by Michelle Jones

To the uninitiated, the Whippet may appear to be merely a miniature Greyhound. Although he was developed from Greyhound roots, the Whippet is a distinct breed in his own right…The origin of the Whippet goes back to England in the 1700’s. He is a keen-eyed sight hound developed for hunting rabbits by poachers. Their speed and sight led to competitions among the lower class called “snap dog” contests;” the object being betting on which dog could snap up the most rabbits contained in a large circular pen. During England’s industrialization, workers brought their snap dogs with them to London and other large cities. When they discovered that Whippets would eagerly race towards a waving flag, their days as racing dogs began.

English immigrants brought their Whippets with them to America, where the breed became very popular as the “poor man’s racehorse.” The AKC recognized the breed in 1888. A sleek graceful, and attractive Greyhound-like dog, the Whippet gained a devoted following in American dog racing. He also became popular as a well-mannered home companion dog. Today the Whippet is the most poplar of the sight hounds, being an exquisite show dog, lure courser, racer and companion.

The Whippet’s temperament is more demonstrate with his affection towards his family than other sight hounds. He is devoted to his family and loves to show it with all his gentle heart! His sensitive, mellow, docile nature makes him a wonderful house dog. He is very gentle with children and other pets. Although he’s calm and quiet indoors, he loves to run and play outdoors. Because of his moderate size, the Whippet can make a good apartment dog as long as he has a daily brisk walk or run in a dog park. He’s a fine watchdog who will bark the alarm at an approaching stranger, but has no protective temperament. His acceptance of being introduced to new people and his affectionate nature makes him a superb animal-assisted therapy dog.

The Whippet’s short, sleek coat makes him intolerant to cold temperatures. Although he enjoys playing in snow for a limited time, he needs to be kept primarily indoors during winter. He does tolerate heat well. Since he’s a thin dog, he needs to sleep on a soft surface to avoid calluses or ulcers on the skin covering his joints. Your bed is the perfect snoozing spot for your Whippet! He’s a clean dog, without the “hound odor” that’s characteristic of other hounds.

The Whippet is an eager to please dog, and does very well in obedience training. He learns quickly, but because of his sensitive nature, he becomes very stressed, timid and high-strung if the trainer uses rough or harsh punishment. Because of their speed, intelligence and obedience, more and more Whippets are being seen in agility trials and flyball contests. He is the ultimate sprinter, running flat-out at up to 40 mph! He’s unsurpassed by another other breed for the lightening speed of his accelleration and is easily trained to twist and turn on lure or agility courses.

As a breed, the Whippet has only one major health issue; he can be born with, or develop, eye defects that make him unsuitable as a sight hound hunter, racer, or agility competitor. However, a visually handicapped Whippet still makes a loving home companion and therapy dog. He has a life-span of up to 15 years, and is sensitive to barbiturate anesthesia as his vet will know when a Whippet is spayed, neutered or injured.

The Whippet isn’t a “backyard dog;” he wants to be with his family. He’s easily trained in socialization skills, but can become very destructive if left home alone too long and too often. With his streamlined physique, long legs, and alert expression, the Whippet is an irresistible, beautiful dog that is beloved by his family.