Whippet Temperament

The Whippet temperament and personality has been shaped by the historical background of the breed. Whippets, despite their working class roots, were never kenneled in the manner of the great hunting hound packs, nor were they expected to live outside in rough conditions and be guard dogs. The Whippet might have provided rabbits for the pot and sport for a good weekend’s gambling activities to prove its value, but it nonetheless lived under the same roof as its master, sleeping by the stove and eating food and scraps from the family table. On the weekends, Whippets which were successful in the early days of racing did not chase a mechanical lure as they do today, but instead ran with every ounce of speed they possessed down a track towards the master, who would be waving a rag, so being devoted to the master made for a more successful racing Whippet! Because of these origins, Whippets are natural family pets and housedogs, with a high prey drive and competitive nature, and are prone to become very attached to their master or mistress. They are also exceptional pot and pan-lickers!

--photo credit: Rachel Kurstin

At home, Whippets are generally quiet and gentle dogs, content to spend much of the day sleeping on the couch, crated, or on one of the soft dog beds popular with Whippet owners. They are not generally aggressive with other animals, and they are friendly to visitors. They are not prone to snapping, so they are good with young children so long as the children are gentle with them. Instead of biting or growling, many Whippets confronted with children who are too loud or physical with them often look for a place to hide. They may or may not bark when strangers arrive, and most are not suited to being guard dogs due to their trusting and unsuspicious nature. Every new encounter is treated by most Whippets as a chance to make a new friend. Outside and off-lead, however, particularly when they are racing or lure coursing, they demonstrate their superb athletic skills and will pursue their "quarry" (even when it is an artificial lure) with the heart of a lion. To see these dogs in full stride is breathtaking! Many Whippet owners who choose not to race or lure course their Whippets get great pleasure from seeing their athleticism in pursuit of tennis balls and flying discs.

Males vs. females as pets?

Unlike many other breeds, the males are as easy to housebreak, and no more aggressive than the females. Both sexes make excellent pets. Males tend to be slightly more loyal and enjoy repetitive play. They can be a good choice for a family with more active, young children. Females can be a little more complex and strong-willed, but are equally devoted to their owners. Males tend to run one to two inches taller, and three to six pounds heavier than females.

What are some of the negatives of the breed?

Please note that many Whippets do seem to suffer from "Excessive Greeting Disorder" characterized by wild displays of exuberance when their owners return from long absences of 10 minutes or more, or when guests and visitors arrive. This can be a problem with very young children or elderly folks in the house as they may easily be knocked over. The use of a crate when company is arriving can protect your visitors from an onslaught of Whippet EGD. This trait is quite difficult to train out once it has become established. Most Whippet owners don’t mind, but for those who do, use a crate or train your Whippet to hold a sit or down stay when people are arriving through the door.

One question every prospective Whippet owner must ask themselves is this: “What is my plan for making sure my Whippet is not going to be killed on the road?” The Whippet will chase any small object or animal that moves in an enticing way, and will do so regardless of whether or not that “prey” is across a busy road with oncoming traffic. A blowing piece of white trash, or a squirrel in the neighbor’s yard, or a cat streaking across the road…all of these events can spell tragedy in an instant if the Whippet were to bolt after it. This is why it is crucial that you are committed to walking your Whippet on a lead or exercising in a safely fenced area such as a dog park if you do not have a securely fenced yard at home. To be secure for a Whippet, a fence must be at least five feet high with no gaps big enough for the Whippet to put their head through.

Another question concerns the presence of non-canine pets in the home. Whippets can be accustomed to living in a house with cats and other small domestic pets if introduced to them as puppies, but that does not mean that a Whippet who lives very sociably with the family cat would not pursue a strange outdoor cat with deadly intent. It is recommended if you have an existing cat in the home to get a young puppy.  Not all adoptable adult Whippets can be considered “cat-safe.”

Can you keep your Whippet off the furniture? Probably not! They love the sofa and will gladly warm your feet in bed at night. They make wonderful hot water bottles! Luckily for them and for you, it is easy to keep your Whippet clean and free of external parasites so that he will be a welcome guest on your furniture. You can also put a sheet or throw over the "dog chair" and remove it when company comes. If having a dog that never gets on the furniture is important to you, best not to obtain a Whippet. Most Whippet owners enjoy the companionship of their Whippets as they read and watch television.

--photo credit: Angie Diehl

How much exercise do they need?

Whippets are sprinters, not distance runners, so sustained periods of exercise aren’t required to keep them happy and fit. They do enjoy long walks and many owners use them as jogging partners, but it is not necessary to give them hours of exercise every day if you can tire them out quickly. Play sessions with another dog are a great way to wear out your young Whippet, and many enjoy chasing balls or flying discs and can be quite quickly exercised by sprinting after such objects on multiple tosses and retrieves. Think about your ability to provide regular moderate exercise (such as walking or romping in the yard) plus at least four or five more strenuous sessions per week (such as running with another dog or chasing thrown objects in a safely enclosed area) before you select a Whippet as your next companion.

About separation anxiety and crate claustrophobia

Despite the desirability of early crate training in order to foster housebreaking, ease of travel, and protect your puppy when unsupervised, a percentage of Whippets do experience stress from crate claustrophobia, or develop separation anxiety. There is considerable controversy about whether these problems, which can be heartbreaking and stressful for the owner and are one of the major reasons for the rehoming of otherwise young and healthy Whippets, are primarily due to genetics or environment/upbringing. Regardless of the root causes, they are difficult problems for modern working families and singles to address. It is very important to give puppies or young adults enough exercise to tire them out thoroughly before expecting them to remain quietly crated during daytime hours. Having two Whippets that bond together and can be crated/confined in a larger space is a route that has worked for many. Other potential options, such as behavior modification, temporary medication or doggie daycare can be investigated with the help of professionals such as veterinarians and trainers/behaviorists. If you are interested in Whippets and are someone who knows they can only have one Whippet and they will need to leave the dog alone for most of the working day, you may wish to consider a crate-trained young adult instead of a puppy.

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