A Yorkshireman is often characterized by the flat-cap on his head and the whippet at his side. The portrayal hails back to the origins of the so-called “poor man’s racehorse” when this nimble but swift little dog was used in Northern England for racing and hunting.
Whippets made their way from England to America when mill owners traveled to Massachusetts in the 19th century. In 1888, the American Kennel Club officially recognized and registered the whippet as its 46th dog breed.
The whippet is a very elegant, small to medium sighthound, which means they eye their quarry before giving chase. Resembling a small greyhound, the coat is short and smooth and comes in several colors and markings.
These affectionate, intelligent dogs are sweet-natured and loyal. Their sensitive nature can make them a little nervous in a harsh environment.
Males tend to be only slightly larger than females, around 22 inches from the ground to shoulder, and 25 to 45 pounds in weight.
The dogs typically live 12 to 15 years.
Whippets are remarkably sturdy and generally robust, healthy dogs.
They have very little body fat, so that they can appear skinny at times. For this reason, they also find it hard to tolerate cold weather. If out and about in the winter months, a warm coat will keep them safe.
Good nutrition is also important to ensure your whippet maintains optimum condition.
The whippet is a devoted companion. They are quiet, calm, affectionate, and excellent with kids and other dogs. If they have been brought up with a cat, they will never think of your puss as prey. If you are getting an older dog, you may need to consider some training to integrate your cat and dog.
The whippet is extremely easy to groom. Minimal shedding of the sleek and smooth coat means an occasional light brushing is sufficient. Whippets don’t tend to smell, so bathing should be on a need-to-do basis. If you do bathe them, try to do it on a warm day and towel dry them in the sun.
The nails should be checked and trimmed periodically, but well-exercised dogs will wear them down naturally. These compact, tidy dogs do not drool, and their coats do not easily pick up dirt and debris.
Whippets are highly intelligent and will want to please you. Like any dog, though, training is easier if it’s started early.
If your whippet respects you and you are the leader of the pack, you will be rewarded with a devoted, obedient companion.
Because whippets are hunters and chasers by nature, they have a strong prey drive. It’s important to remember that they may be easily distracted by something they feel the need to chase. They do have a keen and alert personality, which makes them very trainable.
Like all dogs, whippets love to run freely. They are highly energetic and require a good exercise routine every day to keep them happy. If you have a park or an area where they can be off-leash, they are sure they are safe or trained to come when called if they wander too far.
They are equally satisfied with a good walk on a leash, as long as it’s regular.
Whippets are suitable for homes with fenced yards or a garden. They also make great apartment dogs as long as they get a couple of good walks or runs a day.
They rarely bark, so neighbors will hardly be aware of them. The flip-side of this, of course, is that they don’t make ferocious guard dogs.
Because they are easy to accommodate, whippets are easy to travel with and love being out and about with you.
Is a Whippet the right dog for you?
These sensitive, affectionate dogs are amiable and good with kids, other dogs, and your friends. They can live pretty much anywhere as long as they’re warm, and their lively personality is highly entertaining. They are playful, easy to keep, and a most loyal companion.
The prey drive may be higher in some whippets than others, so supervised introductions are advised if you own other small animals.
Laura Horton, MSc (Merit), is the founder of Hound101.com, a website that helps you be your dog’s best friend. She is also a registered health professional with a long career in diagnostic imaging and health research.