The Whippet is a fairly new breed compared to other sighthounds - approximately only 200 years new. They were developed in Yorkshire and Lancashire areas of Northern England in the late 1700s, by crossing Greyhounds with fast, long-legged terriers. The goal was to develop a smaller, yet still swift dog that partnered with poachers to hunt rabbits and other small game on local estates.
It was mostly the factory workers, mine workers and other working class people in England that owned the Whippet, so the became known as "poor man's greyhound" or "poor man's race horse". In their spare time, the workers raced their Whippets in the fields or roads in a game contests called "snap" where the goal was for the dog to 'snap up' rabbits in a circle. They graduated to lure course type races that were popular amongst working class men. These races were held on a straight track that spread down roads and across fields - chasing a rag or piece of cloth.with the use of a piece of cloth as the lure and the dog had to run a straight 200-yard track.
The American Kennel Club registered its first Whippet in 1888 under the name of Jack Dempsey. In 1891, the Whippet dog was recognized by the Kennel Club of England and was then recognized as a registerable breed in England.
Since then, Whippets have become one of the most popular of the breed of hound dogs at dog shows.
They have one many championships in different categories.
Whippets are very loving and affectionate dogs that enjoy being with their family members as close as possible. This sweet and docile dog is very quiet and calm in you home and very seldom barks. They will bark when they want to get a point across to you or occasionally if they are unhappy about something. It is rare that they bark when visitors come to your home. They are extremely sensitive physically and emotionally so their training should be done with positive reinforcement and not in a physical way. Because of their sensitivity, they will notice things such as stress in the home and will actually get upset to the point of making themselves sick. Some ailments that can occur are severe digestive upsets, neurotic behavior and sick to their stomach.
They are intelligent and learn very quickly, but they are very independent dogs so don't expect perfection with them. By nature, they are standoffish with strangers, although they do bond with their family. They are such an easy going dog, that they would not make a good guard dog. It is because of their docile and passive nature that they are often placed in aging homes with the elderly. They are full of energy but love attention and affection and being in the home. While they enjoy exercise like all animals, their preference is to being inside the house with their family.
Unlike some dogs that are prone to many Health diseases and disorders, the Whippet is typically a very healthy dog. With proper nutrition, Exercise and food, they can live up to 15 years of age with minimal Health Problems.
An occasion genetic eye disorder may affect Whippets, but this is rare.
Undescended testicles is one disorder that is common with Whippets. Heart disease is the second leading cause of death with Whippets and research believes there may be a connection with this and their slow heartbeat while resting. When they are getting Exercise, the heartbeat is normal, but exceptionally slow while resting or sleeping.
Unlike many dogs, hip dysplasia is not a problem with Whippets.
Whippets have a smooth, shorthaired coat so they need minimal grooming. Many will tell you their dogs don't shed. Unless a dog has no hair, they shed and the same is true for the Whippets. You won't find large piles of hair like you would with a longhaired dog, but they shed just like any dog, specifically in the spring and fall. A good brushing once or twice a week will not only take care of that problem, but will make your dog very happy as well. To keep your Whippet's coat sleek and shining, give him a good rub with a chamois cloth (which he will also love). You'll notice the difference it makes in his appearance.
Luckily, the Whippet dog does not have your typical doggie odor, so bathing often is not necessary or even recommended. In fact, it is recommended to only bathe when necessary. When you are bathing them, use a soft rubber brush. Use a firm bristle brush to brush him and then give him the rub. You can also use a light conditioner after brushing is complete. They need the same health care grooming as most dogs such as toenail trimming, cleaning of ears and teeth. Many people don't realize the importance of these grooming procedures.
Dogs that don't have their nails trimmed take the risk of ripping or snagging a nail too deeply and needing medical treatment. Ears that are not cleaned regularly are also at risk of ear infection. This is especially true if the dog's ears get wet often and are not properly dried. When bathing your Whippet, put cotton balls in the ears to prevent water from entering them. You may also wish to use an aloe skin cream or moisturizer on their elbows. Trim the whiskers with a small pair of scissors that can be purchased from a vet or pet store.
While you are rubbing, bathing or brushing your Whippet, look over his body carefully. Because of their short coat, they are very susceptible to cuts, scrapes and bruises and often need stitches or medical treatment.
Whippets need exercise just like any other dog. They don't need a large yard, but should have enough room to go for a good run as they have a lot of energy to wear off on a daily basis. In addition to running, they enjoy a nice walk with their family members. It is important that their yard be fenced and when out of the yard that they always are leashed. Being part of the sighthound group, they love to chase what they consider their prey and will run for a long time and distance before getting tired. Their instinct to chase and kill their prey is so strong and they are so fast that they may get away from you before you realize it if not on a leash. Taking them for a walk is a good time to attempt to work on basic obedience. Many times away from the every day distractions in the home, a dog will respond better, especially a younger dog.
Training your Whippet can be a fun and yet challenging experience. They are known for being very headstrong, but at the same time, they are eager to please their owner. Many dogs were bred years ago to do a certain thing and now that they are domestic, we expect them to become a different type of dog. Luckily for the Whippets, who were bred to race and course, we train them for the same things today. With patience and time, you can teach your Whippet obedience that will impress anyone.
It is important to remember that Whippets are very sensitive dogs and will not respond well to physical punishment or to loud, angry or stressful voices. In fact, it will be worse than no training at all. They are very capable of being taught the basic home commands such as sit, down, stay, etc. With time and patience, many dogs complete not only basic obedience but also go to compete in advanced obedience competitions. Many Whippet owners go all the way successfully with the training including lure coursing, racing, fly ball competition and agility. Lure coursing is chasing a plastic bag pulled by a string, but often has the appearance of a fluffy animal.
If you are planning to train your Whippet for any type of competition, it is important that he or she be in top physical condition. They require exercise regularly, good nutritional food and need to be free from parasites, which can make them weak and sick. You may want to have your local vet check him over to assure he is in top condition so he can do his best. Allow your dog to train around other dogs if possible to promote a sense of competition in him or her. Training for competition can begin as early as 3 months of age. Allows show your Whippet when he has done well. Be generous with praise and treats during training.