This week we’re going to take a look at the Whippet. As you might guess, it’s because our Luna Lovegood is half Whippet.
See the resemblance?
It took us some time, and a trip down to Nevada to visit my sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law, to figure out that she had Whippet in her at all. The reason being, the woman we adopted Luna from had the mother dog, a Boxer/Border Collie mix, but never saw who the daddy was only that there was a male Labrador and a male Pitbull hanging around. So we thought, well, maybe she’s part Pitbull with those lovely ears and soulful eyes, but it didn’t quite match because she was just always so thin. Then, when we went down for my sister’s wedding we visited a dog park there and a man at the dog park asked if she was part Whippet because the way she ran after the ball was very Whippet-like. Then it clicked. Whippet! She’s half Whippet! No wonder she’s so thin! Apparently a little Whippet got to the mama dog 😉
As can be imagined, the Whippet is descended from the Greyhound.
It is not, however, a small Greyhound. The Greyhound was bred with small terriers to create the Whippet and, later, with the Italian Greyhound to perfect its elegant appearance.
They were first bred to hunt rats and rabbits, but were later put to use as racing dogs in a rudimentary event called “ragging.” In this event one person known as the slip would release the dogs at the beginning of the track and the dogs would then race to their handlers standing at the opposite end of the track waving towels.
As the sport gained ground, they were bred more and more for their speed and quick acceleration. They are, even now, the fastest dog of their weight class, achieving speeds up to 35 mph. This is, in large part, due to their unique way of running (which is how we found out Luna is part Whippet). They have what is known as a double suspension gallop. This results in all 4 of the dog’s legs being suspended twice in one stride; once when they are completely extended, and once when they’re tucked up under the body. (If it’s not clear, this means that all 4 paws come off the ground twice in one stride! Isn’t that just awesome?)
Today’s Whippet is an amiable, sleek, and beautiful medium-sized dog with a thin, smooth coat and intense prey drive. Be aware that with their thin coat their skin is not as protected as it might be in other breeds. It’s quite common for Whippets to get nicks, scrapes, and tears that may occasionally need stitches. Keep the wounds clean and clear of infection and they shouldn’t have any trouble healing. Their thin coats also make them unsuitable to live outdoors. They should be indoor dogs only and should only be let out for a few hours at a time, and even less when it’s cold. Should one wish to have them out in the cold for a longer period of time, a sweater can be used to help keep them warm.
Whippets are, in general, very affectionate with their family, though they are somewhat independent-minded and can be a challenge to train. There are many, however, that do well in obedience competitions as well as flyball, lure coursing, and agility.
As a sight hound, it’s best to keep Whippets on a leash or behind a secure fence at all times as they will take off after almost anything that moves. That means birds, cats, blowing leaves and, of course, more dangerous things such as joggers, bicycles, motorcycles, and cars. Whippets have been known to chase things for miles and not all dogs can find their way back home, so be careful to keep them properly contained. Underground electronic fences do not work. Their intense prey drive will have them ignoring the shock meant to keep them in and they’ll be gone within seconds.
The Whippet may not be the best choice of pet if one owns small animals as they were originally bred, and still have the instincts, to hunt small prey such as rats and rabbits. Some can live peacefully with cats and small, furry animals, but they should not be left unsupervised with them. They have a very high prey drive, and there have been cases of Whippets killing the family cat.
Whippets can be very timid if not properly socialized and introduced early and often to new sights and sounds. Socialization is a must for this breed to prevent them becoming fearful of new people, animals, sights, sounds, and situations.
They are suited to a small house or even an apartment as long as they have a marginally large yard to run in and are taken on at least one daily walk. Though not prone to barking, they will alert their owners to suspicious sounds or the approach of a strange person or animal. Despite being bred for racing, Whippets are often found cuddled up with their owners on the couch when not active and may even spend the majority of the day napping.
The Whippet is a great dog for first-time owners as they are easily house-trained, smart, and willing to learn. Keep in mind they do have that independent streak that will sometimes urge them to disobey or think about the command for a time before following it (Luna does this). They learn best with positive reinforcement and gentle instruction. Harshness can damage their confidence irreparably and should not be used.
If you are interested in adopting or purchasing a Whippet, please research the breed as, even though they are an easy to own dog, they do have their quirks! Research just makes knowing how to train them easier 😀
Fun Fact: Whippets were commonly known as “snap dogs” in 17th and 18th Century England for their tendency to “snap up” nearby prey.
Do you or have you owned a Whippet? Please tell us about him/her in the comments below! I’d love to hear about your experiences with the breed.
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