Breed of the Week - Whippet

by Jessica Pichette

The Whippet is a medium sized greyhound-like dog belonging to the family of sighthounds, dogs bred to use their sight for chasing game. In appearance they resemble a "greyhound in miniature," with the typical streamlined shape, deep chest, long legs, and long muzzle. The fur is very short, and can come in a wide array of colors, with no color or color combination being a disqualification. Because of their short fur, the breed can be sensitive to the cold, and is susceptible to sunburn.

Whippets are known for their speed, reaching up to 35mph. They are sprinters, and can often outrun the greyhound over short distances.

The breed originated in England and is thought to be the descendent of greyhounds and several terriers. Terriers were added to create a hardier breed, while still keeping the speed and shape of the greyhound. Italian Greyhound may have been added to decrease the size of the breed. They were first bred by working class citizens to hunt rabbit as well as to participate in races, because it was less expensive to keep a Whippet than its larger cousin the Greyhound.

The Whippet has been a recognized breed for over 100 years, being recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1888, and in England in 1890, though it may have been in existence for many years prior to this.

The Whippet is a gentle and loving breed, always enjoying the company of its human family. They are content to just curl up on the couch or under a blanket with you, and they always want to know where you are. Whippets are usually friendly with strangers and other dogs, especially if they have been well socialized as a puppy. They shouldn’t be trusted completely with small animals because of their high prey drive.

In caring for this breed, grooming is minimal. The dog's short coat sheds little, and a good brushing with a rubber mitt or boar bristle brush is sufficient. The Whippet does not need to be bathed that often, and they generally keep themselves fairly clean. Nail trimming is probably the most important aspect of grooming the Whippet, as their nails can grow very quickly. Getting them used to trimming or grinding their nails at a young age is a must, as this will make it easier to keep up with nail trimming as they age.

The Whippet is not as active as most people think. The breed generally does well with a few good walks and a chance to run around in a secure area. A fenced yard is a must with a Whippet, as they generally can’t be trusted off leash. The breed has strong prey drive and will chase small animals, even if they leave the safety of your yard. Some whippets have even been known to run straight through invisible fencing in pursuit of their prey. Most Whippets will expend their energy in bursts, and then be ready for a nap on the couch.

While not overly active, Whippets are fast and agile, making them a great candidate for agility. They also excel in lure coursing, a sport which involves quickly dragging a plastic lure across a large open area. The dogs must chase the lure, following it through sharp angles and turns. The sport works with the dog’s instinct to chase fast moving prey, and is a great way to see the sighthound’s natural abilities.

While the Whippet is not a traditional obedience breed, they can do well in the obedience ring, as well as in Rally. Training for these sports requires a good amount of patience and a sense of humor; Whippets often have their own agenda, and will only work when they’re in the mood to.

According to the American Whippet Club, with proper nutrition and veterinary care, this breed can live 12 to 15 years. Genetic eye defects are rare but it is recommended that breeders have the eyes cleared on their breeding stock. Hip dysplasia, common in many other breeds, is not a problem in Whippets.

My Whippet is an 8 year old female named Leia. She is a sweet girl, who will come check in on me if we aren’t currently in the same room; she always needs to know what I’m doing. She loves food more than life itself, and will do anything for a treat, including practicing Rally Obedience and agility. Her favorite activities include searching for food, taking naps, and keeping the backyard safe from small furry animals.

For more information about this amazing breed, visit the national breed club at