While the Whippet is one of the fastest dog breeds—able to run up to 35 miles per hour—they are not a rambunctious breed if given enough exercise. After running and playing in the yard, there's nothing Whippets like more than curling up on the furniture with their family nearby. One of the sighthounds, this sleek dog has a sharp eye and can overtake small game in a flash. They require a securely fenced yard and walks on leash so they don't bolt when they spot squirrels and rabbits around the neighborhood. Whippets have a peaceful, gentle demeanor, are loving of their family members, and welcoming of strangers.
The Whippet is also known as the English Whippet or Snap Dog, and earned the nicknames 'The Poor Man's Racehorse' and 'The Poor Man's Greyhound' during their early racing days.
Whippets have a short, smooth, easy-care coat that lays close to their body. All colors and markings are possible in the breed, including black, fawn, red, white, and brindle.
Average Height: 18-22 inches
Average Weight: 25-40 pounds
Breed Standard & History
Whippets are graceful in appearance and movement. Their slim, powerful frames and long legs are built to accelerate quickly and cover a lot of ground effortlessly. They have a long, low, swift stride. When going full speed, all four legs are airborne and parallel to the ground. They have long, elegant faces, rose ears, and an intelligent expression in their large, round eyes. Their extended neck and arched back give them a balletic appearance. Whippets are rather intense when they are participating in sports or hunting, but once work or play is over, they are utterly gentle, amiable companions.
The ancestors of the modern Whippet were thought to be small English Greyhounds that weren't large enough to hunt stag and other big game. In the 1700s, these small dogs became popular among peasants for "snapping up" small game, such as hares. At some point, they were crossed with several breeds of terriers, which further sharpened their hunting skills. Whippets were used in "snap dog" hunting contests, wherein the winning dog caught the most hares in an enclosed area. The sport was eventually deemed inhumane and fell out of favor.
Whippets became popular as racing dogs in England in the 1800s. This earned them the nickname "The Poor Man's Racehorse" because Whippet racing and betting was most popular among the working class. In the 1900s, English textile workers brought the dog to Massachusetts, where their racing days continued. Eventually, the breed's sweet personality won over those keeping them for racing or hunting, and Whippets became prized as joyful companions.
AKC Breed Category
Whippets are quiet, sweet-tempered dogs, who love spending time relaxing at home with their families. They snap to attention when they have a job to do, however, whether it's hunting or participating in a dog sport. They are intelligent and learn obedience commands quickly, though they will occasionally ignore them because of a stubborn, independent streak.
Are Whippets Good with Kids? Whippets are not tolerant of harsh treatment by children, however unintended, making them a better choice for households with older children.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Whippets Good with Other Pets? Whippets are usually friendly with other dogs, especially when they have been socialized to be around them from an early age. Their strong prey drive, however, makes them unsuitable housemates for cats and other small pets. Whippets have been known to kill family cats.
Whippets are very docile and not especially protective.
Are Whippets Good Guard Dogs? Whippets shouldn't be expected to protect the homestead. They may bark at squirrels in the yard, but they will welcome all two-legged visitors—including burglars—with wagging tails.
Whippets have a lot of energy, but it is not boundless. They need to get outside to frolic, sprint, and play several times a day, but in between they are mellow and happy to relax on the couch.
- Must be walked on leash with a comfortable collar or harness so they don't chase animals and birds.
- They can be sensitive and anxious if poorly socialized.
- Prone to separation anxiety.
- They get cold easily due to low body fat.
- They are sensitive to anesthesia.
- They need a secure enclosure, or they will find a way out to chase prey.
- Prone to destructive behaviors if they are not exercised enough.
- They may become attached to a favorite person in the house.
- Should be watched for scratches and cuts, because their coats are not protective.
Whippets aren't a rugged enough breed to spend hours on end outdoors. They have a thin coat that won't protect them from the elements or from branches and briars. They prefer spending time snuggling with their family above all else. Because they are quiet, Whippets make great apartment dogs as long as they are taken outside for exercise regularly. They are neat dogs that don't shed excessively, making cleanup minimal.
The athletic Whippet benefits from an enclosed yard big enough for them to stretch their legs and run. If that isn't available, they should be taken outside frequently to run, play catch, and train for dog sports. Too much time outdoors isn't advisable for Whippets because of their thin coats and low body fat.
Whippets need about an hour or two of vigorous exercise each day to stay in peak condition.
While Whippets love to run and play, they don't have the endurance for all-day exercise. After training or playing for about an hour, they'll be ready to curl up for a nap.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Whippets are sprinters, so they make great partners for interval training rather than distance running.
- Hiking Miles: Whippets can hike for a few miles, but keep in mind they'll be chasing after every squirrel and chipmunk they see in the distance.
Whippets require approximately 1 to 1 ½ cups of high-quality dry dog food each day given in two meals. This will vary depending on your dog's activity level and age, so be sure to talk with your veterinarian about the best amount of food for your Whippet.
Whippets have a low tolerance for being left alone and will resort to destructive behaviors as a coping mechanism. The breed is also prone to separation anxiety. It's best if someone is home with this breed all day and, if that's not possible, they should be dropped off at a doggie daycare. You can leave your Whippet alone for an hour or so to run errands, preferably within a dog crate so they don't chew the furniture.
Health and Grooming
Whippets are clean, low-maintenance dogs. Their coats benefit from a few brushes each week and a bath once a month. Keep an eye on your Whippet's ears for signs of infection and clean occasionally with a gentle, dog-safe cleanser. Clip his toenails about once each month to prevent cracking.
Common Health Issues
Whippets may be prone to some breed-specific health concerns and sensitivities, including:
- Like all Sighthounds, Whippets are sensitive to anesthesia, likely because of their low body fat.
- Eye defects
- Von Willebrand's disease
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Whippet by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Whippets are smart, attentive dogs and will pick up on basic commands with ease. They also housetrain quickly. They can be stubborn, however, and need consistent, sustained training so they don't begin ignoring your directives.
These natural athletes excel at dog sports, including lure coursing, agility, and flyball.
Sporting Dog Training
Though they are hunting dogs, Whippets don't make great gun dogs because their prey drive is difficult to manage. They will as soon run after the first rabbit they see as help you locate your quarry.
No. Though Whippets are light shedders, they are not a hypoallergenic breed. Any amount of shedding leaves pet dander in your home, which is the cause of most pet-related allergies.
Whippets are capable of barking—they simply don't do it that often. Some Whippet owners claim they've never heard their dog bark.
Whippets may want to dip their paws in the water, but swimming is not their forté. Their low body fat makes it hard for them to stay afloat and regulate their body temperature. Never leave your Whippet unattended near a pool or large body of water.