Dog Breed Profile: Health and Fitness Tips for Whippets
Similar breed to the Greyhound but smaller, the Whippet is a majestic, kind natured dog who can reach a top speed of 35 miles per hour - the fastest dog breed of its size.
Famous for their double suspension gallop which makes them capable of hitting this top speed, Whippets are the result of selective cross breeding between terriers and greyhounds in England, which explains why they were often described as ‘miniature greyhounds’.
Extremely swift runners, Whippets were bred by English working class people in the late 1800s and 1900s to hunt small game and animals. Sighthound dogs who hunt primarily by sight and sound, they differ from scent hounds who rather hunt by scent and endurance.
An athletic breed who loves to run, Whippets are sweet, gracious dogs who love the outdoors but equally love napping on the sofa. They are very affectionate towards their family and prefer not to be left alone. Very easy to live with, Whippets can suit apartment living as long as they have proper exercise and interaction.
Size & Colour
A medium sized dog, Whippets generally fall between 18-22 inches tall for both male and females and can weigh anything between 19-45 lbs (9-20 kg).
They have common markings of their face, giving them the appearance of a mask and have a variety of colours, patterns and colour combinations that include;
- Red fawn
- Black and White parti colour.
- Red Brindle
Whippets have a short, fine, smooth coat similar to the Greyhound, with only one layer of fur. Their short, dense single layered coat means that when Whippets get wet, they are wet to the skin which is why they don’t do well in cold or wet weather.
In winter or in cold, wet weather, Whippets will require a warm, waterproof coat to keep them warm and dry on their daily walks. Their single layered coat means that they are not outdoor pets but they love to run and explore!
The best coats for Whippets are ones that are waterproof, windproof and warm-fleece lined to protect them from all sorts the weather may bring.
Fairly easy grooming requirements, Whippets shed lightly at a low to moderate rate and typically shed more in time for the seasons. Like all dogs, Whippets will need weekly brushing with a grooming mitt or a soft bristle brush, to remove loose hair and keep their coat healthy and shiny.
Often considered hypoallergenic dogs due to their low shedding qualities, they are popular with allergy sufferers. While they are low shedding dog breeds, whippets still require the same amount of grooming requirements as all dogs which includes nail trimming to prevent them from slipping on floors, brushing their teeth and checking their skin and ears for any problems.
Whippets only need a bath when necessary and frequent bathing should be avoided which will dry out their skin.
While they are full of energy on their walks, Whippets need less exercise than you might think. They enjoy short bursts of energy, rather than endurance running. Typically you should aim for a 30-45 minute moderate daily walk. If you plan to let them off their lead, make sure they are in an enclosed space because they are a sighthound, which means they will chase after small animals.
Mental stimulation and socialising should also be an exercise requirement for a Whippet. This includes proper training which will help develop a strong bond between you and your dog, as well as social interaction with other dogs.
Ball games, fetch and frisbee are excellent games that will satisfy your Whippet’s social needs and mental stimulation. They don’t tend to be powerful chewers and often favour plush toys to cuddle up to. Since they were bred to hunt prey, Whippets really enjoy toys that move on their own, including toys like the Roly Poly Snack Egg, Kong Zigwigz, Kong Gyro and the Nina Ottosson Maze Dog Game.
A lifespan of 12-15 years, Whippets are a very healthy breed, especially when compared to other purebred dogs. However there are some common health issues that they are prone to.
Since they have short coats and low body fat, Whippets can scrape their skin easily making them susceptible to cuts. While this is not a major concern, you should check their skin and cuts for any signs of infection. Their short fur also makes them more susceptible to hypothermia in cold temperatures, which is why providing your Whippet with a winter coat is so important.
Other common health issues of a Whippet include;
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - An inherited disease of the retina that leads to blindness.
- Separation Anxiety/Anxiety
- Heart Murmur
- Hormonal Diseases
- Musculoskeletal Injuries
Would a Whippet Suit Your Family?
Known for their friendly temperament, Whippets are excellent family dogs who are great with children. Sweet to everyone they meet, Whippets however don’t make the best guard dogs and don’t suit families with small pets, since this will trigger their instinct to hunt and chase small prey.
Eager to please, Whippets respond well to patient and gentle discipline with reward based training and often present a quiet temperament compared to other dogs. As an athletic breed, they need short bursts of energy mixed with mental stimulation and socialising.
Whippets don’t like being left alone for long periods of time and can suffer from separation anxiety, which is why they don’t suit families who are not at home for most hours of the day. With proper training and affection, Whippets are one of the most caring, gentle breeds out there who will spend the rest of their day snoozing as long as their exercise and mental requirements are met.
Read our previous breed profile on the Yorkshire Terrier. Did you know they were originally bred to skilfully track and hunt down pests in coal mines in the 1800s?