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Breed Spotlight: The Whippet 

December 1 2023

International Animal Rights Day is coming up on December 10th. There’s certainly no shortage of causes here. One of many areas where there is work to be done is the rescue and adoption of former race dogs. You may have heard about the plight of the Greyhound, but did you know of the Whippet? A sweet, lovable Sighthound, Whippets are less well known than their larger kin, the Greyhound. However, they also could use some love and attention. A local Nacogdoches, TX veterinarian, goes over some breed basics in this article. 

Whippet: Basic Breed Information

A Whippet’s physique is very similar to that of a Greyhound, but they are a bit smaller. Males can grow up to about 22 inches, and females can grow up to about 18-21 inches. They weigh 25 to 40 pounds and can live for about 12 to 15 years.

Fido’s most outstanding trait is probably his speed. In fact, he got his name from a 17th-century word that means ‘to move rapidly.’ Often referred to as a “poor man’s Greyhound,” the Whippet has the fastest idle-to-running acceleration speed of all dogs, and can reach speeds up to 35 mph. They can even occasionally outrun Greyhounds! 

How Hard Is It To Take Care Of A Whippet?

Whippets aren’t difficult to care for. In fact, because they are often lazy, they can be quite easy keepers. However, it’s important to be aware of a few things. Like many Sighthounds, Whippets have a tendency to get fixated on things like cats and squirrels. You’ll need to keep a good grip on your furry friend. This requires special equipment. Because Whippets have small heads that can slip out of regular collars, a certain type of collar, known as a Martingale collar, is necessary. A harness will also work.

Is It Hard To Train Whippet Dogs?

Yes and no. Fido is quite smart, and often picks things up quickly. However, despite being quite intelligent, Whippets are prone to forgetting their training the moment they spot a squirrel. A good petucation may not be enough to stop Fido from running into traffic or chasing the neighbor’s cat. Always use a sturdy leash.

What Is The History Of The Whippet Dog Breed? 

Fido’s immediate ancestors include English Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, and terriers. However, he is also related to other Sighthounds, such as the Pharaoh hound, Basenji, and Saluki. Similar dogs have been helping us hunt and track game for thousands of years. In fact, art from ancient Egypt depicts similar Sighthounds. 

To get to more recent history, the Whippet became popular in 18th-century England as a racing dog. Fido also earned himself fame as Snap Dog. (Note: the term Snap Dog is a reference to an old sport in which the winning dog snapped up the most rabbits in a certain period of time. Thankfully, that particular sport is now outlawed.)

What Is A Fun Fact About Whippet Dogs?

Fido was supposed to appear in Alien 3, but he was too cute for the part!

What Kind Of Coats Do Whippet Dogs Have? 

These pretty dogs have short, sleek fur. There are 12 official coat colors and patterns allowed in the Whippet breed standard, including fawn, red, orange, tan, cream, black, brindle, and blue. White and dun are also officially allowed, but are very rare.

As far as grooming goes, Fido doesn’t need to be bathed very often, but should be brushed regularly. It’s important to use a soft brush, as hard bristles can cause skin irritation. Ask your Nacogdoches, TX veterinarians for more information. 

What Specific Care Needs Do Whippets Have? 

Like many other Sighthounds, Whippets have a unique physiology, and are very sensitive to chemicals. You’ll have to use a very gentle shampoo on Fido. You’ll also need to be careful when using lawn/garden chemicals. 

It’s also worth pointing out that, because they have thin coats and very little body fat, these dogs do not do well in the cold. Fido will need sweaters and jackets in winter. He also isn’t a fan of cold, hard floors. Comfy beds and blankets are musts.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Choosing Whippet Dogs As A Family Pet?

Whippets are super affectionate, and love to cuddle with their owners. They’re usually very good with kids, and get along with other dogs. They also don’t bark much, which can be a plus for some. 

That all said, it is important to remember that built-in prey drive. Some do fine with cats, especially if they’ve been raised together, but this isn’t a given. We wouldn’t recommend bringing them into a home with bunnies or pocket pets, unless you can be diligent about keeping them separated.

Are Whippet Dogs Hyper?

It’s easy to assume that Whippets are super active and energetic, because of their speed. Fido does need daily walks and will benefit from having a yard to roam in. However, he often tends to become quite sedentary after expending his excess energy. In fact, these guys have two speeds: full speed ahead and full stop. Once that doggy workout is complete, your pup will probably just want to snuggle up in his bed to nap and dream about chasing squirrels for the remainder of the day.

Are Whippet Dogs Prone To Any Specific Illnesses?

Whippets are usually healthy, but they do have a few weak spots. Obesity is one common issue. Their lean build may lead people to believe they are underweight, even when they aren’t. Inexperienced owners then sometimes overcompensate, and often end up giving Fido too much food. Your canine pal won’t mind the extra treats, but his body just isn’t built to handle excess weight. Follow your Nacogdoches, TX veterinarian’s dietary advice to the letter.

Aside from that, the breed standards recommend a few specific tests, including the ophthalmologist evaluation, BAER testing, and cardiac examination.

Fidos’ chemical sensitivity also becomes relevant here, particularly with things like anesthesia, medication, and parasite control.  You’ll need to find a veterinarian that is familiar with the breed’s unique characteristics.

What Can I Do To Help Whippets?

As you may know, racing dogs have faced many challenges. While they were once highly valued, the racing industry often prioritized profits over the dogs’ well-being. This led to widespread mistreatment, eventually resulting in an overwhelming number of rescue cases. The good news is that a lot of progress has been made in recent decades, due in large part to the fact that dog racing is now prohibited in many places in the U.S. However, there are still several active Greyhound and Whippet rescues. 

It’s also worth noting that one of Fido’s cousins, the Galgos dog, is in dire need of help, particularly in Spain. These sweet pups are one of the most mistreated breeds in the world. If you want to make a difference, you can consider supporting or contributing to a rescue organization dedicated to their cause.

In Conclusion: The Whippet is a sweet, affectionate dog that can make a wonderful pet for the right family. Potential owners should do plenty of research before adopting, as they do have some specific needs.

Do you have any questions about Whippet care? Please do not hesitate to contact us if ever we can be of assistance. As your Nacogdoches, TX veterinarian, we’re here to help! 

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