If you're looking for a low-maintenance, adventurous and very sporty dog that also appreciates cosy cuddles on the sofa, a Whippet should prove the dog of your dreams. Hence, it's hardly surprising that these likeable greyhounds are winning over more and more animal lovers.
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Appearance: graceful and sporty
These delicate and elegant dogs reach up to 51cm in height, but only weigh around 12kg. A mere glimpse of the dynamic body shows that the breed has been developed with sporting excellence in mind. The wide rib cage and firm abdomen emphasise the appearance of these fast runners. Indeed, the Whippet can reach up to 60km/h. The very short fur is permitted in all colours and colour combinations. With its overall appearance, the Whippet brings to mind a smaller version of the perennially exclusive Greyhound, therefore is often described as a “poor man's greyhound”. Due to the delicate rose ears and large, widely spaced eyes, the Whippet can comfortably give any puppy dog eyes a run for their money. By the way, the often low-set tail is no sign of fear, but one of the normal characteristics of the breed.
Brits from humble beginnings
Although there were already very similar greyhounds to the Whippet over 300 years ago, the breed only first emerged in the North of England in the 19th century. The larger greyhounds were reserved to the nobility as hunting dogs, therefore the poorer communities had to find their own way into dog breeding. The Whippet is the result of a breed primarily established by factory workers and miners and involved crossing small greyhounds with short-haired terriers. As a poacher's dog belonging to the poorer strata, it was principally deployed for mostly illegally hare hunting. Since 1891, the breed has been officially listed in the stud book. Back then, as today, the focus of the standard was primarily on a functional physique designed for running and a firm character. With time, Whippets more and more regularly became professional racing dogs. Although they could never compete against the large Greyhounds, both breeds do count amongst the fastest terrestrial animals. Britain, the country of origin, to this day still has its nose in front in terms of breeding Whippets. The name “Whippet” is a combination of the terms “whip” and “pet”, which is an allusion to the length of the Whippet's tail when it runs. There were originally some hairless Whippets too, although today's efforts to breed a long-haired Whippet under the name “Silken Windsprite” aren't based on back breeding and thereby represent a new breed. Whippets now boast a small but loyal fanbase amongst dog lovers all across the world.
Likeable bundle of energy
A sporty companion for all situations, the Whippet is an affable, likeable dog that scores points with its well-balanced character and friendliness. Cuddling sessions and time spent with its caregiver are incredibly important to this breed, therefore Whippets should not be left alone for a long time. They easily adapt to life at home, but outdoors they love action and are down for all the fun. Although they are considered attentive, they are no yappers. When out and about they avoid human strangers to the greatest extent and generally get on with canine strangers without any problems. The sociable Whippet can be kept successfully with several other dogs. Its curiosity and docility, combined with its close attachment to its caregiver, makes it a fantastic companion for all leisure activities. However, running off the lead isn't possible for every Whippet due to the different degrees of passion for hunting between different dogs.
Training with lots of praise
These dogs are willing to learn and easy to train: Whippets like to please their owners and are also clever and attentive, which are optimum conditions for quickly teaching these eager dogs the most important rules of basic obedience or tricks. Considering these dogs' open character, you will achieve most success with positive reinforcement and lots of praise. On the other hand, strictness should never be deployed when handing these likeable sensitive souls. Start training the dogs to be called back at an early stage so that you can always reliably retrieve these former hunters, because this is the only way to offer them the freedom to roam that they cherish. From the very beginning, make sure that you are always in control of the timing of the period spent off the lead. Your dog's training is perfectly supported by early socialisation, for instance, by attending a dog school including playtime for puppies. This gives your dog the opportunity to meet other dogs of all sizes so that it can easily make friends with large and small dogs at a later date.
Robust canine with a delicate stature
The Whippet's delicate, almost fragile-looking stature is deceiving: The breed is considered highly robust and is susceptible to hardly any specific hereditary diseases. In very rare cases, however, some Whippets can be affected by the formation of large muscle mass due to a genetic defect. Such dogs are labelled “Bully Whippets” and no longer meet the breed standard with their powerful stature. However, the resulting health problems are not severe: Some dogs are more disposed to muscle cramps, whilst around half have a pronounced overbite. The mutation can be recognised in young puppies during the first weeks they are live. Carriers not showing any symptoms can nowadays be recognised by a genetic test and thereby excluded from the breed. Since the short-haired, incredibly slender Whippet is sensitive to the cold, it's recommended to use a dog coat in winter. The average age of the breed is 12 to 15 years.
Health begins with the diet
A balanced diet is the basis of a long and healthy canine life. For a carnivore like your dog, this means that meat should be the main component of its diet. Hence, ensure that meat comes at the top of the ingredients list of the food you choose, regardless of whether it is wet or dry food. In relation to omnivores or herbivores, carnivores have a shorter digestive tract designed to optimally utilise high-quality, protein-rich food. In this sense, avoid food containing grain. Especially when giving dry food, it is important that your Whippet consumes sufficient fluids. Whilst a puppy can receive up to four meals per day, you should offer your adult canine companion a maximum of two portions per day. After mealtime, your dog should always have the opportunity to rest. Even well-meant changes in food can prove stressful for your dog's stomach. Should you wish to switch to another food type or brand, proceed slowly. The ideal way is to gradually increase the portion of the new food mixed in with the familiar one over a few days.
Regarding the quantity of food, in principle you can use the manufacturer's indications as a guide, but keep an eye on your Whippet's slim figure and adapt the quantity if required, especially if your Whippet has an above-average activity level. The right diet won't just be reflected in your dog's fitness, but also its healthy, shiny fur.
Very short Whippet fur requires no special grooming. However, regular brush massages encourage circulation and remove loose hairs. Keep an eye on your Whippet's claws, because greyhounds often don't wear them down enough, hence they need to be cut more regularly. You're best off always cutting up to just before the quick located inside the claw, which should never be injured. The easiest method is to cut the claws with a professional set of clippers and when they are slightly damp, for instance, after a walk in the rain. As for dental care, you can get your puppy used to regularly having its teeth cleaned with a special dog toothpaste and toothbrush. Dental care snacks or dry chew products such as dried cattle ears can prevent the formation of tartar.
Activity for versatile all-rounders
Like all greyhounds, Whippets love activity in the great outdoors. If your dog is obedient and has a close bond with you, you can generally let it off the lead providing it can be called back easily, which increases the opportunities for leisure time. In addition, they love frolicking with other dogs, although attention should be paid to ensure that more sedate breeds aren't overwhelmed by the Whippet's boundless dynamism and playfulness. For some Whippets, the hunting instinct is so deeply entrenched that running off the lead is not possible. Such dogs should absolutely have well-fenced areas available to them so they can run free. In any case, there is a huge range of leisure activities on offer to you with a Whippet. These sporting aces are up for lots of types of dog sports and are happy to accompany you cycling, jogging or on long hikes. Agility is also good for these versatile athletes to let off steam. Capable of reaching up to 60km/h, these hounds are of course perfectly suited for racing. However, consider that if you want to grant your dog permission to run off the lead, you should forego track racing. For all their love of adventure, these delicate greyhounds also appreciate cosy afternoons on the couch.
Is a Whippet right for me?
Whippets are very adaptable dogs and can be kept in an apartment in contrast to many other greyhounds – provided that they can spend lots of time outdoors every day with the opportunity to move around. However, an additional large, fenced plot where the Whippet can let off steam to its heart's content is ideal. They are considered friendly to children and can also live with cats, providing they have been socialised at an early stage. Thanks to their sociable and tolerable nature, they are well-suited to living with other dogs. The easy-going Whippet is happy both with families and sporty singletons and is suitable for ambitious beginners.
Before your Whippet enters your home, all family members should be in agreement on the new canine housemate. Clarify beforehand how you will organise care for your dog should you fall ill or when you go on holiday. In principle, your Whippet can happily accompany you on holiday – you're best off checking beforehand which travel destinations are possible.
Before purchasing a Whippet, bear in mind that there will be regular outgoings in the form of dog tax, dog liability and trips to the vet at least once a year, along with the one-off purchase costs for the dog and its basic equipment (bowls, harness, lead, collar, blanket and/or bed, transport insurance for the car, toys and grooming accessories such as clippers, massage glove etc.).
Where do I find my dream Whippet?
If you're looking for a Whippet puppy, your best bet is finding a Whippet breeder, who should belong to an association and only sell their charges with a pedigree certificate. This gives you the certainty that the breeder meets the requirements of the breeding associations for the good of the animals and to keep the breed healthy. When it comes to a serious breeder, you will be able to meet the puppies in a tranquil environment at home and ask questions about the breed, as well as breeding objectives in terms of health, character and type. You should be pleased if the breeder integrates you too with some questions on your experience with dogs or leisure activities, because this shows that the wellbeing of their puppies is important to them. Of course, you should take this opportunity to meet the parent animals too. They should come across as cheerful, harmonious and friendly.
On the handover day, the breeder should not just give you your new family member, but also the pedigree certificate and vaccination record. It goes without saying that the puppy should at this point have undergone several rounds of injections and deworming treatments and be in rude health.
Dog lovers should steer well clear of breeders who sell their puppies at a bargain price. These “special offers” mainly come at the cost of the dogs' health and socialisation. Apart from that, such illicit breeders invest no time in species-appropriate conditions for the parent animals – for instance, the mothers are often granted no breaks between litters – and do not have the expertise required for selecting suitable breeding animals that are true to type. In such cases, don't buy out of pity because demand determines supply, as is the case in many sectors.
If you're interested in a Whippet, an adult dog can also be a good option. Find out at special greyhound rehoming organisations which animals are currently looking for a new home. Experienced re-homers can mostly determine in conversation with you whether you and the dog in question are a potential dream team. There are many reasons why an older Whippet may be given away, but one is certain: this people-loving breed suffers greatly when forced to dwell in an animal home, because it is very important for it to have a stable caregiver. Opting for a second-hand dog can prove a very enriching experience for both parties!
We wish you a fantastic adventure with your likeable Whippet!
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