Whippets are a fairly modern breed developed in Northern England, where crossing greyhounds with long legged terriers resulted in the perfect dog to hunt small game. The Whippet became popular with working men in Northern England when it was discovered they would chase rags as well as game and the sport of Whippet racing was born.
Whippets are gentle companions and do get on with children, although it is important to introduce socialisation early on to ensure they do not develop a fear of situations and take this into adulthood.
Due to the whippet’s thin coat, a sweater or coat is needed during daily walks in the winter and they should not be kept outdoors. Whippets should be kept on the leash during walks as their hunting instinct is still prevalent, however, they are not difficult to train if patience and positive reinforcement are used.
Whippets were once considered to be the perfect dog for poachers for all the reasons that they are now known as ‘all-purpose’ dogs from a competition perspective: they are agile, fast and generally obedient. Although some whippets exhibit an independence that makes them hard to train, most are eager to please and learn new skills with enthusiasm. With an active dog like the Whippet, it can have a real positive effect on the owner’s health as well.
Whippets’ naturally calm nature and innate desire to socialise with humans have combined to make them popular therapy dogs. Their adaptability means that they are perfect for owners who might have unpredictable movements or need to be cared for in unfamiliar environments.
These attributes, combined with their love of physical affection makes them ideal family pets as well. There are practical considerations which make whippets suitable for homes with children, such as their short hair, low-shed, relative cleanliness and tendency towards quietness. Physically they are tough enough to cope with a busy household and gentle attention from well-trained children.
As a relatively slender breed which has a little padding, whippets do generally prefer to sleep on soft furnishings, and their affectionate nature means that they will seek out their owners whenever possible and enjoy spending time in their company.
Whippets can sometimes co-exist happily with other pets, but this is usually best achieved if they are brought up with them in order to override their natural instinct to chase small furry animals. Introducing an adult whippet to a household with a cat or other small pet can be problematic and it’s best not to consider a whippet for a household where smaller pets are allowed to run free.
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years
Originating country: England
Temperament: intelligent, lively, loving
Interesting fact: Whippets are nicknamed rag dogs as they chased rags, but are also nicknamed snap dogs due to the whippy nature of their tails