a lion. To see these dogs in full stride is breathtaking!

Please note that many whippets do seem to suffer from “Excessive Greeting Disorder” characterized by wild displays of exuberance when their owners return from long absences of 10 minutes or more. This can be a problem with very young children in the house as they may easily be knocked over.

Does a male or a female make a better pet?

Unlike many other breeds, the males are as easy to housebreak, and no more aggressive than bitches. Both sexes make excellent pets. Males tend to be slightly more loyal and enjoy repetitive play. Females can be a little more complex and strong-willed, but are equally devoted to their owners. Males tend to run one to two inches taller, and three to six pounds heavier, than females.

How should I care for my Whippet?

Whippets, like other dogs, require a good quality kibble and plenty of fresh water. Grooming is minimal — cut their nails regularly, bathe as needed, and keep them free of parasites. They are not well-adapted for living in a kennel or as outside dogs. Their coats do not provide the insulation for them to withstand prolonged periods of exposure to the cold. Their natural attachment to people makes them happiest when kept as housepets. They need soft bedding on which to sleep, regular exercise, and routine veterinary care. The most important thing you can do to care for your Whippet is to protect him from being hit by a car, or attacked by aggressive dogs. Whippets generally get the worst of any dog fight, so “invisible fences” are not recommended. Protect your Whippet with a safely fenced yard, or by walking him on leash. Puppies can be chewers, so crating is recommended when you are not able to supervise their activities. Obedience training will make your Whippet a better canine citizen.

What kind of activities can I do with my pet Whippet?

Many enjoyable competitive sports are open to pet Whippets. Whippets, as their heritage would suggest, are outstanding running dogs and are top competitors in lure coursing, straight racing, and oval track racing. In these events, a temporary track and lure system is set up. The lure is usually a white plastic trash bag. All of these events are purely for sport, and are put on for the enjoyment of the dogs and their owners. Top competitors win ribbons and points towards running titles. No betting is allowed. Thus, win or lose, every dog goes home to be “king of the couch”. With new methods of motivational obedience training being used, Whippets are becoming successful obedience dogs. Many enjoy flyball and agility. All of the above activities are open to Whippets who are spayed or neutered. For racing and coursing, your Whippet must not have any breed disqualifications, such as being oversized (see Breed Standard). The elegance and ease of grooming of the Whippet have made it a popular show dog, but to be successful at this sport, you must purchase a puppy who is considered by its breeder to be show quality.

What types of health problems do Whippets have?

Given proper nutrition, exercise, and veterinary care, most Whippets live for 12 to 15 years. They are generally healthy, and are not prone to the frequent ear infections, skin allergies, or digestive problems that afflict other breeds. Genetic eye defects have been found in the breed, but are still very rare. Because of this threat, the American Whippet Club recommends that all breeders have the eyes checked clear on their breeding stock. Hip dysplasia is not a problem in Whippets.

Will I be able to keep my Whippet off the furniture?

Probably not!. They love the sofa and will gladly warm your feet in bed at night. They make wonderful hot water bottles! Luckily for them and for you, it is easy to keep your Whippet clean and free of parasites so that he will be a welcome guest on your furniture. You can also put a sheet or throw over the “dog chair” and remove it when company comes.

Is there a long-coated variety of Whippet?

There are dogs who have been referred to as “long-haired Whippets”, but it is the opinion of the American Kennel Club and the American Whippet Club that these dogs are actually mixed-breeds. They are not recognized by AKC or any other major canine registry, and cannot compete in events such a racing or coursing.