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Breed Spotlight: The Whippet 

February 15, 2024

Just like every other month, February features some special pet holidays. We’re celebrating Sled Dogs, Brown Dogs, Golden Retrievers, and Dog Biscuits, among other things. One of the pups in the spotlight this month is the Whippet, a sweet, lovable Sighthound. Whippets aren’t as well known as their larger cousins, the Greyhound, but they definitely deserve some extra attention. A Mattoon, IL veterinarian puts these sleek, sweet dogs in the spotlight below.

Whippet: Basic Breed Information

Whippets are Sighthounds, which means they track and follow prey visually. Physically, Fido is very similar to a Greyhound, but is a bit smaller. They weigh 25 to 40 pounds and can live for about 12 to 15 years. Male Whippets can get to be about 22 inches high, white females can reach about 18-21 inches. 

Fido is most known for his speed. He actually got his name from a 17th-century word that means ‘to move briskly’. He is often referred to as the “Poor man’s Greyhound,” There’s a good reason for this. The Whippet has the fastest idle-to-running acceleration speed of all dog breeds. These guys can reach speeds up to 35 mph, and have even been known to occasionally outrun Greyhounds! 

Are Whippet Dogs Hard To Care For?

Whippets aren’t the most high-maintenance dogs out there. In fact, they are a bit lazy, and can be easy keepers.

Many people assume that Whippets are super energetic, because they are so fast. Fido will need at least one brisk daily walk a day, and will definitely enjoy having a yard to roam in. (Your furry friend may also have fun with doggy sports, such as chasing after flying discs or lures.) It’s important to make sure they get a good workout in every day. Of course, that’s the case with many dogs.

However, these guys have two speeds: full speed ahead and full stop. Fido often becomes pretty sedentary after he’s burned off  his excess energy. After a vigorous walk, run, or play session, your pup will probably curl up in his bed to dream about chasing squirrels.

Is It Hard To Train Whippet Dogs?

Yes and no. The Whippet is quite smart. They often pick things up very quickly. However, they are also prone to forgetting their training as soon as they spot a squirrel. Even the most thorough training may not be enough to keep Fido from running into traffic or chasing the neighbor’s cat. After all, these guys are hardwired to chase small prey! 

You’ll need to keep a good grip on your furry friend on walks. A sturdy leash is also a must. Because Whippets have small heads that can slip out of regular collars, they need a certain type of collar, known as Martingale collars. Ask your Mattoon, IL vet for more information.

What Is The History Of The Whippet Dog Breed? 

The Whippet’s most immediate ancestors include the English Greyhound, the Italian Greyhound, and some terriers. Fido is also distantly related to other Sighthounds, such as the Saluki, Pharaoh hound, Basenji, and Galgos. The Sighthound family tree is quite large. It’s also very old. Similar dogs have been helping us hunt and track game for thousands of years. Art from ancient Egypt depicts dogs that look very much like Greyhounds and Whippets. Similar dogs may also have been used by the ancient Celts. 

That said, the Whippet was quite popular in England, where he gained recognition as a racing dog in the 18th century. Fido also became a favorite of gamblers, and gained notoriety as a Snap Dog. The term Snap Dog refers to an old sport in which the winning dog snapped up the most rabbits in a certain period of time. We’re happy to report that this particular sport is now illegal.

What Is A Fun Fact About Whippet Dogs?

A Whippet was supposed to appear in Alien 3 as a four-legged Xenomorph. Fido was too cute for the part, and was fired from the set.

What Kind Of Coats Do Whippet Dogs Have? 

Whippets have short, sleek fur, which is often really soft. The breed standard officially allows about a dozen official coat colors and patterns, including orange, tan, cream, fawn, red, black, brindle, and blue. White and dun are also allowed, but are very rare.

Do Whippets Need A Lot Of Grooming?

Fido won’t need to be bathed very often, but should be brushed frequently. It’s important to use a soft brush, as hard bristles can cause skin irritation. Whippets are very sensitive to chemicals. You’ll have to use a very gentle shampoo on Fido. Ask your Mattoon, IL vet for more information. 

Do Whippets Have Specific Care Needs ? 

Like Greyhounds, Whippets are very sensitive to chemicals and toxins. In addition to using very gentle shampoos, you’ll also need to be careful when using certain products, such as lawn/garden chemicals. 

because they have thin coats and very little body fat, Whippets do not do well in the cold. Your canine buddy will need sweaters and jackets in winter. He also isn’t a fan of cold, hard floors, so you’ll need to provide comfy beds and blankets for him to curl up in. Be sure to ask your veterinarian for specific advice.

Is A Whippet A Good Family Pet?

Whippets can make absolutely wonderful pets. They are super affectionate, and love to cuddle with their owners. Fido is usually very good with kids, gets along with other dogs. He also won’t bark much, which can be a plus for some. 

That all said, there are a few downsides. The biggest thing is the fact that Whippets have such a strong built-in prey drive. Some will do fine with cats, especially if they’ve been raised with Fluffy, but this isn’t a given. They probably aren’t the best fit for a home with bunnies or pocket pets, unless you’re sure you can keep them separated.

Are Whippet Dogs Prone To Any Specific Illnesses?

Whippets are usually healthy, but they do have a few weak spots. Obesity is not uncommon, though that’s often because of inexperienced owners. Fido’s lean build may lead people to think he’s underweight even when he isn’t. Unsurprisingly, this often results in overfeeding. Your canine pal won’t mind extra treats, but his frame just isn’t built to handle excess weight. 

Aside from that, the breed standards do recommend having a few specific tests done. These include the Ophthalmologist Evaluation, BAER Testing, and Cardiac Examination. Whippets also sometimes develop issues with their hearing or eyes.

As is the case with many Sighthounds, Whippets have a unique physiology. They are very sensitive to chemicals. This becomes very relevant when it comes to things like anesthesia, medication, and parasite control.  You’ll need to find a veterinarian that is familiar with the breed’s unique characteristics.

In Conclusion: The Whippet is a cute, cuddly dog with an equal love for running and napping. These dogs are very sweet. While they are not hard to care for, potential owners should become familiar with their specific needs before adopting one.

Do you have any questions about caring for a Whippet? Please feel free to contact us at any time. As your Mattoon, IL veterinary clinic, we are here to help! 

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