Descendants of the majestic greyhound, whippets were bred for speed and comfort. The fastest small dog for their size, race meet ups were the highlight of the week in the mid 19th century and at night they kept the children warm under the covers.
The need for speed has given us the most elegant of dogs, the whippet is also one of the most affectionate, loving, and loyal breeds. Easy in the house, fun to be around with a happy nature.
I’m lucky to have shared my life with whippets for 20 years and have been making clothes for them since 2010, so there aren’t many whippet related questions I’ve not had! Here I explore the perky personality of the whippet and why they make such great pets.
Whippets are gentle, loving and loyal. They seek comfort and warmth at all times of the day and night and can be somewhat demanding if they don’t believe they are getting what they deserve. This could be: the right amount of blanket, your spot on the sofa or the last piece of your sandwich. They have a fun, perky personality and will make you laugh, a lot!
They are trainable with the right guidance and quality treats. Whippets can be fussy but can be trained to get a reliable recall, walk without pulling and wait when you need them to.
Generally, whippets are calm in the house and a bit crazy outside – some have strong prey drives and will take great delight in chasing anything from squirrels hopping along the ground to a deer in the distance.
Are whippets good pets?
Whippets are not for everyone. The most common comment I get from first time whippet owners is ‘they are very needy.’ It’s true, they are in need of your attention, love and company. Whippets form a bond with their owners like no other dog which can cause issues when you're apart. They are not dogs that can be left for long periods alone. But if your lifestyle can include a small dog that wants to be with you, they are the best of pets. They will adapt to most places, if they are with you – work, a day out, the pub garden or at friends for a get together.
Are whippets affectionate?
Whippets in general are very affectionate dogs. They crave comfort and touch. If they come from a large litter where they got used to cuddling up to brothers and sisters as pups they will love to be cuddled. The bond you create with a puppy through touch and closeness will usually continue through to adulthood.
Some think because they are skinny dogs with long legs, they can’t possibly be cuddly dogs – wrong! Many absolutely love to cuddle up to their owners and those that are close to them.
Do whippets bark a lot?
Whippets are not good guard dogs – they aren’t known to be barky dogs. Some might bark when the door bell rings, but most will sleep through day-to-day goings on, making them suited to apartment living.
However, when out they will use their voice in excitement if they see other dogs – especially other sighthounds – and if they spot a squirrel up a tree.
Whippets love their owner’s company, does this make them clingy? Probably, but it’s a trait that whippet lovers accept. You may never go to the bathroom alone again when you welcome a whippet into your world.
The down side of this close relationship is they can be prone to separation anxiety. We’ve had two rescue whippets and both had awful separation issues due to the fact that they were 9 months old and had been left for long periods alone. It took time, dedication and slow steps but we got them both to a point where they can be left for up to 4 hours – anything more is not good for any breed. If you start training your dog to settle away from you when they are young – behind a stairgate, then in another room etc – your whippet will learn it’s ok to be alone and trust you will be back.
How much exercise does a whippet need?
Like all puppies whippets should not be over exercised, be prepared to carry your pup home if you have walked further than they can manage. As adults, if healthy they will be happy with two half hour walks a day if they are off lead and given the chance to run around. Equally they will walk much further, many I know regularly walk 4-6 miles a day. During the week ours get 2-3 miles a day – mostly off lead and at weekends we take them on longer walks.
If the weather is bad – too cold or too wet, even the most active whippet might go back to bed having seen what awaits them outside and happily skip a day snoozing under a blanket.
As they get older, they slow down. You’ll probably find the change in routine hard but be mindful that an older whippet will be happy with more of a plod, lead walks and some slow sniffy ones. As they age, they also need an extra layer to keep the chills out. Some days they will happily go a little further, maybe even have a little zoom about, but other days they will stubbornly stand and not move, telling you they don't fancy a walk.
Are whippets good with cats?
Whippets can live with cats and you will have more success with this if they are introduced as puppies. This gives the cat the opportunity to assert a pecking order – cat first, dog second!
But don’t think that your whippet will ever distinguish between your cat indoors and any cat outdoors – they will chase and cats often front up and scratched heads and delicate eyes are not good news.
In my experience whippets are very trainable but you need to have the tastiest treats on tap.
Most whippets love food and want to please you, mix in a desire to have fun and training is easy. Repeat repeat repeat – they learn if you keep doing something. Be consistent and make it fun. We have found a squeaky ball a fantastic training asset for Winnie. She loves her ball and it’s a great way to get her attention onto me should I need to – it doesn’t work if she’s spotted a squirrel!
Find the thing your whippet loves, it might be a tug toy, ball or a piece of chicken and use it to reward when training. Keep training sessions short, whippets have a short attention span.