I’ve been a Whippet owner for many years now and one of the questions I’m often asked is are Whippets are easy to train?
While Whippets are the most adorable of dog breeds, the Whippet temperament includes an element of… shall we say… independence!
While not outright rebellious, Whippets can be a challenging dog breed to train.
In today’s post, I’m going to answer the question of Whippet training based upon my personal experience and what I’ve learned.
Table of Contents
- My Experience of Whippet Training
- So… Are Whippets Easy to Train?
- Tips on How to Train a Whippet
- Related Posts
My Experience of Whippet Training
To start answering this question, I’m going to begin with an anecdote.
We struggled to train our Whippet Misty when she was a puppy. House training wasn’t a problem, aside from the few accidents that most puppy owners “enjoy”!
The problem for us was commands. Misty simply didn’t respond to our requests for her to sit, come when we called her or stop doing things we didn’t want her to do.
It wasn’t that she was defiantly disobedient. It just seemed as though she’d look at us and decide she was happy as she was, thank you very much!
We’d read some books on puppy training and these gave us a lot of encouragement. However, we perhaps hadn’t put into practice the training as well as we might have and the result was frustrating.
Rather than taking Misty to dog training classes, we thought we try a dog whisperer. We figured an hour’s 1 to 1 with such an expert would probably smooth over the cracks in our Whippet training techniques!
When the dog whisperer came to see us, he had a profound effect on Misty. Watching him work with her was an almost mystical experience. Misty seems to respond to everything he said and after watching him with her for an hour, we thought we’d picked up a few of his techniques to help us going forward.
At the end of the session, we had a “debrief” with the dog whisperer and he told us that training Whippets requires commitment.
The reason for this was that (in his words)…
“On the canine intelligence continuum, if Poodles are a 10 out of 10, Whippets have a score of around 3!”
I’ve posted about Whippet intelligence previously and I’m not entirely sure I agree with the dog whisperer. Although Whippets might not be in the same league as Poodles, I don’t believe they’re intellectually challenged.
I just think that they’re rather independent thinkers!
Anyhow… once the dog whisperer had left, Misty reverted back to her normal self… i.e., choosing which of our commands she would respond to!
What really worked for us was attending dog training classes, which I’ll come on to.
So… Are Whippets Easy to Train?
As a consequence of being independent thinkers, I agree that Whippets require a little more patience when it comes to obedience training.
Furthermore, even if you successfully train a Whippet, you may not achieve total compliance every single day!
My experience has taught me that Whippets are not exactly difficult to train… but neither are they easy to train!
Sometimes their independence can make them appear disobedient… they just require lots of encouragement, positivity and as I mentioned earlier, a heap of patience.
Tips on How to Train a Whippet
I’m no expert on training Whippets… so the following is my advice based upon experience. I hope this is useful to you.
- Remain Calm – Although Whippets are independently minded, that doesn’t mean to say they are tough cookies. Most Whippets are sensitive and don’t respond well to a telling off. Even if training your Whippet is driving you crazy, remain calm and give lots of praise.
- Keep Treats Close to Hand – Whippets are easily distracted by things that catch their eye… they’re Sighthounds after all! One of the best ways to help a Whippet remain focused during training sessions is by keeping treats close to hand… and lots of them! Treats are also a great way to reinforce desirable behaviours to help your Whippet learn.
- Understand Whippet Triggers – Whippets aren’t easy to train if you’re working in the wrong environment. Distractions such as other dogs, squirrels, cats (actually any animals!) make it difficult for them to focus. Choose a quiet location when you begin to train your Whippet, to reduce the likelihood that something appearing fun to chase will divert it’s attention.
- Patience is a Virtue – It can be a challenge to train Whippets and you’ll likely need to be patient. Contrary to what my dog whisperer told me, Whippets are not by any means stupid. They are independent and easily distracted though so you’ll need to be patient with them.
- Choose your Moments – If your Whippet is in an excitable mood, it might not be the best time to try to train it to sit! A distracted Whippet doesn’t make an ideal student, so try to train your Whippet in more calm moments!
- Attend Dog Training Classes – This worked best for us and made training Misty a whole lot easier. Formal classes gave us structure and showed us first-hand how to train our Whippet. When we made mistakes, our trainer was on hand to set us straight. Dog training books were definitely helpful for us, but classes were invaluable.
Are Whippets easy to train? Yes and no!
We found it easy to house train our Whippet. It took patience… but in general we didn’t struggle too much with training our Whippet where not to do her toilet!
Obedience training we found more tricky though.
For the most part I believe this is due to how Whippets are wired. The Sighthound prey drive is strong and Whippets are always alert to the possibility of chasing something. I feel this affects their attention… unless there is a treat on offer!
Whippets are undoubtedly intelligent… but they are easily distracted. This means Whippets can most certainly be trained… but you have to be patient.
Do you have a Whippet? Are Whippets easy to train in your experience? Please let me know in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
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This is my 2nd time having a whippet as my companion. They are sensitive and easy to train but you have to find the right reward. He is not food motivated and at first, I find it very hard to train him. He absolutely likes ball games, so for every command that he does correctly, I throw him the ball.
He is obedient in a calm situation but is not 100percent obedient outside of home due to the many distractions.
My short 5 years owning whippets shows me there is a spectrum. My two girls were both bright enough to the pass Canine Good Citizenship test involving willful distraction by people and other dogs and became both became service animals. My fawn and white, Pep, quickly learned agility and is competitive with it. My black and white, Zoe, doesn’t have have agility chops but she’s a great dog who has lots of fans in my social circle.
I think the concept of “spectrum” is rightly put Gregory. Like us, Whippets have their own personalities and quirks, so what’s true for one can be completely untrue for another.
Colleen Chivers says
I just lost my whippet Jess 3 weeks ago, I had her for 12 of her 14 years. She was so smart she communicated with me by gently touching me with her nose. If I asked “do you want toilet?” she shook her head. If I asked “do you want chicken?”, yes, head up and down!
I miss her so much.
Hi Colleen. It’s so nice to hear about Jess… she was very smart! Thanks for telling us about her and my sympathies on her passing.
That’s really beautiful. I’d love for my little whippy to learn that. Gosh, they’re sweet. I’m sure you miss your Jess dearly ❤️
Trish Hopkins says
My Whippet Nigel is a lovely, kind, loving dog who is also daft as a bloody brush! He takes absolutely no notice of me unless there are treats involved. He wasn’t easy to train in as much as he’ll ever be trained but I don’t care, he’s a great dog. Nigel has a generous, sociable nature which people seem to warm to and he makes people smile. So that’s fine by me.
Hi Trish. Your comment has really made me smile in recognition. Whippets are a tough to train, but they’re the best companions you could hope for!
I quite agree with all you have said,. We thought our whippet didn’t know his name when called or maybe he was hard of hearing, but no… rattle a bag and he is there in front of you… he just chooses to ignore you! But he is so loving and makes us laugh all the time. This is our 3rd whippet and they have all been different.
Hi Maureen. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your Whippets! They are bonkers aren’t they… but I wouldn’t change them for the world!