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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT WHIPPETS
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 juding 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
What kind of personality does the Whippet have?
Whippets are generally very 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!
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.
Can they live in an apartment/condominium?
Yes, provided their owners are active and can take them someplace to
get exercise at least four times a week. The quiet Whippet is
well-suited to apartment life, provided their owners train them to
stay safely by themselves or crated while the owner is away.
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
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
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.
Where can I get a Whippet?
Breeder referrals in your area can be obtained by contacting Harriet
Nash Lee, the Secretary of the American Whippet Club, at 14 Oak
Circle, Charlottesville, VA 22901 (804) 295-4525. There are also many
wonderful Whippets who have lost their homes through no fault of
their own. These dogs may be available through AWC Rescue. The Rescue
Chairperson, Peggy Bush, may be contacted at (214) 337-1758.
How can I learn more about Whippets?
Check the Whippet Bibliography and contact Harriet Nash Lee (see
above) for an AWC information packet.
An excellent place to see Whippets and learn more about them is a
local dog show. It is best to approach the exhibitors after they have
finished showing for the day. They should be delighted to talk with
you about their favorite subject -- their beloved Whippets! Another
good idea is to schedule a visit to the home of a breeder, where you
can see Whippets of all ages and colors in a relaxed home setting.