The Whippet, often misidentified as a miniature Greyhound, is actually a breed of its own. The specific history of the dog is a bit of a mystery, however it is known that the dogs were first developed and bred in the northern part of England in the mid part of the 19th century. As far as the exact breeds used in the development of the Whippet, there is some debate and considerable disagreement in many areas. It is believed that the smallest of Greyhounds were crossed with the larger terriers of the time, resulting in a very fast, highly athletic yet smooth coated dog that more closely resembled the Greyhound than any of the terriers. In addition infusions of Italian Greyhound blood later in the breed development further refined the Whippet and added even more speed.
In the later part of the 19th century Whippets became popular as lure coursing dogs, used as a form of sporting entertainment. In many historical works they are referred to as the "poor man's racehorse", since they could easily be kept in a house or small flat and were very affectionate and healthy dogs. These dogs also were popular in other countries, including the United States of America. The kennel club first registered a Whippet in 1888 and the breed has had a steady following in this country as well as others ever since.
Unlike other sight hounds, the Whippet was never bred specifically to hunt. They were not often used in actual hunting events as they are intolerant of cold, wet conditions and are also much smaller than the more rugged Irish Wolfhounds and Scottish Deerhounds that were historically used to hunt larger game throughout the United Kingdom. As a companion dog as well as a racing dog, the Whippet was bred for both speed and temperament, traits which the breed continues to exhibit to this day.
With their very sleek, short coat the Whippet is highly manageable with regards to brushing and grooming. They typically have very little dog odor about them and rarely if ever require bathing. The coat does shed moderately year round but routine brushing with a soft bristle brush or wiping with a damp chamois will keep the coat shiny and healthy and reduce any hair loss in the house. With their very short coat they are not suited for living outdoors and can become chilled very easily. In colder climates the Whippet should be kept indoors or have his or her own sweater to wear when going outdoors for more than just a few minutes. Most Whippets don't like wet weather and it may be difficult to housetrain them at times if the weather outdoors is cold, damp or a combination of both.
Surprisingly the Whippet is a very calm dog in the house and will enjoy simply being around the family. They don't need to be the center of attention but have a natural playful streak that includes a love of games that include chasing and running. Great with children of all ages the very calm and gentle Whippet is not a dog that children are afraid of. They are very patient with kids but do not tolerate rough play or teasing, so smaller children need to be taught how to gently play with the dog. They are great companion pets for older children and their love of being out and about makes them terrific jogging, walking and hiking companions.
The Whippet can adjust very well to apartment living and really only needs a small yard for routine exercise. At least once a day the Whippet should have intensive exercise which may include time playing in a fenced off-leash area with other dogs. They need to have time and a safe place to run, really stretch out and go, at least once a day. They are good with other dogs and tend not be aggressive towards smaller dogs, however larger dogs may be somewhat frightening for the Whippet. Early socialization and lots of positive interactions with larger breeds can help minimize this concern. Generally the Whippet will respond very well to smaller dog breeds and is highly affectionate towards other dogs in the family.
Whippets raised with cats will make great companions provided they are slowly introduced and supervised to prevent any chasing. A Whippet does have a high prey drive and, if not corrected, will chase and even kill cats and other smaller animals and pets. Rabbits, ferrets, hamsters and other small pets should not be left in the presence of the Whippet, especially out of a secure cage. The Whippet is highly intelligent and can learn how to open gates, cages and pens so care needs to be taken when these types of pets are left alone with the Whippet even if they are caged.
The sprinting speed of the Whippet is unsurpassed in the dog kingdom. In typical races of 200 yards a Whippet can obtain and sustain speeds of up to 37 miles per hour in just a few seconds flat. This means that these dogs have to be kept on a leash when outside of a secure yard as they are just too fast to catch once they spy something to chase.
Although a sight hound the Whippet is also very capable of being trained for other types of events. Their strong bond to the owner makes them a good candidate for both an obedience as well as agility dog. It is important when training the Whippet to include lots of exercise, games and play time in training to reinforce the bond and to allow the dog to release nervous energy to focus in on training. Avoid repetitive types of training routines as this breed will easily become bored and non-responsive.
The Whippet is happiest with the family and the strong bond that forms with the caregivers makes rehoming a Whippet difficult. They are a long lived dog, with a lifespan of up to 15 years, so owners need to ensure they can commit to caring for this wonderful breed prior to bringing a puppy or dog home.