History

Whippets are a sighthound breed that originated in England in the late 18th century.  Their resemblance to the Greyhound is no coincidence: Whippets were bred from English Greyhounds that were deemed unsuitable for hunting, due to their size. These smaller Greyhounds were bred in order to produce dogs for hunting smaller game, such as rats and rabbits.  After the repeal of European laws deeming who could – and could not – own hunting dogs, Whippets became extremely popular.  In the early 19th century Whippet racing emerged, and The Kennel Club formally recognized the breed in 1891.

Temperament

Despite having a top end speed of 64 km/hr and being the fastest accelerating dogs in the world, Whippets tend to be couch potatoes.  Their quiet demeanor, laid-back personality, and low-maintenance lifestyle makes them the perfect indoor dog, particularly for apartment dwellers.  However, due to their sighthound nature, they are known for chasing smaller animals, such as cats.  Proper socialization from an early age is important for a Whippet in a multi-species household.  Overall, Whippets are highly affectionate dogs, and indeed are happiest lounging in an owner’s lap.

Size, Coloring and Care

As “small Greyhounds,” Whippets stand 47 – 57 cm tall for males, and 44 – 55 cm tall for females.  The maximum weight of a healthy Whippet is approximately 19 kg.  Whippets are born in various colors, and coloring has been deemed “immaterial” by registration groups, meaning that an individual dog’s color is unimportant.  Solid and brindle colorings are both common and the coat is short, smooth, and lies close to the body. Whippets have few grooming requirements; however, due to their short coats and naturally lean nature, they do require clothing in cold weather.    

Exercise Requirements

Even though Whippets are content couch potatoes, they still require plenty of regular exercise.  Suitable outlets for their energy include play dates, runs, hikes, lure coursing, agility, and flyball.  Their natural intelligence makes them easy to train for all activities.  Since Whippets are natural athletes with impressive top end speed, they do best when given an off-leash area in which to play.  If you are an apartment dweller, consider regular dog park visits during off-peak hours to allow your dog a chance to run.

Quirks

Every dog breed has its individual quirks.  Whippets tend to be touch-sensitive, meaning they may startle if touched unexpectedly.  They also tend to be more anxious than the average dog, and may find loud noises such as thunderstorms and fireworks nerve-wracking.

Health

Due to their original use for working and racing, Whippets are generally a structurally sound breed and rarely suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia.  Eye defects are also rare, but national Whippet associations still recommend genetic testing when purchasing a Whippet puppy.  The most common health problem for this breed is cardiac arrhythmia.  Typically, the heart is large and slow beating when the dog is at rest, but pumps normally during exercise.  Among sighthounds Whippets have an above average lifespan, with a median age of 12 years and 10 months.

Do you own or want to own a whippet? If you do, what attracts you to this breed?