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The whippet is the 38th most popular dog breed overall in the UK, and these small sighthounds prove to be excellent middle-of-the road dogs that have a broad appeal to many different types of owners, and for a lot of good reasons.
If you’re looking for a fairly small dog that is by no means a toy dog and that has a lean, lithe build and long muzzle in contrast to the modern trend for brachycephalic dogs, the whippet might well be the perfect choice. This is one of the dog breeds that tends to be fairly simple to care for and accommodate compared to many other breeds, and they’re not a breed with notably onerous care requirements in any meaningful regard. However, dogs of all types, even the easiest of breeds to care for, require a significant commitment, and to say that a breed is easy or low maintenance is relative rather than absolute!
This means that whippets are a good choice of pet for a wide variety of different types of owners, and every year, a significant number of families choose a whippet as their new companion. If you’re thinking of joining them and are wondering if the whippet might be the right choice of dog for you, wonder no more – this article will tell you ten things you need to know about the whippet, before you buy one. Read on to learn more.
Whippets are sighthounds, which means that they’re hunting hound-type dogs that hunt prey by sight. They have great visual acuity for detecting distance movement, and can fixate on it clearly and keep it in target whilst they close in on it, and this is a trait that used to be much valued by people hunting small prey like rabbits and hares.
Whippets are, like all sighthound breeds, really fast dogs when running flat out, which is why they were effective hunting dogs throughout history. However, this fixation on prey and high running speed also means that whippet racing became a popular sport and pastime in the UK too, and in many areas of the country, still is.
One interesting thing about whippet racing compared to greyhound racing is that the vast majority of whippets used for racing are pets and companions first and racing dogs second, and the sport of whippet racing has far fewer negative connotations than greyhound racing.
You rarely see retired racing whippets seeking homes at the end of their racing life either, as most of them are pets who spend their whole racing career with loving owners in their forever homes.
Despite the whippet’s high running speed when they’re really going for it, whippets are, like most sighthounds, naturally quite lazy! They will sprint around in short bursts of high-speed energy on walks, but tend to be quiet and even reluctant to exert themselves much the rest of the time!
Whippets like to have company, and they’re soulful and affectionate dogs that very much value being around their owners most of the time. They don’t thrive if left alone for long periods of time, and may suffer from separation anxiety when left.
As is the case for all sighthounds, whippets have a strong prey drive that they naturally follow, and which is virtually impossible to curb. This means that they can and will pursue potential prey outside of the home, including wildlife and even domestic pets like cats and rabbits.
In order to protect other animals, the whippet owner must keep the dog on the lead at all times when outside of a safely enclosed running space, and they may wish to muzzle the dog to protect wildlife when off the lead too.
Whippets try hard to please and benefit from kind words and encouragement, but they can generally only learn a few key commands reliably, and so you should choose the commands you pick with care.
They aren’t hugely wilful or difficult dogs, but they are slightly towards the lower side of the median in terms of canine intelligence by breed, so may take a while to learn commands and need a few repetitions of each one before they comply.
The whippet breed as a whole has an average lifespan of between around 12-15 years, and despite their fairly lean and delicate-looking builds, they tend to be healthy dogs in general.
However, because they’re quite finely built and are so obsessive about chasing prey when they fixate on something, they do have a slightly higher risk of injury as they’re not always mindful of their own safety when pursuing things.
Foot corns are an unusual and quite debilitating health issue that is virtually unique to sighthound breeds, and the whippet is one breed that can be affected by them.
Whilst foot corns might not seem like a major issue in the greater scheme of things, they can be painful and very limiting for the dog, as well as hard to treat, and require a vet well versed in their care to tackle the issue.
Whippet coats are short and single layered, and very easy to care for. Just a quick going over with a brush every now and then is all that is required, although whippets do shed a moderate amount of fur in the home.
Aside from the challenges of managing the breed’s prey drive and the caveat that their ability to learn training commands is somewhat limited, the whippet is a really good all-rounder of a dog that is not hugely challenging in terms of their care and general requirements.
They are widely considered to be a good choice of dog for a first-time owner who does plenty of research first, and that is prepared to manage and control the dog’s prey drive.
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