What are Whippet's like?
Whippets are speedy, sleek, and sensitive dogs that can suit a variety of households thanks to their laid back and gentle nature, and surprisingly easy care. Despite their sporting background, Whippets don’t need a ton of exercise and they would happily spend all day snuggled on your bed snoozing. They’re quiet and polite dogs, unless you happen to be something small and furry, in which case a Whippet will want to chase you down.
Whippets might have been bred as hunting dogs, but nowadays, they make pup-ular family pets. Although they look sleek and are famed for their speed, these streamlined sighthounds are very affectionate and unassuming. They certainly aren’t boisterous and they don’t bark much at all, making them great apartment dwellers.
Whippets only need moderate exercise and have very low grooming requirements, so they’re relatively easy to care for. In fact, even their affection is easy to earn because these dogs are comfort hounds that love being up on the furniture and hanging out with humans.
Whippets are good family dogs too because they are playful but not boisterous. Their size suits family life because they aren’t small and fragile and they’re less likely to be hurt by rough play, but they aren’t big and strong either so they’re not likely to hurt anyone else. In fact, Whippets are wonderful all-rounders and suit a wide variety of homes.
These pretty pooches have a playful side and are happy to whizz around and join in games, but they’re astonishingly laid back dogs who are basically couch potatoes if left to their own devices. Their breed name might come from an old English word meaning “fast-moving” but these dogs are more often found at the dizzying speeds of 0mph, snoring on the sofa like it’s their own dog bed.
Whippet-like dogs have existed for centuries and you can even see many small Greyhound-like dogs in Medieval artwork, but whether these dogs were Whippets, Lurchers, or something else entirely is up for debate.
Whippets as we know them were bred from small Greyhounds who were then crossed with Terriers to create smaller and smarter dogs. Whippets inherited their sleek appearance, chasing instinct, and tremendous speed from Greyhounds. Meanwhile, the Terrier blood in these dogs gave them “gameness”, their drive to hunt. With their combination of smarts and speed, these sighthounds were excellent at chasing and “snapping up” prey.
The Whippet became a recognised purebred dog in the UK in 1891 by the Kennel Club. However, they had already been given breed recognition in the United States a few years before in 1888.
Where do Whippets come from?
Whippets came from England and there have been references to a Whippet dog since the 17th century. However, small Whippet-like dogs have existed as far back as Ancient Egypt, but they are likely another line of dogs.
What were Whippets bred for?
Originally, Whippets were bred for hunting. Like their larger cousin the Greyhound, Whippets are a kind of sighthound which means they rely on visually tracking and chasing prey rather than sniffing it out. As well as excellent eyesight, the Whippet’s secret weapon is their ferocious speed which they used to outrun and chase down small animals.
The racy and tenacious Whippet was soon used by hunters and poachers alike for rabbit and hare coursing, which almost naturally led to them being used in dog racing as well. Instead of chasing a rabbit, the dogs would be made to chase rags that were dragged along the ground, or that were waved at the end of the track. Their small size also meant they could be raced anywhere, including small fields and back alleys. Dog racing was paw-ticularly popular with working-class men in Wales and the North of England and the breed became known as the “poor man’s racehorse” or even the “poor man’s Greyhound”.
As well as racing, Whippets were used for “snap dog contests”, which earned them the nickname “snap dog”. These contests involved people betting on how many rats or rabbits a Whippet could “snap up” and kill in a certain amount of time. Because the breed was developed to chase and kill small animals, it’s in their genes to chase small furry creatures which means they’re not a good match for a household with small pets like rabbits and guinea pigs.
Despite all this hunting and racing in the breed history, Whippets are very sociable, gentle, and surprisingly lazy dogs. They get on well with other pooches and love people. But a Whippet’s greatest love is snoozing somewhere cosy.
|Lifespan||12-15 years||12-15 years|
|Temperament||Friendly, quiet, gentle||Friendly, quiet, gentle|
Whippet vs Greyhound
Whippets and Greyhounds are closely related and bred for similar purposes, so it’s no surprise that these dogs look alike and have similar paw-sonalities and care requirements. However, Whippets are much smaller than Greyhounds and this size difference is the main way to tell these racy breeds apart. The key difference is that a Greyhound is larger and needs a little more exercise, and they also have a shorter life expectancy than the smaller Whippet.
Whippet vs Italian Greyhound
Whippets and Italian Greyhounds look similar, but again, they can easily be distinguished by their size. Whippets are larger than Italian Greyhounds, who are bred as companions not racers. Both Whippets and Italian Greyhounds have similar grooming and exercise needs, and both breeds have a life expectancy of 12-15 years.
Fun facts about Whippets
They can outrun Usain Bolt
While Usain Bolt might be the fastest human to have ever lived, his record-breaking top speed was only 44.72km/h. That’s nothing to be sniffed at but he’d still be in a Whippet’s dust since they can reach speeds of 56km/h. In fact, for their weight category, Whippets are the fastest animal of their size on the planet!
Form like a cheetah
The reason that Whippets (as well as Greyhounds and Cheetahs) are su-paw fast is because they use a running style called “rotary gallop”, or “double suspension gallop”. This basically means that when they run, all four feet touch the ground at once and propel them forwards, and in the next step all four paws are off the ground at the same time. While running, a Whippet’s spine bends so they can bring their back legs even further forward and maximise their stride so they can sprint at the speed of greased lightning!
Not such a hot dog
Whippets have very little body fat and a thin coat of fur, so they’re very sensitive to the cold. In winter, you’ll need to bundle your fur baby in a coat to keep the chill out. (Good job a puppy in a jumper looks paws-itively adorable!)
Too sweet for stardom
In Alien 3 a chestburster comes crashing out of a cow, and the creatives needed a speedy 4-legged animal to stand in for the alien. They decided to try using a Whippet in a costume. However, it was soon scrapped because of the delicate way Whippets walk, which was too cute and comical to possibly be believed as a horrifying chestburster. They also couldn’t get any front-on shots of the Whippet in their costume because they couldn’t put the headpiece without pup-setting their canine costar. Don’t believe us? Take a look at these clips of the team creating the costume and fitting the Whippet.
Caring for a Whippet puppy is much like looking after any other baby doggy. It’s im-paw-tent to maintain a routine to help your Whippet puppy settle into family life and to feel secure. Socialisation will help to prevent any nervousness in your pup as they grow up.
Training is im-paw-tent to help you as an owner keep your dog under control, but it’s also for your pooch’s safety.
For example, recall training is all you have to rely on to get your Whippet to come back if they ever chase after something. Whippets can be patchy on recall because their prey drive is so strong, so you shouldn’t let them off the lead unless you know you’re in a secure space. However, consistent recall training should still be done just in case your pooch ever makes a break for it. Plus, training helps you and your Whippet puppy to bond and provides them with much-needed mental stimulation.
It goes without saying that toilet training will take up a lot of time when you first get your Whippet puppy, but they’re easy enough to housetrain. Otherwise, your puppy will need healthy meals several times a day to provide the nutrition and energy they need to grow.
When is a Whippet fully grown?
Whippets will often reach their adult height by the time they’re 6 to 8 months old, but it isn’t unusual for some dogs to take a whole year to grow up. Even then, your Whippet puppy will “fill out” and put on weight and develop muscle. Generally, a Whippet puppy is fully grown in height and weight by the time they are 12-15 months old.
Are Whippets easy to train?
Whippets are about average in terms of intelligence, and some have a stubborn streak so they can be tricky to train. Generally, Whippets are reasonably responsive to training and not very difficult to teach, but you must ensure you use paw-sitive rewards and treats to keep these sensitive souls interested and upbeat. Don’t expect a dog that knows dozens of tricks though, Whippets aren’t known to be the smartest or most performative breed so you might not get further than basic commands.
Wonderful Whippet names
What’s a Whippet temperament like?
Whippets are full of character and charm but don’t have huge or brash paw-sonalities. They are sleek and graceful in appearance and nature with their quiet, unassuming character. Whippets are very gentle and sensitive souls, and they love being indoors snuggled up with their humans or under a blanket. If you’re looking for quiet, calm companionship from your furry friend a Whippet is the paw-fect choice. But they do have a playful nature and stubborn streak, so they will still provide you with plenty of laughs as their cheeky character comes out. They’re sociable critters too and love spending time with people and other dogs.
In the house, Whippets are incredibly laid back, loyal, and loving. But if you’re out on walkies and they see something worth chasing, they’ll be off. Whippets were bred to hunt and born to run, so they will soon tear off after a cat, squirrel, or rabbit, and recall isn’t always reliable against their instincts. Many owners keep their Whippet on the lead for safety or put a GPS tracker on them just in case they race off. But again, if there’s nothing worth chasing, they certainly won’t bother breaking a sweat and you might find you have to coax your dog out for walkies because they would much prefer to be indoors. In fact, many Whippets dislike the rain and the cold, so if it’s so much as drizzly outside you might have your work cut out trying to get them out the door.
Whippets might be able to outrun Usain Bolt, but they are notorious couch potatoes. And when your dog isn’t sofa surfing, they’re probably in the kitchen trying to snuffle food off the counter. Given they are quiet dogs, these pups are great at going into stealth mode to try and sneak food off the side, and they can be quite greedy, so you’ll have to take care you don’t leave any food out where your Whippet can whip it off.
Are Whippets good pets?
Whippets make wonderful pets because they are affectionate, devoted, and gentle dogs. Their loving nature makes them rewarding companions, and they love a cuddle. Provided you have the patience to provide paw-sitive ongoing training for your Whippet and are willing to accommodate their zoomies and hunting instincts, you’ll be well-rewarded with a steady, gentle, and loving dog. The main thing is remembering that Whippets have a high prey drive so they should stay on the lead, and you might want to provide an enclosed garden or find a secure field locally where you can go and let your whizzy Whippet have a race around.
Are Whippets good with other pets?
Although Whippets tend to get on well with other dogs, this breed isn’t suitable for households with other pets. Whippets were bred to hunt small animals like rats and rabbits, so they see small furries as prey, and these pups have a high prey drive and strong hunting instincts.
Whippets aren’t known to get on well with cats, finding them equally tempting to chase and catch. Some individual dogs can live peacefully with cats if they are introduced as a puppy, but they should still be supervised together.
These dogs are generally docile and gentle, but they were still bred to hunt and that instinct is a powerful thing for a pooch. That’s why it’s best for Whippets to always be kept on a lead during walkies, and aren’t suited to living with other animals. Some owners muzzle their Whippet on walks to protect any wildlife just in case their dog decides to give chase.
When it comes to people and other pups though, Whippets are wonderful fur-iends and usually sup-aw social and non-aggressive.
Do Whippets bark a lot?
Whippets are typically a very quiet and reserved breed, and they won’t often bark. If your Whippet woofs, then something must have really caught their attention or worried them. It’s another reason they make surprisingly good apartment dogs, because they’re quiet as well as adaptable.
Can Whippets be left alone?
A Whippet with proper training and socialisation should be able to spend a few hours alone without complaint, and they might be able to stay home while their humans are at work, but ideally someone should come home at lunch to check on them. Individual dogs can still develop separation anxiety, but it isn’t as common as in other breeds.
Whippets look like miniature Greyhounds and provide the paw-fect balance of the muscular strength needed to sprint, and the refined elegance of a sighthound. They have a sleek, streamlined appearance with long, thin necks, slender legs, and narrow bodies. They have a deep chest and a very tucked-up abdomen. There’s a slight curve to their backs, which slopes smoothly into their legs, which have a clearly bent stifle (knee). Whippets have long, thin tails which they usually hold low and it’s never raised higher than their back. It can feel like a whip if they wag it against you!
Their heads are a little small in comparison to their bodies. They’re a dolichocephalic breed, meaning they have a long snout that tapers towards the end. Despite their long, lean face, they have powerful looking jaws. A Whippet’s large eyes are quite wide apart and they are either round or oval shaped, giving them a sweet but alert expression. Most Whippets have rose-shaped ears, which fold backwards revealing the burr of the ear.
Whippets come in basically every colour and combination of colours out there in the canine world. In fact, back in 2018 the breed standard was updated to note that accepted Whippet colours included, “any colour or mixture of colours, except merle.”
Merle is a coat pattern that creates mottled patches of colour in a dog’s coat, and it’s found in breeds like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. Some merle Whippets do exist, but breeding these patterns is heavily discouraged and merle coloured dogs are not accepted by the Kennel Club. This is because the gene that creates the merle pattern is also linked to an increased risk of dogs losing their hearing or vision.
When there are at least 40 possible colours and patterns your wonderful Whippet could be, you won’t be stuck for choice.
Breed standard Whippet colours include:
|Black||Black & white particolour||Black & white trim||Black brindle|
|Black brindle with white trim||Blue||Blue brindle||Blue brindle particolour|
|Blue brindle white particolour||Blue brindle white trim||Blue fawn||Blue white particolour|
|Blue white trim||Brindle||Brindle & white particolour||Brindle white trim|
|Cream||Fawn||Fawn black mask||Fawn black mask white trim|
|Fawn blue mask||Fawn brindle||Fawn brindle white particolour||Fawn brindle white trim|
|Fawn white particolour||Fawn white trim||Red brindle||Red brindle particolour|
|Red brindle white trim||Red fawn||Red fawn & white particolour||Red fawn black mask|
|Red fawn black mask white trim||Red fawn white trim||Silver brindle||Silver brindle & white trim|
|Silver brindle particolour||White||White & blue brindle||White & fawn particolour|
Where can Whippets live?
Whippets are wonderfully adaptable little dogs and are happy to live anywhere. Because they don’t bark a lot, they make polite neighbours and suit apartment life. Although they’re whizz kids, Whippets don’t need a lot of room to race around in and they’re happy to live anywhere as long as they get a good daily walk.
How much exercise do Whippets need?
Although Whippets are built for speed, they’re happy to enjoy a sedate stroll with you. These dogs are built for short sprints and don’t have a huge amount of stamina. Whippets need between 40 minutes to an hour of exercise every day, and it’s a good idea to split this time into two shorter walks. Whippets should be kept on the lead for walkies because their high prey drive (and impressive speed) mean they might zip off after anything that moves.
Whippets are famed for their speed and it can be entertaining for you and your dog to find a safe, enclosed space with enough room for your Whippet to really let rip and run around at top speed. Being able to offer your Whippet a safe place to race around will help to tone their muscles and add to their exercise and enrichment, but they certainly don’t need to do it very often.
How long do Whippets live for?
Whippets are usually a very healthy and long-lived breed of dog. The average Whippet lifespan is between 12 and 15 years, but dogs that are well cared for and given a healthy diet and plenty of exercise can easily live a little longer.
Most Whippets die from old age, which is a good indicator of the breed’s general longevity and good health. Heart and cardiac issues are common in older Whippets, but many of these issues are inherited.
However, this breed is prone to accidents because of their high prey drive and speed, leading them to run head-first into danger. Accidents are the biggest cause of premature death in Whippets. That’s why it’s a good idea to always keep your Whippet on the lead unless you’re in a secure, enclosed area since keeping them safe is your top priority to prevent any unnecessary vet trips and heartache.
What health problems do Whippets have?
Generally, Whippets are an incredibly healthy breed. They’re not prone to many serious health conditions that limit their life expectancy, nor are they likely to face multiple minor problems.
However, their high prey drive and instinct to chase can get them into trouble. Whippets are prone to injury, usually caused by them unwittingly running into danger while chasing something. Their thin coat and lack of body fat also means they can get scratched and scraped more than the average dog because there’s no fur or fat to buffer any bumps they have.
Otherwise, Whippets are typically a very sound and stable dog in health as much as they are in character. There are still a few Whippet health problems to be aware of though.
Whippet health problems include:
- Eye problems
- Heart conditions
- Auto-immune issues
- Hormone disorders
- Vulnerable under anaesthetic
- Bully whippet syndrome
Whippets are prone to progressive retinal atrophy, which causes sight loss over 1-2 years until a dog is completely blind. This condition is inherited and dogs with PRA should not be bred so future generations are less likely to inherit the disease. Other than sight loss, PRA does not have a detrimental impact on your dog’s health or life expectancy.
Old Whippets may also develop cataracts, which are common in any old dogs despite their breed. Cataracts don’t affect your dog’s health or life expectancy, but they will impact their vision.
Cardiac problems are one of the most common health concerns with Whippets and they are the second most common cause of death amongst the breed. Some dogs develop mitral valve disease, which is where a valve on the left side of their heart weakens and cannot close properly, causing blood to flow back into the heart. Whippets are also prone to developing heart murmurs, cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure.
Whippets can develop auto-immune disease where their immune system attacks and destroys the cells of the body as if it were a harmful pathogen. They will require medication to suppress their immune system and may be on steroids for some time, but many dogs recover well and can sometimes come off of steroids eventually.
Although uncommon, Whippets are somewhat more prone to certain hormone disorders compared to other breeds. These include hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome. Hypothyroidism is where the thyroid is underactive and doesn’t produce enough hormones, while Cushing’s syndrome is caused by excess cortisol. If your dog has a hormone disorder like these ones, they will need regular medication for the rest of their life but they should be able to live a happy and normal life.
Just like people, Whippets can develop corns on their feet. These are painful and can really affect how your pooch walks, but they can be treated and won’t affect their overall health. You’ll just have a pup-set pooch who won’t want to be walking anywhere until the welt is healed.
Vulnerable under anaesthetic
Whippets are more vulnerable to complications when put under anesthetic, and it’s believed to be because of their low levels of body fat. Vets are well aware of this and know how to treat your pooch to keep them as safe as paw-sible. But if your pooch needs to go under for an operation or treatment, just be aware that they will take longer to recover from the anaesthetic than most dogs.
Bully Whippet Syndrome
Bully Whippet Syndrome (also called Myostatin Deficiency,) is a recessive inherited disease that affects a Whippet's appearance and musculature. The disease means that these dogs appear very heavily muscled. It doesn’t affect the dog’s temperament and affected dogs are just as quiet and gentle as any other Whippet. It’s called “bully” because a similar condition normally affects cows.
Whippets are the only breed known to suffer from this condition, and it hasn’t been bred out of them because a single copy of the responsible gene is very advantageous for racing dogs as it makes them faster. But if two dogs with the gene breed then there is the chance their puppies can inherit two copies of the gene and develop the condition.
Bully Whippets tend to have slightly shorter life expectancies and may be more prone to cardiac problems, but generally, they’re healthy and happy dogs and the only thing noticeably affected is their appearance.
How to groom a Whippet
Because of their short and sleek coats, a Whippet doesn’t require a lot of grooming time and their coat is very easy to maintain. So if you’re looking for a dog that doesn’t demand a lot of grooming, a Whippet is a good choice.
All your Whippet needs is a weekly brush to help remove dirt and dead fur from their coat, which will keep their fur glossy and in good condition whilst reducing the amount of fur they shed. The best brush to use to groom a Whippet is a bristle brush.
Your Whippet won’t need frequent baths because most dirt will simply flake off their sleek fur, or they’ll clean themselves like a cat. Washing your Whippet too often can pup-set their skin and dry out their fur. Usually, a quick rub with a towel after a walk is all that’s needed to clean them off. It’s best to wash your Whippet once every 3 months, but you can bathe them as often as once a month if they get paw-ticularly dirty or smelly.
As well as brushing and bathing, grooming a Whippet will involve routine health and hygiene checks just like any other dog breed. Grooming is a great op-paw-tunity to check your dog for any injuries, lumps, or pesky parasites like fleas. You should also inspect their eyes and wipe away any discharge around them.
Unlike hairy long-eared breeds, Whippets aren’t prone to ear infections. You should still check their ears regularly to make sure they’re clean and healthy. You can use a cotton pad to clean any dirt or wax out of their ear, and there are special solutions you can use to clean a dog’s ears too.
Another im-paw-tent part of grooming a Whippet is making sure their teeth are clean. Dogs need to have their teeth brushed regularly just like people to prevent problems like plaque, cavities, and bad breath. Ideally, you should clean your dog’s teeth several times a week with a brush and dog-friendly toothpaste. (Never use human toothpaste as it can be harmful to dogs.)
Finally, you’ll need to check your pup’s claws every few weeks to make sure they aren’t overgrown or split. You can clip or grind your dog’s claws once every 2 or 3 months, but if your dog walks on pavements a lot, their claws might wear down naturally and need less frequent trimming.
Do Whippets shed?
Whippets shed an average amount, but because their fur is short it can often go unnoticed unless it’s clinging to your clothes. Brushing and bathing your Whippet regularly will minimise the amount of fur they shed. They only have a single coat, so thankfully there isn’t a lot of fur that can fall out.
Whippets moult seasonally, so you will notice them shedding more fur in Autumn and Spring. This seasonal shedding allows them to lose their thicker winter coat to grow a thin summer coat or vice versa. It’s paw-fectly natural and helps your dog to cope with the changing temperatures.
If your dog seems to be shedding a lot more than normal or has a thinning or balding coat, it’s often caused by poor diet. Hormonal changes, such as coming into season, can also cause your dog to shed more than normal. Make sure your Whippet is eating a healthy diet and being groomed regularly and they shouldn’t shed too much and have easy to care for coat.
Are Whippets hypoallergenic?
No, Whippets are not hypoallergenic. They shed an average amount of fur and because they have a thin and sleek coat, the fur and dander they shed will fall on the floor and furniture. Allergy responses can differ depending on the dog you meet though, so if you do have allergies, the best thing to do is to spend some time with a Whippet to see if they suit your sensitivities.
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