The Whippet is probably one of the best names for a dog that whips around at lightning speed. He was bred for racing and chasing small prey at high speeds, but built to be smaller and more compact than their Greyhound relatives. This is why you might have heard of his other names, the ‘Poor Man’s Greyhound’ and ‘Lightning Rag Dog.’
But there is nothing poor or raggy about these unique pups. The Whippet is one of the most underrated family dogs around. They are extremely affectionate and love a good cuddle with the family. There are also many other fantastic traits that the breed possesses.
In this article, you’ll learn about the Whippet’s personality, appearance, health, exercise needs, nutritional requirements, and much more. This breed isn’t the perfect fit for every family, so let’s jump in so you can learn if this breed is your next canine companion!
The Whippet’s history started across the pond in the United Kingdom. In the 19th century, Victorian England was a tough time for most. But the hard-working coal miners didn’t rest on their days off. Instead, they enjoyed active outdoor sports such as dog racing and small game hunting. But their living accommodation was small, with little room for the humans, let alone their dogs. This meant having a large Greyhound was out of the question. So the miners set to create a mini version of the Greyhound, and voila, the breed was born.
It isn’t certain what breeds were used to perfect the Whippet. Although half the size and weight of a Greyhound, the breed is just 5-mph slower, reaching speeds of up to 35-mph! Making it the fastest breed of its size, hands down. Their name derives from an ancient word ‘whappet,’ meaning ‘a small dog that yaps.’
By the turn of the 20th century, many industry workers from Northern England migrated to New England for work and a better life. Of course, they took their prized dogs with them to enjoy the wide-open spaces of the US. The breed quickly became a popular dog for the outdoorsy people of the US. One of the most famous Whippets is named Whiskey, and he was crowned the AKC’s National Champion in 2018.
First and foremost, the Whippet is uber-loving and super-playful. The AKC gives him the three-word characterization of ‘affectionate, playful, and calm.’ He thrives as a companion pet and has a natural affinity for people. He hates to be left alone and is a sensitive pooch. This guy is only suited to families who can spend most of their day with him. Otherwise, he’ll be one unhappy pup.
He is a very adaptable pooch that will happily live anywhere. He is one of a few energetic breeds suitable for apartment living. But with one caveat, he does need exercise. But as long as he gets two walks a day with some time to run around, he is happy to laze about for the rest of the day. Snoozing in front of the fire with you is one of his favorite pastimes. It makes him an ideal companion for those who like to get outdoors but also love to watch box set after box set.
Some Whippet owners have taken him on as a second dog to rouse and hustle their first lazier breed. His affinity for other dogs means he will initiate play and get the laziest of pups up on their feet and charging around in no time. He is also a great playmate for younger humans, thanks to his boisterous playful nature packed into a tiny frame.
Overall, this breed is a well-balanced dog that makes a wonderful family pet. He is sweet and lovely, fun and energetic, calm, and loving. Everyone from infant to grandparents love him, as do strangers and visitors alike. As long as he gets his exercise and company, he is happy to do whatever you want.
Size & Appearance
Elegant and athletic is probably the easiest way to sum up the appearance of this beautiful canine. This medium-sized hound stands between 18 and 22 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 25 and 40 pounds. The Whippet is very similar in appearance to the Greyhound. He has hardly any body fat, and his weight is mainly muscle!
With his lean head and long, arched neck, he has the classic inverted ‘S-line’ of the sighthound genetics. A long, deep chest and slim, pinched waist can often lead people to think that he is underfed. But to the contrary, his breed standard states that two to four vertebrae should be visible across the back. Along with three to four ribs that should be visible to show they are at a healthy weight.
His eyes are large and round, oval-shaped, that appear loving and sensitive. The Whippet’s ears are small and rose-shaped, meaning that they are erect at the base and crimple and fold towards the end. His muzzle is long and narrow, and his neck is even longer! His tail is long and tapers, and it is usually carried between his legs even when happy.
Coat & Colors
The Whippet has a silky coat that is short, fine, but dense. This makes the breed very striking, and model-like. He has a smooth double coat, but he gets cold very easily because he has hardly any body fat. This is why you’ll normally see them with dog coats on even in mild temperatures. During the winter, he will shiver tremendously, so you best place your jumper orders in with Grandma.
The Whippet has a wide variety of breed standard color combinations. This is a direct result of the wide genetic pool that he was bred from. Any color is accepted as part of the AKC breed standard if you want to show your dog. You’ll see Whippets in black, brown, white, red, fawn, blue, cream, brindle, blue brindle, reverse brindle, and all the possible combinations between. Plus, they can have a wide variety of spots, blazes, and patches to make them even more interesting.
Like we’ve said, the Whippet is suited to most lifestyles and living environments as long as you’re aware of their must-haves. His exercise needs are moderate, and he needs anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes of exercise to keep him healthy. Their exercise can take many forms, and can be any type of activity.
His high prey drive means that he shouldn’t be let off-leash in an unenclosed area. So, it’s advised to keep him on a leash or extended training lead when not. Otherwise, you’ll be chasing him for miles if he gets sight of a squirrel or chipmunk. Structured, intense activities such as lure coursing and agility are great ways to entertain him and satisfy his prey needs.
Bear in mind this guy’s need for speed, so if you can, try to incorporate this into his exercise regimen. Playing fetch with a ball launcher will give him a chance to burn off that explosive energy of his. Free running time in a large enclosed space or at the doggy park with some furry friends is also a great way for him to wear himself out, plus it will top up his socialization skills.
As we said, and it’s worth repeating, the breed hates to be left alone. So, time alone must be limited to as little as possible, or three to four hours maximum. He will pine for you and his much-needed cuddle time. Separation anxiety is a real problem for this breed if the balance isn’t right. A canine companion can help enormously with this, and as long as he is socialized well as a pup. But when it comes to other types of pets, such as rabbits or cats, it’s a no-no.
Apartment living is absolutely fine for the Whippet, but so too is large home living. Just whatever you do, make sure that his yard is secured so that he cannot chase things. He will run across highways to catch prey if he needs to, so it’s best to keep him safe and contained. He can also jump to great heights in hunt mode, so be careful where you place your garbage cans.
The breed is very adaptable. As long as their exercise needs are met, they can be exceptionally good house pets. Because of their lean frame, they don’t take up nearly as much room as other breeds. So, ultimately, the breed can be adaptable to just about any type of family or living situation.
When it comes to training, Whippets are intelligent but independently minded. Which in simple terms means that he will do what he enjoys, not what you tell him to do. He is not a totally obedient dog, but he isn’t the worst either. Novice owners are welcome to apply for the role of mom or dad, just don’t expect him to be the most obedient of pets. Plus, he’ll follow his sight over your commands any day of the week.
The best thing to do here is to start his training early. This way, he will quickly learn who the boss is, and he will associate good behavior with cuddles and praise. Which is exactly what he wants. Positive reinforcement training is the only way to train the breed. His sensitive nature means he will cower at raised voices, so high squeaky voices and cuddles are the way to reward him.
As with all pups, socialization and puppy training classes are recommended to teach him manners and boundaries from an early age. Mixing him with other dogs is crucial because the Whippet is known to be extremely shy. Socialization will build his confidence and enable him to interact with the world around him with a smile on his face.
Crate training is a must for this breed. As one of the most sensitive dogs around who hates to be left alone, he needs somewhere to call his own. Not only will it give him space for time-out when things get too overwhelming. The crate should be secure, but also a calming space. This will help lower anxiety when you have to leave him. Research shows that crate training is beneficial for anxious dogs, so every little helps.
The Whippet, when well-cared for, is a very healthy breed that needs little more than a good diet, exercise, and regular vet checkups. He has a 12 to 15 year life expectancy, so you can expect that this furry friend will be around for a large proportion of your life. Responsible breeders will screen parents for conditions such as cardiac disease, deafness, and eye disorders. Some common health problems for the breed include:
Eye diseases are a common problem for the breed if they are bred by sub-par breeders. As a sighthound, your Whippet needs the best vision possible to be happy and active. So make sure the breeder you approach has eye clearances dated within the past year for both parents. Progressive retinal atrophy is more likely in this breed than most others, and it can lead to complete blindness.
Deafness is another common problem with the breed. Breeders should test their pups for testing using the recognized BAER testing method. So again, be sure to ask for health certificates to prove this.
The Whippet is prone to a variety of heart conditions, and heart concerns at one of the most common causes of death. Concerns include heart valve problems, heart murmurs, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure. Struggling to breathe during exercise, exercise intolerance, and fainting are the symptoms to watch out for. And regular vet checkups will identify concerns with his heart.
Von Willebrand’s Disease
This is an uncommon blood disorder that affects the clotting of blood. It means that affected dogs will bleed heavily when other pups would heal and be fine. The Whippet is susceptible to cuts and scrapes due to his thin skin and deep chests. As he runs at speed, sticks and shrubs can cut the skin. If it fails to heal or bleeds for an extended period, seek assistance from your vet. It is usually diagnosed between the ages of three and five, and it can be managed with medication.
Sighthounds, such as Whippets, are sensitive to anesthesia and medications due to their extremely low body fat percentage. This means a dose that would normally be fine for another breed of the same size could be fatal. This is easily avoided by alerting your vet to this sensitivity to ensure they are aware and will dose accordingly.
The recommended daily amount for a Whippet is two to three cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two feedings. This relies on several factors, such as their size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Despite having explosive energy expulsions, the breed does not need to eat a lot compared to other breeds of similar size.
The quality of dog food is probably the most important factor when it comes to your Whippet’s nutritional needs. The better, well-balanced, nutritionally dense kibbles available are what your vet will recommend, and we second this. Cheap dog food might seem appealing, but it can negatively affect his coat, eyes, teeth in the short term and overall health in the long run. So, if you want him to look and feel his best, feed him a high-quality kibble.
Watch out for gastric torsion, which is commonly known as bloat. This is where the abdomen twists, and it is common in deep-chested breeds. It usually occurs during mealtime, and especially immediately before or after exercise. So be sure to avoid exercise around mealtime. His explosive energy outbursts do not help the matter either. So, learn about bloat because it is a life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical attention.
The Whippet’s short, silky coat is a joy to groom, mainly because it is very easy. A weekly brush and the occasional bath when needed is about all he requires. He is renowned for his lack of doggy odor, so he will not need bathing as regularly as some other breeds. A simple rubber glove mitt is great for massaging the hair follicles and removing loose hair and dead skin. This takes approximately five minutes and is a great way to spend some quality time with your pup.
When it comes to bathing, be sure to add an anti-slip matt to your bath or shower tray. Slipping around is the main reason most dogs don’t like bath time. And your Whippet hasn’t got much substance for gravity to work with. Always use a gentle doggy shampoo made with natural ingredients to avoid his delicate skin from becoming irritated.
Check his eyes and ears weekly for any signs of change or infection. It’s also important to check his underbelly and legs for infection due to the number of cuts and scrapes he will get on his walkies. Coats or doggy-onesies will help prevent cuts and keep him warm too. Brush his teeth weekly for top dental hygiene, and trim his nails as and when they get too long.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
The average price of a puppy from a reputable breeder is between $1,000 and $1,500. If you are thinking of buying a puppy from racing lineage to race them, champion dogs liters can fetch up to $20,000 per pup. A great place to start your search for a well-bred pup is with the AKC’s list of Whippet breeders and their available puppies.
The biggest risk of buying a puppy is working out a good breeder from a bad one. Reputable breeders will communicate openly and timely. They will show you how they have screened for health concerns. And will be happy for you to visit the pups and see how they are raised with love and care. Always meet the mother and the puppies in person before you agree to buy one.
Typical signs of bad breeding are puppies raised in filthy conditions and litters with ill puppies. Bad smells, mucky eyes, and skinny pups are all signs of mistreated animals. If the breeder pressures you into a sale or arranges to meet in public and not at their home, simply walk away. Don’t be tempted to be a hero and save a puppy by buying it. You merely pay for the bad practice to continue and an unhealthy pup.
Always remember to factor in the ongoing costs of owning a dog. Although the Whippet is relatively low cost compared to other canines, they still require medical treatment and insurance. They also need food every day, harnesses, crates, toys and lots and lots of jumpers!
Rescues & Shelters
With hundreds and thousands of pups that have been abandoned and need rehoming across America, why not consider a rescue dog? Whippets aren’t the most popular breed around, so you might have to travel around to find one in a rescue shelter. Speak to the staff there who will be able to talk you through the rescue process. If there isn’t a Whippet there, they may know of one at a nearby shelter.
However, like many racing dogs, many shelters specialize in rehoming retired or failed race dogs. Both centers that you can visit in person and that can be found online. Those organizations online have photos for you to peruse, and you can contact them if you can offer them a forever home. A great website to check out is the Whippet Rescue and Placement website. There you can find lots of important information about becoming a rescue mom or dad. If you are open to it, consider rescuing a Whippet mix. This will likely result in reduced costs, as well as a shorter waiting period to adopt a puppy.
As Family Pets
- Whippets are suitable for apartment living or large homes.
- This breed has a relatively low energy level indoors.
- They need 30 to 60 minutes of moderate daily exercise.
- Exercise should be intense but in shorter bursts.
- A properly socialized pup is a polite and undemanding dog.
- Socialized dogs will be relatively low maintenance.
- Whippets adore humans and are very affectionate.
- They love other dogs but have a strong prey drive.
- We’d recommend that this breed not be housed with any non-canine pets.
- They suffer badly from separation anxiety.
- This means they can and can become anxious and destructive.
- They will do best in a home where the family is there all day.
- Whippets make great companions for children as they are extremely gentle and fun.
Despite the Whippet’s elegant looks and slim frame, he is robust, active, and a very low-maintenance dog. As well as a great companion that loves people, kids, and other dogs in equal measure. He is a joyful choice of a canine companion that can be a great addition to any family home. His easy to meet needs include interactive exercise and lots of cuddles.
If this sounds like a great match for you, the Whippet could be the perfect canine companion. However, if you are looking for an independent breed that will be a guardian of the home or need a handbag toy type dog, this is not the breed for you. As long as you know what to expect from him, you are sure to find a lovely family companion in this understated lovable family pooch.