Interested in Whippets?
We’ve put together this introductory page of Whippet information for anyone considering a Whippet as an addition to their family.
This should provide you with an idea of what to expect if you share your home with this lovable creature.
Whippets really are a miracle of nature in my opinion, but like all dogs they have specific needs and wants.
In this article, I’m going to touch on the following areas:
- The Whippet family
- A brief history of Whippets
- Whippet care
- Whippets and the home
You can find more information on each of these subjects on our Whippet blog.
Information About Whippets
The Whippet Family
Whippets are categorized as sighthounds.. That’s to say they hunt naturally by their sight and speed, unlike scent hounds who hunt by, erm… scent and endurance.
Along with Whippets, the sighthound family includes among others Afghan Hounds, Borzois, Greyhounds, Irish Wolfhounds and Spanish Galgos.
Many of the breeds in the sighthound family tend to have a similar elegant shape.
Drilling down specifically into the Whippet breed, there are of course dozens of different Whippet mixes. Whippet crossbreeds fall into the same collective category as all sighthound mixes: Lurchers.
History of Whippets
Whippet-like dogs appear in the art of Ancient Egypt. However, it appears the Whippet we know and love originated in England at some point during the medieval period.
Possibly bred from the Greyhound, with whom they share almost the same aspect (though much smaller), the earliest documents referencing Whippets seem to come from England in the early 1600s, where they were often used to catch rats.
In 19th century England, Whippets became highly-prized for their elegance and speed. Whippet racing became a popular, unregulated sport that carried on well into the post-WWW2 years.
In 1888, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Whippet breed. Some 3 years later in 1891, The Kennel Club of Great Britain officially recognised the Whippet breed in 1891. Since then pedigrees were documented and Whippets became eligible to compete in formal dog shows.
Today Whippets compete regularly in dog shows and have had best in show winners at Crufts in 1992, 2004 and 2018!
Whippet Physical Appearance
Whippets are medium-sized dogs. They weigh between 6.8 – 19.1 kg (15 – 42lbs), with males tending to be slightly larger than females.
They have short, smooth coats with fur that lies close to the body. Their fur is short and as a rule they tend to have very little fat.
That’s not to say Whippets can’t overeat and become overweight. I know of someone who does have a Whippet a little on the large side… she says he’s a Whoppet!
Joking aside, an overweight Whippet is quite a sad sight. A healthy Whippet should have visible vertebra, hip bones and ribs… so be careful with overfeeding and treats.
In terms of colouring, Whippets have various coats:
Their coats can also include spots and patches. For example, you might see a blue Whippet with a white chest and paws.
Pound for pound, Whippets are the fastest breed in their size and weight: they can run at speeds up to 35mph.
Indeed watching a Whippet step on the gas is a wonder to behold since they run with what’s called a “double suspension gallop”.
This is the ability to run with all four of legs off the ground at the same time between strides: once when its legs get tucked under its body as it propels itself forwards and then when its body is fully extended reaching for the ground ahead.
Whippets are very calm, gentle and loving dogs as a rule… this is my experience 100%. They love human contact, indeed they actively seek it out.
My Whippet Misty will move to join me if I change where I’m sitting. When I say “join me” I of course mean she’ll sit on me if I’m in the way!
They have a reputation as being happy to be lazy. In my experience Whippets love being warm and comfortable… an environment that kind of encourages drowsing!
Too be fair, if I’d be quite happy myself to lounge around given the right environment.
Whippets Are Loving Creatures
In fairness to Whippets though, they are equally as excited about the prospect of going on walks, or even better an opportunity to run around with other dogs or chasing a toy.
Whippets are not aggressive dogs though they can be a bit nippy with smaller dogs, especially if they are running around in sighthound mode.
They don’t bark very much and are on the whole quite quiet. That said, my Whippet has become something of a guard dog in recent times, barking when someone comes to the door.
I’m okay with this!
They can be a little needy, which manifests in following you around the house or wanting to snuggle up to you as I’ve mentioned. However, this is something I find highly endearing.
They are generally good with other dogs though they need to be socialized with them from an early age. We didn’t properly manage this when Misty was a puppy and so I’d say she’s not that sociable with others.
However she’s not aggressive… she’s just a little bit aloof.
As Whippets have been bred to work and race for centuries, they have a solid physique and are not prone to specific health issues that some other breeds suffer from.
The expected lifespan for Whippets is between 12 – 15 years throughout which by and large they remain healthier than other breeds. They tend to suffer less from ear infections, eye problems, allergies, digestive troubles or hip dysplasia.
Whippets also tend to remain in great physical shape as long as you walk (run) them on a daily basis. We walk Misty between 45 minutes to an hour a day in a place where she can be off the lead to sniff and run around as she sees fit.
Whippets Love Food!
Because Whippets will eat whenever food is available, you need to be careful with feeding amounts. Overweight Whippets can suffer from joint damage, digestive problems and liver / kidney disease as they get older.
Whippets will eat anything if you leave it unattended. Not so much of a problem if it’s a lump of cheese, but a potential danger of it’s raisins or dark chocolate in any quantity.
We’ve had two trips to the vet for precisely these reasons. As with all dogs, you must keep raisins and dark chocolate away from them. An emergency stomach pump procedure and an overnight stay at your local veterinary practise is not a cheap night out I can tell you!
Another potential health problem for Whippet health is their skin. They are slight dogs with little fat and short fur. As a consequence, they don’t have as high a resistance to scrapes and scratches as some other breeds.
A small graze for some dogs can result in a gash requiring stitches for Whippets. This was our experience when Misty ran too close to a tree stump not so long ago.
Whippets are sensitive to anaesthetics, so care needs to be taken if they need medical procedures that require them to be asleep.
Like all dog breeds, the food requirement of Whippets varies depending on their age.
Whippets love to eat in my experience… and like most dogs they find sneaky ways to supplement their allowance… especially if you’re not careful!
Leaving food unattended or within reach is one sure way your Whippet will eat more than their RDA!
Whippets need a balanced dog food so they remain slim, but quantities will vary depending on how active they are. It’s always worth checking with a vet for recommendations… our vet recommended Wellness CORE Ocean Dog Food Dry Grain Free (the salmon and tuna variety).
It’s a natural dry dog food that doesn’t contain wheat, grain, gluten and has no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. It also has a 32% – 37% protein content and is high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
Whippets need water to be available at all times so they can properly hydrate themselves… and they’ll be very thirsty after a hard run.
As a reminder, you should allow some time after Whippets eat before exercise.
Whippets love comfort, warmth… and affection by the bucket! As I talked about earlier, Whippets love human contact and they’ll happily snuggle up next to you wherever you are.
Unlike some breeds their coats do not become oily and they rarely have a doggy smell, unless they get wet in the rain on a walk… but then again that’s true for me too!
Whippets rarely need bathing. Our dog Misty tends to roll in grass sometimes if the weather’s hot or if she finds something in it that smells compelling!
We walk Misty in some places where there are foxes and badgers and she likes to roll in what they produce… there are downsides with any dog!
Bathing requirements change somewhat when the seasons change and the weather becomes wetter. Misty gets quite mucky and sometimes requires a wash after each walk.
Whippets are a Fair Weather Breed
During the Winter months when it’s colder, you’ll likely need to dress your Whippet with a warm waterproof coat. Whippets do not like being cold so dress them up so you can both enjoy your walks during cold times.
Whippets don’t shed their fur and create the same cleaning headaches as with some other breeds. Their fur is short and rarely makes a noticeable mess in the home.
Want to know more about whippet shedding? Find out how much Whippets shed and other information about Whippet fur.
That said, a weekly brush will help to minimise furballs in your house and give your Whippet a pleasurable experience… Misty seems to enjoy this contact!
In terms of housetraining, we only ever had problems when Misty was a puppy but she learned quickly. Treats and positive encouragement help to teach Whippets right from wrong. You need to be patient and remain calm as Whippets are sensitive in this respect… they can be a little stubborn if you get cross with them!
You will need to brush a Whippet’s teeth several times a week to prevent tartar buildup and keep the mouth area clean. This is something that can be challenging as it is for most dogs. However over time it’s something that becomes easier.
Clipping Whippets’ nails can also be tricky, but this needs to be done every few weeks especially if your Whippet doesn’t walk on surfaces that wear them down. Since we walk Misty in fields near where we live, we have to clip her nails regularly.
Whippets need exercise… a solid walk with intense bursts of running is good to keep them physically and emotionally strong.
I’d recommend at least 45 minutes a day as long as they have a good run… maybe an hour if not.
Whippets are curious and love to sniff around at their will. That’s why it’s great to take them somewhere they can be off the lead.
It’s great too if they can meet other dogs and have a game of chase me!
Whippets are the Fastest Dog Breed in their Weight Class
I take a ball and a launcher so I can really give Misty something to go after. I never tire of her opening up the throttle so I can see her in full motion. Whippets are wonderful to watch when they are running at full speed… I still find it a miraculous spectacle.
As with all sighthounds you need to keep an eye on them though. Their eyesight is so good they can spot small creatures from afar and once they’re locked onto something, off they go in pursuit. Once they’re in hunt mode it can be hard to call them off and you may find yourself having to chase them down to get them to stop!
A well exercised Whippet will be relaxed and calm at home…. if they’re under-exercised they can be a little hyper!
You’ll also need to stimulate and play with them at home. If you have a garden a soft toy can provide endless entertainment for your Whippet and also strengthen your bond… the family that plays together, stays together.
All dogs bring extra costs to your household… there’s no getting away from that.
If you’re thinking of buying a Whippet puppy, you should buy from a reputable breeder and not someone selling from their back yard.
A reputable breeder will make sure that the pup is raised well, looked after and inoculated properly.
We decided to choose a pedigree puppy to ensure the breeder adhered to Kennel Club standards and could guarantee a happy and healthy dog.
However… a pedigree Whippet doesn’t come cheap. We paid around £500 in 2013 for Misty. This gave us peace of mind that her mum was not a puppy factory and that she was reared in a loving home.
“Every Dog Increases Your Living Costs”
You can reduce costs by adopting a Whippet from a dog sanctuary and giving it a loving future. Of course you’ll have perhaps a more mature dog that may take time to settle in your home.
In terms of food costs, we buy a 10kg bag of Wellness CORE Ocean Dog Food (salmon and tuna) once every 8 weeks or so at a cost of £50 ($60 approx). Misty has never tired of this and practically inhales it!
We buy healthy treats for her at a cost of around £5 per month.
Should You Insure?
An important thing to factor is pet insurance and I’d strongly recommend you don’t overlook it. As I’ve mentioned, Misty has had to visit the veterinary clinic on 5 or 6 occasions:
- Induced vomiting after eating raisins on one occasion and dark chocolate on another.
- Skin tear after scraping a tree branch while in full flight.
- Toe removal through arthritic infection.
Combined, the vet costs for these treatments amounted to over £6,000 ($8,000 approx)! We’d have been financially cleaned out had we not had insurance.
We’ve found Pet Protect (UK) to provide us with cover we’re happy with and had no problems with any of our claims.
Ongoing you’ll need to factor things like veterinary checkups, inoculation and dog-sitting if you ever need someone to look after your Whippet. I should also mention the cost of neutering if you don’t want your Whippet to become a parent.
You’ll also need to invest in:
- Whippet toys
- Clothing for bad weather
- Food and drink bowls
- A Whippet collar (they need a special one) and lead
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Grooming brush
- Poop bags
Taking a Whippet partner is not cheap, as with most other breeds.
Whippets & the home
Whippets make amazing family pets. They’re gentle and loving and absolutely love the people they live with.
They love people and almost need to have them around much of the time… just to know they’re there!
We’ve had Misty since our youngest daughter was 5 or 6 years old. In that time she’s never once shown any aggression towards either of our girls.
Since Whippets crave affection and closeness, they give a lot of love… and they certainly receive it as a result in my house!
What About Other Pets?
As for living with other pets you may have, my feeling is you need to be careful. I understand Whippets can be socialised with other pets if they are introduced at a young age. This didn’t work out for us though.
When Misty first entered our home we had a cat. The cat was very wary of Misty: Misty was excited to have something to run after! This wasn’t a problem when Misty was a young puppy, but as she grew we could see there was going to be a problem if they were ever left alone together.
Sighthounds will chase anything smaller and more furry than they are. As I’ve already said, when they are in chase mode, they kind of zone out.
Misty was getting bigger and faster and we were concerned that one day we’d return home and find a very unpleasant scene. We felt it wasn’t fair to have them both living in the same house.
Some good friends of ours were looking to rehome a cat and so we were lucky when they asked about our cat when we told them about our situation.
I’d advise to be careful if you have other pets like cats… they’re just too tempting for a Whippet to chase.
As for other dogs, in our experience Whippets can be a bit jealous but generally they do socialize well.
What More Can I Say?
We’ve lived with Misty for over 7 years and I can say it’s a delightful experience. Whippets are gentle, affectionate and genuinely funny in their ways.
I’d recommend Whippets to anyone who wants a friendly athletic dog and who can commit to walking and spending time with them on a daily basis.
We hope you have found the Whippet information on this page useful and invite you to check out our blog for stacks more detail and advice!