What You Should Know About the Whippet Dog Breed

by Amy DeYoung

Whippets are playful, affectionate, surprisingly calm and rarely bark. Learn more about the dog breed, including how to care for them.

Whippets are often mistaken for small Greyhounds because of their similarly lean, streamlined build. Like Greyhounds, they were bred for speed. Whippets are regularly used in racing as lightning-fast sprinters, even earning the nickname ‘Poor Man’s Racehorse’ because they are less expensive to feed and easier to exercise than the larger Greyhound.

Keep reading to learn about the two primary types of Whippets, Whippet breed care, and much more. 
What are Whippets?
The Whippet breed emerged in Victorian England when coal miners, who couldn’t afford to home and feed large Greyhounds, decided to breed a smaller version of the Greyhound for dog racing and hunting. 

While it is unknown precisely what breeds were combined to create the Whippet, many suspect they are the offspring of Greyhounds and small terriers. 

Whippets were an immediate success, and today are still the fastest dog breed of their size with the ability to reach up to 35 miles per hour. 

Whippet Traits and Characteristics

There are two recognized types of Whippets: the smooth-coated Whippet and the rough-coated Whippet. Rough-coated Whippets are also known as “rabbit dogs” because of their long coats. 

Both types of Whippets come in various colors, ranging from black, red, white, fawn brindle, cream, sable, and much more. 

Physical Traits

Whippets are prey-driven sighthounds built for chasing small prey, such as rabbits, squirrels, or even your neighbor’s cat. 

Like other sighthounds, Whippets have inverted lines, a deep chest, and a trim waist. Their graceful, arched neck holds up their lean head. Naturally, their legs have a slim, long, and sturdy build, giving them an ideal form for intense sprinting. 

Male Whippets are approximately 19 to 22 inches tall, while females are usually between 18 and 21 inches tall. Most Whippets weigh between 25 and 40 pounds, making them small to medium-sized dogs, with a lifespan of around 12 to 15 years. 

Behavioral Traits 

These playful, affectionate dogs are surprisingly calm and rarely bark, making them an excellent choice for city dwellers. 

As long as their exercise needs are met, Whippets are content relaxing at home for long hours and acting as companions to their human and other family pets. 

However, Whippets are known to be on the more nervous and anxious side. 

According to the American Kennel Club, they can suffer from crate claustrophobia and separation anxiety. The causes of these conditions are unknown and may be genetic or environmental. However, providing your Whippet with lots of exercise and one-on-one time may help. 

Whippets are ideal family dogs and need frequent time with their human companions. If you can’t be around as much during the day, consider a second Whippet to keep the other company. 

Lastly, Whippets are not natural watchdogs as they were bred for companionship, small game hunting, and racing. They become highly excited when visitors come to the home and may greet them with excessive excitement. While this may seem cute initially, it’s important to train your Whippet early on, as your visitors may not appreciate this erratic greeting as much! 

Whippet Puppy

Whippet Breed-Related Health Issues 

Whippets are a generally healthy breed. However, like all breeds, they are prone to certain conditions. 

According to the American Whippet Club, Whippets are more prone to cardiac disease, with some Whippet puppies even being born with mild murmurs. In some cases, the puppies outgrow these murmurs, but it’s believed that a significant portion of the Whippet population has minimal to mild mitral valve regurgitation. For some Whippets, this may progress to a more severe form of mitral valve disease which can lead to congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy. 

Other common Whippet health issues include genetic eye defects, cancer, kidney disease, and other forms of cardiac disease. 
Whippet Breed Care

Grooming Recommendations

Whippets are low-maintenance dogs with minimal shedding. Their short coats will shine with a brushing every other week. 

They may need occasional bathing when dirty, but they are neat, clean dogs overall. 

Health Recommendations

As a result of their susceptibility to heart disease and other breed-specific health issues, it’s crucial that you continue taking your Whippet in for regular checkups at their veterinarian. A healthy diet and frequent exercise can also support your Whippet’s long-term health. 

Whippets are short-haired dogs with virtually no protection against cold temperatures. If you live in a cold climate or take your dog out early in the morning or at night, consider placing them in a warm coat to provide them with extra insulation. Providing your Whippet with a sweater can also soothe arthritis symptoms, which can be more common in senior Whippets. 

Exercise Recommendations

Whippets are natural athletes with significant exercise needs. They make fantastic jogging partners and love chasing after balls or playing with other dogs. 

Whippets are designed for intense sprints, so they don’t require long hours of exercise. Instead, they are typically happy with short but high-intensity play sessions. After you’ve worn them out, Whippets will be happy to return to their coach potato status on a warm blanket or the sofa. 

Remember, Whippets were created to love the chase and will run after dogs, squirrels, cats, or anything else they come across on a walk with you. Always keep your dog leashed when you’re out and about for their safety and the safety of others. 
Breed Nutrition 
Whippets have a naturally thin build. According to the Veterinary Centers of America, pet parents must avoid overfeeding their Whippet as they can quickly lose their healthy, thin build. Ideally, you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs without them excessively protruding. 

Sundays all-natural dog food is an easy way to ensure you don’t overfeed your Whippet. Our feeding guideline estimator can help you assess how much you should feed your dog to help them maintain a healthy weight. In addition, Sundays human-grade, gently air-dried food is all natural with a treat-like taste that your dog is sure to love, but balanced by our veterinarian to ensure your Whippet is getting all the nutrients they need to thrive. 
Try Healthy, Easy Sundays