The whippet is a member of the Hound Group. Within that group, it is further categorised into being a sighthound, which means that it tends to hunt using its eyes as opposed to its nose as would a scenthound. Moderately sized and coming in a range of colours, the whippet has endured tremendous popularity in the last twenty years. The breed has a rich history and much has been written tracing its origins as a miner’s favourite in either the north of England or around the coal pits of Wales. A fast “rag dog” could often earn more for the family than the man working long, dangerous hours, spent under the earth digging for coal. The whippet was part of the family and treated well, often putting food on the table for all.
It is a dog approximately 20 to 22 inches high at the withers, smooth coated in a variety of solid colours or a mixture of several. A whippet is happy to live in a terrace or a castle, so long as there is central heating or a fire to lie out in front of and good walks are frequent. The whippet has a fine coat which is easy to keep clean and tidy, but your dog will need to be coated in the colder, wetter months of the year. Whippet-wear, whether wonderful collars, matching leads, under rugs. fleeces, in-house pyjamas and sturdy wet weather rugs, abound for the whippet owner to purchase. Whippets love a good roll in anything horribly smelly or decomposing, so be warned and always have a suitable dog shampoo in the house. Luckily, they are “wash and go” dogs and need neither trimming nor clipping, although nails must be kept neat and teeth brushed regularly.
Good quality food is essential, but a whippet does not need excessive amounts and hence buying a top grade brand makes economic sense. Two meals a day is sufficient and many have just one. Raw or commercial, it is a personal choice and there is much well resourced material to read up on before you make your decision. Your whippet should be well muscled and covered, but not skinny or ribby looking, after all he is an athlete by nature.
Exercise is essential and an adult whippet can be out all day with you without any difficulty. Regular exercise is all that is required and a daily routine to live by. As with any other breed of dog, they should not be left alone all day while owners are out at work. If left bored and unsupervised, costly damage to property may well result. The young pup though must be exercised with care and advisably not with bigger or heavier dogs until the bone structure is fully mature. To see a whippet running free in a large, open, safe area is a wonderful sight but always remember that your whippet will chase rabbits, deer and other dogs and in turn be chased by others. Nothing is worse than your dog running into traffic or across roads, so unless the area is enclosed and safe, stick to a good walk on the lead and have fun in the garden later. Whippets, of course, can be trained to a degree but the urge to chase is strong and difficult to resist, so unless recall is perfect, be safe rather than sorry. They are good with their own cats, rabbits and sheep but anyone else’s are seen as “fair game” so be warned and put your whippet on a lead around farming livestock, regardless!
Young pups of most breeds can be crated for a short time and whippets are happy to have a safe, warm bed to relax in and sleep. But don't cage for long as even the most placid of dogs need their freedom and many a tooth has been lost from a bored dog trying to get out if caged too long. The crate is great especially if you have to leave your young pup unsupervised for a short time as they are a breed renowned for thieving from kitchen tops, bins and tables faster than a human eye can register.
A typical whippet will have an excellent temperament and hence they are great family dogs and good with children. However, a dog is a dog and children must be supervised with them and to be taught to respect the dog in the family. Whippets are not toys or something for the parent to offer as a pacifier to an over active youngster.Both sexes are delight to live with, although the boys tend to be the real softies. Try to avoid the temptation to buy two from the same litter. Get used to the breed first and all of its nuances before you embark on the second one. Females will have seasons and the boys will be boys regardless of any kinship. Castration and spaying are, of course options, but are not advisable until full maturity is reached, regardless of the advice of over eager veterinary surgeons expounding early operations to neuter. Never think of having a bitch just to breed from. There are numerous people breeding whippets, both responsible breeders and the notorious puppy farmers. If you are interested in an older, more mature whippet then the breed rescue, JR Whippet Rescue, is the place to contact and register an interest.
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The local dog show will nearly always have classes of whippets for you to admire with owners willing to talk and share their knowledge of the breed. There are a number of Breed Clubs that can offer advice and notify you of litters to view in the area, all easily found on an internet search for the Whippet Breed Council website link (whippets.webeden.co.uk <http://whippets.webeden.co.uk/>).
Prices vary, but between £500 and £600 would be considered a fair price from a responsible, caring breeder with authentic Kennel Club papers to accompany your dog. Always see the pups in a home environment with their mother. A good whippet breeder will send your pup off with a full clean bill of health, often with toys and treats and definitely with sufficient food for you to use to begin with. The breeder should offer to be at the end of a phone to help and advise throughout the lifetime of your dog. Those too keen for a deposit, then offering a “BOGOF” deal should be avoided at all costs and pups that look thin and quiet, with runny eyes and nose will only herald heart ache ahead. I would strongly advise that you continue some form of pet insurance to cover unexpected bills that may be incurred from accidents, as your whippet will do everything at speed and often caught up with the excitement of the moment! Luckily, the whippet remains a healthy breed of dog with a wide gene pool.
The whippet is a dog that can take a day’s rambling in its stride, it is a lover of family outings to beaches, to parks and enjoys long country walks. Many are shown at dog shows all over the country. They participate in lure coursing events, agility and flyball. Some are even trained for obedience tests and displays. They share our love of creature comforts, of good food and warm fires. The whippet is a natural companion for the young, the not so young and the elderly. Many are Pet As Therapy dogs. They are loyal and loving, naughty and mischievous. I could go on…
Well, is a whippet for you? Is it a dog that will fit in with you and your family’s life style? The whippet is a dog that will run for fun, come back at leisure, steal from your plate and your bin, cost you a fortune in designer collars and rugs, love you forever, wheedle its way onto your sofa and eventually into your bed and will give you, with any luck, a shared life together of years into double figures.
Image Lorraine Fitzgerald