The Whippet is classed as a medium sized dog, but they are often thought to be rather smaller as they are so often compared to the tall, lanky Greyhound! Whippets were originally classed as Greyhounds that were considered to be too small to be effective for working hunting roles, and ultimately found a new niche as sporting dogs, being used for Whippet racing, a track sport that is still popular today.
However, the Whippet also makes an excellent companion animal and family pet, provided that you are able to account for their strong hunting instincts, and ensure that they do not pose a danger to cats and wildlife in your local area. As well as Whippets bred for the pet trade, thousands of retired racing Whippets become available for rehoming every year, and so if you decide that a Whippet is a good pet for you, there are plenty of options for acquiring one!
The Whippet is first and foremost a sighthound, meaning that they hunt for prey visually rather than by scent. They have keen eyesight to pick out moving prey, but their eyesight is actually poor when trying to identify still prey that is not moving. Their hunting instincts are incredibly strong, and they are also of course very fast when on the move, capable of reaching speeds of up to 35mph when running flat out, so there is of course the very real possibility that they will catch anything that they choose to pursue.
As with any sighthound that is both fast and committed to the chase, it can be very difficult to reliably train the Whippet to respond to the recall command when a hunt is underway, and so care must be taken to protect smaller animals when you are out walking.
This may involve keeping the dog on a lead at all times when in open spaces, muzzling the dog for off the lead play, and finding enclosed areas for your dog to run around in.
Because the Whippet is so quick when on the move, it is often assumed that the breed is one of those up there at the top of the list in terms of their exercise requirements, needing to spend lots of time outside and running around to be happy and healthy.
However, much like the Greyhound, the Whippet is something of a couch potato, and is actually a rather lazy dog, preferring to sleep for long periods of time and being emotionally bonded to their favourite bed or chair! While the Whippet does of course need adequate exercise and will almost certainly run around when out on their walks, they will only produce a high turn of speed for short periods of time, and after half an hour or so, will be perfectly ready to go home and go back to sleep.
Don’t be put off owning a Whippet because you expect that their exercise requirements will wear you out; this is almost certainly not the case!
Whippets might have a lean, bony appearance and not look like the average canine cuddle-bug, but in reality, they are extremely loving dogs that like to be close to their owners, thrive on attention, and are never happier than when by your side. They get on well with children providing that they are properly introduced and well treated, and generally are kind and loyal to anyone that is kind and loyal to them. They are generally gentle with both people and other dogs, calm when within the home, and prone to doing lots of sleeping! If they can cuddle up in your lap or on the sofa beside you, they will almost certainly be at their happiest for most of the day.
The Whippet is both gentle, intelligent and keen to please, and teaching them basic training commands is not usually difficult. They are very keen on being fed treats and tasty morsels; anyone who says that dogs cannot do maths should try putting three treats in their pocket and giving the Whippet only two of them! When they have a goal or a target in mind (such as attaining a treat or catching prey) they tend to be very single-minded and concentrate deeply, and positive reinforcement training with treats is very effective on the Whippet.
One area of training where the Whippet does not tend to excel and in fact often has problems with, however, is in following the recall command when they are hunting, and it can be very difficult to attain 100% compliance all of the time when a chase is underway. Some, or even most Whippets will not be able to be trained for 100% recall under all circumstances, and so extra care and attention is required when walking and playing outdoors with Whippets, both for the protection of other animals and for that of the dog itself.