After seeing a Whippet run at full speed on the course or in the field, it’s hard to believe this is the very same dog that curls up on the sofa and binge-watches six hours of TV with you. This medium-size, graceful sighthound is a laser-focused sprinter when racing or lure coursing and a quiet, gentle companion in the house. It’s almost like getting two dogs in one! Here are some Whippet facts fans of the breed know.
1. The Whippet is not just a miniature Greyhound. Early Whippets were occasionally crossed with terriers to add tenacity and toughness, and were traditionally used for poaching, rabbit coursing, and, of course, racing.
2. He’s just a regular guy. Unlike many breeds that were exclusive to royalty and noblemen, The working-class people of Northern England developed the Whippet. More economical to care for and feed than a Greyhound, he was equally adept at pursuing game and racing. Upper-class English dog breeders contributed to the Whippet's modern look by breeding them to look like a miniature Greyhound.
3. Unlike dogs who hunt in packs, or guard dogs, the Whippet was always a house dog—living, eating, and sleeping with his family. In fact, these dogs become extremely attached to their humans.
4. Interestingly, this devotion also helps them excel at lure coursing and racing. According to the American Whippet Club, instead of racing toward a mechanical lure, a Whippet used his tremendous bursts of speed to race toward his master who was waving a piece of cloth. The deeper the attachment, the more successful the race.
5. Because of this attachment to their humans, Whippets are ideal family dogs. They’re affectionate and playful . . . when they’re not sprawled out on the couch. They’re also quiet dogs, which is a plus for apartment dwellers and those with neighbors in close quarters.
6. Whippets can suffer from separation anxiety or crate claustrophobia. Although no one is sure where this trait comes from—genes or the environment—it’s best to give your Whippet plenty of exercise and playtime before leaving him home alone. Or, get two, and they’ll keep each other company.
7. Whippets are not watchdogs. Any excitement they show when someone arrives at the house is more likely to be because they might be meeting their new best friend. The American Whippet Club also describes the Whippet’s “Excessive Greeting Disorder,” which involves greeting you with frenzied exuberance whenever you arrive back home, even if you just walked to the end of the driveway to get the mail. While you may think it’s adorable, others may not. But it’s very difficult to train a Whippet out of the habit once you’ve allowed it.
8. As a prey-driven sight hound, the Whippet will chase anything that might be considered prey: a squirrel, rabbit, the neighbor’s cat, or a piece of plastic blowing across the road. For this reason, your Whippet should always be on a leash or in a securely fenced area. You can burn off some of this energy with lots of exercise: they make excellent jogging partners, enjoy playing with other dogs, and are happy to chase a ball or Frisbee. Remember, though, that these are sprinters, not marathoners; a vigorous playtime may be all you need to tire him out.
9. Your furniture is his furniture. The Whippet thinks the best seat in the house is the one you’re on . . . the sofa, the bed, your pillow, your favorite armchair. Luckily, Whippets are very clean dogs—and ideal foot warmers.
Fans of the breed appreciate the many sides of the Whippet and never tire of seeing his grace, speed, and determination. And when everyone is finally tired out, there is no gentler or more affectionate couch potato to share the sofa with.