Whippet

katy towle 26 July 2021


A slim dog with a pointed muzzle and floppy ears, the endearing Whippet is an under-appreciated individual. A real athlete with a heart of gold, the Whippet deserves to be more popular than it is. Some people describe them as ‘the poor man’s Greyhound’, though with puppies selling for as much as £2,000 in the UK in 2021, this is no longer an apt description.

Breed history

Dogs that look similar to the Whippet can be found in history as far back as ancient Egypt. While graceful and elegant they were also quick and athletic, meaning they were used for a purpose. Rather than standing around looking pretty, Whippets were bred to hunt and were renowned for their speed.

It is believed that Whippets were the ‘unwanted’ Greyhounds, returned to their breeder for being too small. Despite this, they did well when hunting small prey such as rats and rabbits and slowly became a desirable breed in their own right.

Whippets were recognised by the UK Kennel Club towards the end of the 19th century, after their look was further refined by mixing them with breeds such as the Italian Greyhound.

General appearance

Whippets are smaller and less well-muscled than Greyhounds, though their size varies from individual to individual. They have dolichocephalic skulls, soulful brown eyes and upright ears that fall to the side. Their bodies are slender and they have long and lean limbs. Their slim tail is very long indeed and often held in between their legs.

The short coat of the Whippet comes in a wide range of colours including white, cream, black, brindle and red.

Temperament

Though this breed was traditionally bred to run fast and pursue prey, they have adapted well to modern life and can settle in well to family life in the right conditions. Most can even make good apartment dogs. Once well-exercised, they have a calm temperament and are celebrated for being gentle and kind towards children.

Even if your Whippet has never received any training, they will have an innate desire to run and chase after small animals. These means they are unlikely to be able to co-exist alongside small pets such as rabbits without causing havoc. Due to their natural hunting instinct, it can be difficult to achieve ‘perfect recall’ and they are easily distracted by sights and scents when out and about.

Many owners will anecdotally describe their Whippet as a ‘sensitive soul’. Some breed members will suffer from behavioural issues such as separation anxiety. Due to this, it is recommended that owners do not regularly spend a large part of the day out of the house while their Whippet is home alone.

Health considerations 

For a pedigree, the Whippet is a relatively healthy dog. However, there are a few health issues that we should be aware of including:

  • Dental Disease. It is thought that Whippets are more likely than other breeds to suffer with periodontal disease. Owners who know this can work hard to protect their Whippet’s teeth. Feeding dry kibble and offering treats such as Pooch & Mutt’s Fresh Breath Mini-Bones can help prevent dental disease. On top of this, owners should try to brush their dogs’ teeth on a daily basis.
  • Hypothyroidism. An under active thyroid can result in a myriad of signs including sluggishness, weight gain and a dry, flaky coat. Bloodwork will reveal changes including a low circulating thyroid hormone. Thankfully, this condition can usually be well managed with daily medication.
  • Epilepsy. As is seen in many other purebreds, Whippets can suffer with epilepsy. Affected dogs will suffer seizures and are generally managed with lifelong anti-seizure medicine. It is important that we monitor these dogs closely and that they have frequent check-ups and blood tests to ensure their medicine is at the right dose and not causing any adverse reaction.
  • Heart disease. Whippets are prone to certain heart diseases including mitral valve disease. The vet may detect a heart murmur or irregular heart rhythm during a routine exam. Heart disease can be confirmed with tests including a chest x-ray, echocardiogram, and specific blood tests. Treatment may include an altered lifestyle, a low sodium diet and medicine.

Trainability 

As Whippets can be sensitive, they respond best to positive reward-based training. So, every time they behave as we would like them to, we should reward them with lots of praise and some tasty treats (such as Pooch & Mutt’s delicious Meaty Treats). It is not advised to ‘punish’ or criticise them when they get things wrong, as this can create anxiety. Rather, the encouragement for behaving well should be motivation enough to not act out.

Grooming

Very low maintenance, the short and smooth coat of the Whippet can be brushed once or twice a week. 

Owners should dedicate a few minutes each day to brushing their Whippet’s teeth. This is a habit that should start from a young age. For those dogs who will not tolerate a toothbrush, a finger brush may be more acceptable. If your Whippet will not allow you to brush their teeth at all, plaque reducing products can be purchased and added to food and water.

Exercise

A little athlete, the Whippet is not designed to sit around all day. They enjoy exploring outside and would benefit from having a garden. While they can run incredibly fast, their stamina is not extraordinary, and they do not need hours and hours of exercise.

Feeding considerations 

Watch out for your Whippet packing on the pounds, particularly as they get older. This dog has a slender frame and is not designed to carry too much fat, which could lead to joint disease down the line. Owners should monitor their Whippet’s Body Condition Score and feed them the correct calorie requirement each day. For over-weight dogs who need to lose a bit of weight, consider starting a weight loss food such as the Pooch & Mutt Slim & Slender kibble.

You'll find a handy feeding calculator on every product page here at Pooch & Mutt to help you identify how much of our health led recipes are right for the age, size and weight of your dog.

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