Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
Oh, to be as sleek and speedy as a Whippet! This dignified sighthound is known for their jack rabbit-fast run, thin and elegant body, and gentle nature. Not to be mistaken for their larger cousin, the Greyhound, Whippets are increasingly growing in popularity due to their polite manners and adaptiveness to apartment life.
Even though they make for quiet home companions, this breed does best when they receive lots of time and space to stretch their legs. Over the course of hundreds of years, they’ve developed one of the fastest gaits in the canine world. Although the safety and morality of the sport is debated, they can even still be spotted on racing tracks across the US and UK. Their athleticism may be what makes them famous, but their sweet demeanor might be what makes you fall in love.
Also Known As…
Zippy. The Poor Man’s Racehorse. Speedy Gonzales. “Wait, I thought Greyhounds were giant dear creatures?” “Well, see, that’s not a Greyhound, it’s a whippet. They’re more like medium-sized deer creatures.” “Ohhhh.”
A medium-sized descendent of the long-legged Greyhound, the Whippet likely hails from England. Dogs that look like Whippets or Greyhounds have existed for hundreds—perhaps thousands—of years though, and can often be spotted in ancient artworks. Early Whippets were used for hunting as their graceful, agile bodies made them first-rate rabbit chasers.
These dogs were first categorized as Whippets in the mid-1800s and recognized by the AKC in 1884. The old English word refers to “a lively young woman” or “a nimble person,” although the meaning changed to “a small breed of dog” by the 1600s. By then, this hound had been bred with terriers to make them tougher and more prey-driven. They maintained their reputation for friendliness though and were often kept as family dogs.
19-22 inches (male), 18-21 inches (female).
Many people assume that Whippets are solely driven by their need to chase prey. Or, on the flip side, they may think this breed is as timid as an Italian Greyhound—another similar looking sighthound. Although Whippets can be reserved and obsessed with racing after small prey or tennis balls, they’re often relaxed, goofy, and lovable dogs. Often described as couch potatoes, these lightning fast dogs may be a surprisingly good choice for humans with moderately active lifestyles.
Of course, like any breed, each individual dog is different. Some Whippets may be more sensitive to touch, meaning they’ll startle easily. Others may be very cuddly, even in the presence of new faces. Either way, Whippets are unlikely to spend much time barking.
Intelligence / Trainability
Whippets are often described as intelligent and easy to train. They’re naturally clean and respectful of their home environments, meaning potty training should be a cinch.
That stated, Whippets agile bodies makes it easy for them to escape an unsecured yard, jump or climb out of an enclosed puppy area, and generally make mischief. Enrolling in socialization and behavior classes will help any Whippet get off to the right start.
Due to their calm and quiet natures, Whippets are reputed to be great apartment pals. Still, they need daily opportunities not just to walk, but to stretch their long legs. A large dog park where they can race around is great, as is an open field or beach.
If you live in a suburban or rural environment, keep in mind that Whippets are very literally “born to run.” Without a secure fence or proper training, your super-fast friend might disappear quicker than you can say “stop!”
Good For Families And Kids?
Yes. Most Whippets are amiable and tolerant of young children. If kids aren’t socialized to treat dogs gently though, they may feel the need to run and hide each time a toddler comes to visit.
Depending on each individual dog’s personality, it may be best to do a calm and quiet introduction over a series of days. And of course, make sure everyone interacts respectfully with one another!
This breed generally gets a grade “A” on their medical report card. As Whippets have at times been overbred by irresponsible racetrack enthusiasts, it’s smart to screen for certain issues though. Cardiac diseases, eye disorders, and deafness can sometimes appear. Like Greyhounds, this short-coated breed also needs to be bundled up in cold temperatures.
Whippets should be kept at a strict weight as well. Their thin bone structure doesn’t handle extra pounds well, as weight gain can lead to serious orthopedic issues and general malaise. This breed is naturally skinny, which means it’s important to work with your veterinarian to learn and maintain your Whippet’s ideal weight.
If Whippets were on a high school track team, they’d run the 200-meter dash. As natural sprinters, they tend to expel energy quickly during bursts of speed. Encouraging this type of exercise through fetch, flyball, lure-coursing, or other agility course activities is a great idea. Like most dogs though, Whippets still enough a once or twice daily walk. Just keep in mind that this breed is not built for endurance. A long-distance run or hike could raise their risk of injury.
Friendly With… (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
Due to their hunting pack past, this skinny sighthound generally gets along well with other dogs. A Whippet with an unrestrained prey drive may chase any cat they come across. Be careful! However, with the right training and socialization, they can be friends with felines as well.
In regards to strangers, Whippets are often reserved at first, but do not typically act as guard dogs.
Coat & Grooming
Looking for a low maintenance dog? Whippets short and smooth coat needs little more than an easy weekly brushing. And maybe not even!
Toys Whippets Would Like Best
Whippets go crazy for toys! From tennis balls and discs to rope and plush toys, these prey-driven dogs really dig playtime. It’s advisable to have multiple types of toys on hand at all times, especially if your Whippet is prone to chewing.
“The Best Balls Ever” and other Fetch Toys are a good option, as are Tug Toys. As since there’s no end to the chasing of flying objects and the shaking of stuffed Plush Toys, also keep in mind Super Chewer Toys which are way more durable.
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Whippets should be fed high-quality, age-appropriate food. If you’re interested in administering supplements, make sure to consult your vet first.
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Whippet with joint issues. ($32.99.)
BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with joint issues, pain relief, and ease aggression in dogs during stressful situations. ($17.99-22.99.)
For Whippets or other pups who love to lie around – especially after an afternoon of running around! – a nice comfortable dog bed is probably a good idea.
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s small body and giving them a designated place to rest. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your favorite buddy. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues to Find the Whippet of Your Dreams
- Whippet Rescue and Placement is a charity devoted to finding homes for purebred Whippets. Due to the popularity of the breed, there’s usually a long waiting list for adopters. This is great news, of course, but remember Whippet mixes from other organizations are also in need of love!
- Adoptable Whippets on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Whippets
@poppet.the.whippet This adorable little Whippet is living it up in England.
@nimbus_whippet features Nimbus, a smokey gray Whippet from the U.K. As noble as a stag and as petite as a fawn, Nimbus is a beauty to be admired.
@whippet_loki is the account of a brindle-coated Whippet named Loki. Dressed in Parisian striped shirts and fashionable sweaters, Loki can be seen strutting through town or leaping through the trees.
***Looking for a gift to blow your Whippet’s mind? Spoil them with a BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂
Featured image via Poppet.The.Whippet/Instagram