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Celebrates A Lightning-Fast Dog: The Whippet

February 15, 2024

There are a few special doggy holidays in February, including Whippet Day, which is celebrated on the 19th. The Whippet may not be as widely known as its cousin, the Greyhound. However, these are typically very sweet dogs that deserve some affection. Below is some insight from a local Rapid City, SD veterinarian.

Whippet Dog Breed Basics

Like other Sighthounds, the Whippet tracks its game visually. Appearance-wise, they are very similar to their cousins, the Greyhound, but smaller. Males grow up to about 22 inches, while females are just a little shorter, averaging 18-21 inches. These gentle dogs usually weigh 25-40 pounds and can live for 12 to 15 years.

Are Whippets Fast?

Whippets are among the fastest dogs out of all our canine companions. Fido gets his name from an archaic term meaning ‘to move quickly’. This description is certainly accurate for these sleek dogs. Whippets are known for their impressive speed and were even nicknamed the “poor man’s Greyhound.” They have the fastest idle-to-running acceleration speed among all dog breeds, and can reach up to 35 mph. 

History of the Whippet

The Whippet was bred from English Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, and terriers. However, Fido has a very large extended family tree. Other Sighthounds include the Pharaoh hound, Basenji, and Saluki. Similar dogs have been with us for some time. Ancient Egyptian art depicts dogs that closely resemble these pooches. Other pups that looked much like Greyhounds were also owned by ancient Celts and Turks.

Back to the Whippet history. Whippets were bred from dogs used for poaching rabbits. They became popular as racing dogs in England. They also attracted attention from gamblers. Fido was sometimes called a Snap Dog, which meant he could win contests by ‘snapping up’ the most rabbits in a certain period of time. We’re happy to report that sport is no longer legal.

What Kind Of Coats Do Whippets Have?

Fido has soft, sleek fur that is built more for aerodynamics than warmth. As far as colors go, these guys can wear many different colors and patterns, including fawn, red, orange, tan, cream, black, brindle, and blue. White and dun are also allowed, though quite rare.

Do Whippets Need A Lot Of Grooming?

You won’t have to bathe your canine friend too often, but you should brush him regularly. Use a gentle shampoo when you do wash him. Like Greyhounds, these guys are very sensitive to chemicals. Use a soft brush: hard bristles may be too rough for Fido’s skin.

Whippets don’t tolerate cold weather well. This isn’t surprising, given their thin coats and lack of body fat. Fido will need sweaters and jackets when it’s cold out. These guys also hate hard floors: a comfortable bed is essential.

What Is The Whippet’s Temperament? 

Whippets tend to be very affectionate. They’re very sweet pets, and can melt hearts with their soulful eyes. They’re good with kids, and tend to get along well with other dogs.

That said, they aren’t necessarily the best fit for a household with cats. It really just varies: if Fido was raised with Fluffy, then he may be fine. However, we don’t recommend bringing a Whippet that hasn’t been around cats into a home with a kitty. If you have smaller pets, like birds or Guinea pigs, you’ll need to keep them in separate areas.

Are Whippets Very High Energy?

One may assume that Whippets are very energetic because of their speed, but that is not necessarily the case. Fido does need a good walk every day, and will greatly appreciate having a yard  to play in. However, Whippets aren’t as hyper as many people think. In fact, they usually turn into couch potatoes once they have burned off their zoomies. Once you bring your pup in from his nap, he’ll probably cuddle up in his bed and spend the rest of the day  dreaming of chasing squirrels.

Are Whippets Loud?

Those looking for a quiet pup, take note: Whippets rarely bark. This is one reason they can be a good fit for apartment dwellers.

How Healthy Are Whippets?

While Whippets are usually pretty healthy, there are a few important considerations for potential owners. Foremost, these dogs are not built to carry excess weight. While obesity is harmful for all dogs, it poses a particular risk for these pups, as it can quickly lead to orthopedic problems. Due to their slender build, it’s easy for people to mistakenly think that Fido is too skinny, and overfeed him. (That sad stare doesn’t help here, either.) Be sure to regularly consult with your Rapid City, SD veterinarian about your pet’s diet and exercise requirements.

Like many other Sighthounds, Whippets have a slightly different physiology from other dogs. For instance, their bloodwork may look unusual to someone who isn’t familiar with the breed. They’re also very sensitive to chemicals. That comes into play when it comes to sedation, parasite control, and even lawn and garden products. Ask your Rapid City, SD veterinarians for more information. 

Does The Whippet Need A Lot Of Exercise?

Fido will be a very fun dog to have around. Your canine pal may very well enjoy playing ball or chasing a flying disc or lure. Whippets enjoy playing with other dogs as well. However, they can easily become fixated on things like cats and squirrels, and are somewhat prone to bounding off after them.

Keep Fido on a leash when walking him. Because of the size and shape of their heads, these guys are prone to slipping out of normal collars. They therefore need either harnesses or special collars, which are called Martingale collars.

How Hard Is It To Train A Whippet?

Whippets are quite intelligent. Fido may pick things up very quickly. However, they are  easily distracted, and will run off after anything that catches their attention. As with any dog, training is essential. It is, however, important that you do not rely solely on your pet’s petucation, as his instincts as a Sighthound often override your pet’s petucation.

Are There Any Famous Whippet Dogs?

Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot to report here. There aren’t many famous Whippets. One was supposed to be in Alien 3, but was too cute for the role.

Fido did serve as the inspiration for a new doggy sport: competitive canine Frisbee catching. While we haven’t found any other famous Whippets, there are several famous Sighthounds. Fido’s cousin, the Greyhound, has appeared in many films and TV shows. He also landed a recurring role on The Simpsons, playing their dog, Santa’s Little Helper. The cartoon pup was actually an abandoned race dog which, like many facets of the fictional Springfield, is very true to life.

Helping Whippets In Need

As you may be aware, the popularity of dog racing has resulted in major challenges for racing dogs throughout history. Unfortunately, the focus of the dog racing industry on financial gain rather than animal welfare has resulted in severe mistreatment and a significant number of rescue dogs. Although progress has been made for Greyhounds in the United States with the banning of dog racing in many regions, there are still numerous Greyhound rescues in operation. Furthermore, across the globe, Galgos dogs (also known as Spanish Greyhounds) are also facing dire circumstances as one of the most abused breeds worldwide. If you wish to show your support and make a difference for either of these breeds, consider donating to or otherwise assisting a rescue organization dedicated to their well-being.

A Whippet can make a wonderful pet for the right family. Just do plenty of research before adopting one.

Do you have questions about Whippet Care? Contact us, your local Rapid City, SD pet hospital, today! 

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