Other names: English Whippet, Snap Dog
Gentle, affectionate, and well-rounded, the Whippet is a medium-sized sighthound with a short coat. Discrete and sensitive, it’s a dog one needs to learn to understand in order to seamlessly communicate with it. Respect and goodwill are key in obtaining this dog’s cooperation, and once he is fully at ease, he will reveal himself to be an exceptional life companion. Active, enduring, and much more robust than his appearance may lead you to think, this sighthound must be taken in by available owners, ready to meet his need for regular outings.
Key facts about the Whippet
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Origins and history
His origins go back more or less a century, since the Whippet was officially recognised by the UK Kennel Club in 1900. The first specimens actually saw the light of day in the 17th century. This breed probably descends from a cross between a Fox Terrier and Bull Terrier, and according to some other sources, the Italian Greyhound. The sighthound reportedly owes its name to the old English expressions ‘whip up’ or ‘whip it’, signifying ‘fast as lighting’. These expressions would be used by English miners as commands, aimed at encouraging the hounds to chase for hares, or during races.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 10 - Sighthounds
Section 3 : Short-haired Sighthounds
Physical characteristics of the Whippet
Female : Between 17 and 19 in
Male : Between 19 and 20 in
Female : Between 20 and 35 lb
Male : Between 20 and 35 lb
All colours and colour combinations are admissible.
Type of coat
The coat is short.
The coat is thin and close-lying.
They are generally brown, and their respective shades adapt to the coat’s colour.
The Whippet is a dog of powerful muscular constitution, exuding a balanced strength that renders him elegant and graciously built. The head is long, lean, flat in the upper part, with a rather wide distance between both eyes; it tapers down along the muzzle. The eyes are shiny, and very lively. The ears are small, of a fine texture, and rose-shaped. The thorax is deep, the stomach tucked in. The limbs are long, lean and muscular. The tail is long, thin, worn slightly curled over when in movement.
Good to know
He used to be dubbed the ‘snap dog’, which is a nickname that suits the ever-dynamic Whippet pup very well.
This dog is very affectionate once it has given you his trust- until then, he could seem rather distant. He can be very cuddly with his owners, but can just as well retreat to his corner and make himself discreet.
When still a pup, the Whippet is a real jester who loves playing: he enjoys chasing in particular, and likes engaging in friendly ‘scuffles’ with his fellow canines. With time, it is true that this tendency is reversed, depending on the individual in question, of course.
You could say that this sighthound is a ‘fake stoic’. He can indeed be very discreet, but reveals himself to be a real fireball when released into big wide spaces.
This dog is very smart and takes pleasing his master to heart. If a relationship based on trust and respect is established, this sighthound can pull various tricks out of his sleeve to reinforce the bond with his master.
The English Whippet is, as any respectable hound would have it, a born hunter, even if this is no longer his primary function. He mainly hunts for small animals: birds, rodents, rabbits or hares, but also for cats that he does not know, or which haven’t been introduced to him.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Contrary to popular belief, the English Whippet is not a wary dog but is quite withdrawn if he does not know the person in question. You mustn't mistake his sensitivity for fear.
The female has a more independent personality than the male. The Whippet’s temperament resembles that of cats.
Behaviour of the Whippet
If he has been accustomed to staying alone from a young age, this dog- often mistaken for the miniature greyhound- can tolerate his owners’ absences without a problem. Bear in mind, however, that these should not be prolonged. Walks both prior to and right after periods of solitude are necessary, especially if the dog lives in a flat.
Easy to train / obedience
This sighthound has very good memory and functions on the ‘if it works, let me do it again’ principle. Actually, as soon as the Whippet pup integrates the home, certain rules of conduct and limits must be established, to prevent the dog from developing any bad habits.
Training must be strict but gentle at the same time, given how easy it is to offend this highly sensitive dog.
Very discreet indeed, the Whippet rarely barks.
Tendency to run away
Even though he can run very fast and very far away from his owner, this sighthound always ends up returning to his family. Recall should be trained and practiced ahead of time, as this will help you better control this racing dog, and prevent him from running off too far.
Both discrete and calm when all of his needs have been met, this sighthound is not destructive- perhaps only when still a pup and teething.
Greedy / Gluttony
Snacks will be a good way of motivating this hound during training sessions, but overall, he is not gluttonous.
Not much of a barker, very reserved towards strangers, and not particularly menacing by way of his appearance, this dog can ‘protect’ his master but not a household. He will, however, signal someone’s presence at the door.
This dog is perfect for a first adoption. Easy to train, affectionate and sociable, as charming as can be, he brings joy to both little and big ones alike, and can integrate a family seamlessly.
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Whippet in a flat
City life is absolutely possible for this dog, and he can grow up in a flat as long as he is walked several times a day and can express his full potential in wide open spaces, total liberty, and at least one to two times a week- on the weekend, for instance.
Warning: if he lives in the country, in a house with a garden, he should under no circumstances be made to sleep outside. He must be able to come back inside the house, especially during the winter.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Like any decent sighthound, this dog needs to be able to run to be fully content. Despite his fragile appearance, he is enduring, athletic, and can take part in racing competitions such as:
- Lure Coursing: these are races in the fields where as a general rule of thumb, dogs run in pairs, chasing a mechanically operated lure.
- Racing: races taking place on a racetrack, during which dogs wear a muzzle and are confined in boxes that are only opened once a lure appears before them.
For hounds that practice neither coursing nor racing, it is recommended that they be stimulated physically and mentally in other ways, and as often as possible to fully meet their expenditure needs.
Travelling / easy to transport
This medium-sized hound loves to travel with his family. He is not scared of cars, especially if he has been exposed to this form of transportation from his youngest age. For air travel, you will have to make sure to habituate him to a crate ahead of time, as he will have to fly in the hold.
Whippet and cats
This sighthound gets on surprisingly well with the feline species, if the introduction takes place in a positive and precocious manner. They keep each other company: a real friendship can be forged, especially if the animals have grown up together.
Whippet and dogs
He generally gets along well with fellow canines, especially since the male individuals are rarely aggressive, even with dogs of the same sex.
You must just be cautious with regards to the difference in size between various dogs. What’s more, his sensitivity can sometimes be at odds with dogs that are too clingy or insistent.
The encounters should be regular, positive and supervised.
Whippet and children
The complicity between a child and this hound is often immediate. Remain cautious with the very youngest ones however, as they tend to inadvertently be careless with him.
Whippet and the elderly
The dog could absolutely live with the elderly, keeping in mind that he needs to be walked outside regularly, and stimulated mentally, by way of strategy games which his owners can initiate with him.
The price of a Whippet varies depending on its origins, age, and sex. You have to count an average of £580 for dogs subscribed to the Kennel Club.
With regards to the monthly budget required to meet the needs of a dog of this size, you have to estimate an average of £30 per month.
This hound’s thin and short-haired coat does not require much maintenance in particular. You must simply remain vigilant that it stays clean.
Regular brushes are enough since, much like a cat, this sighthound is a very hygienic animal that cleans itself.
His ears, on the other hand, much be checked and cleaned regularly.
The English Whippet has an advantage in that he experiences very little shedding, moulting seasons are very moderate.
Nutrition of the Whippet
It is above all else with those sighthounds that practice ‘coursing’ or ‘racing’ that one must be particularly careful about the nutrition, and be able to provide food (either dry or raw) that is well adapted to their energetic needs. If this is the case, veterinary supervision is highly recommended in validating a potential, homemade meal plan.
For companion dogs only, high quality kibble can be provided, as long as it is adapted to the age and daily activity level.
One to two daily meals should be provided, in a quiet spot. Self-service is not an option for this active dog.
Health of the Whippet
Life expectancy is 13 years on average.
Strong / robust
Despite his appearances, the Whippet is a robust dog, but remains vulnerable to bad weather since his coat is thin and his hair short.
Certain Whippets love the water, which they can cool off in on hot days. Otherwise, they are very good at identifying and securing places in the shade, which helps them stick heatwaves out.
Very sensitive to the cold, it is important to protect this sighthound in cold weather conditions. You should not consider it an extravagance to make him wear a coat in the winter.
Tendency to put on weight
Very dynamic and energetic, the Whippet is never too ‘fat’. In fact, one often says that he is too ‘skinny’, but it is part of his natural constitution to be that thin.