Whippets Make Great Pets

By Walt Hutchens, Timbreblue Whippets

Whippets are great pets -- but (like every breed) not in every home.

PROS: Affectionate, healthy breed (but do research -- NO breed or mix is 100% free of health issues), VERY athletic, interesting, lots of cute behavior, often funny, generally trainable (housetraining normally easy), clean, short hair and modest shedding, mostly quiet in the house (you get 'zoomies' but no obsessive physical stuff), good bedwarmers, low to no barking, aggressive problems are very rare. Excellent with well-behaved GENTLE children and elderly adults except for a tendency to jump on people; you can train against this. Reasonably sturdy against the usual sorts of household accidents and events -- they don't break jumping off the sofa as some breeds will. Elegant appearance.

" . . . if the Whippet sees the cat as a small furry thing that's running . . . the Whippet has no idea that that furry thing is her good friend Muffy . . . "
CONS: High prey drive -- can and will catch and kill small animals including your cat, if she gets running room and takes off. This isn't an absolute -- quite a few people have both cats and Whippets -- but something you need to fully understand and (if you do get a Whippet) accept as a risk. VERY FEW Whippets (or other sighthounds) are safe with a cat that has running room and decides to run, however individual dogs of quite a number of other breeds also have 'high prey drive' and will kill a running cat.

Whippets that are raised with cats are generally fine with them -- even good friends -- in household settings, and 'indoor only' cats usually are safe. If your cat(s) go out, the safest plan is they're never out at the same time as the Whippet. A cat that sees a dog as an opportunity to teach a lesson may also be safe. "Yeah, that's blood running off your nose. Dogs drool, cats rule. What did you expect, STUPID?" A strong-minded cat that will stand up to the Whippet will be fine -- only a cat that runs is likely to be killed.

You only have a problem if the Whippet sees the cat as a small furry thing that's running. At that instant the Whippet has no idea that that furry thing is her good friend Muffy, and Muffy may be dead before she figures it out. This is a breed instinct issue and the amount of instinct varies from dog to dog (also, one Whippet is less likely to go after a cat than two or more). Unfortunately, the only way to be sure how much instinct your dog has is to give it some cats and see what happens.

I am more cautious than most Whippet owners. Many owners do have cats and never have a problem. But it does happen. Ours will often course stray cats that come into the yard, but we have lots of trees and as far as I know, the score is still Whippets 0.

Other Whippet CONS: Small prey 'leftovers' may be delivered with pride to your living room. MUST be leashed or fenced at all times -- Whippets can go 25 mph-up, and if yours takes off after a deer or small animal he may be out of sight in seconds; they have a poor sense of direction. Whippets often 'go feral' in 48 hours and will not come to you even if you do find them later on.

Whippets generally do best in homes where there's someone or another (friendly) animal for company; they are not ideal 'all alone' dogs. We recommend against buying a Whippet puppy unless an adult will be available most of most days for the first six months -- they need lots of attention and training to become healthy adults.

NOT suited to rough-and-tumble play with very active children. No padding so your Whippet will prefer to sleep on your softest furniture, including your new Ice White $2300 sofa. Natural criminals -- WILL be found eating the ham you set out on your dining room table just before you went greet guests at the front door and WILL pout for a full day when you scold for eating the ham. Edible items MAY (or may not) be safe on the top of the refrigerator; they WILL be eaten on lower surfaces.

Weight around 30#, height about 22 inches; vet/food/drug bills based on size will be moderate. Well-bred Whippets are not too difficult to find. Prices in the middle range -- say $800 +/- according to breeder and location.

Whippets like other breeds, vary. Some are true cuddlers who will be on the sofa with you whenever possible. Most, I'd say, prefer to be in the same room you're in -- in fact they're one of the breeds of which owners will say "Owning a ... means never having to go to the bathroom alone again." Many will insist on getting attention from you regularly -- but often that will be on their own schedule.

Remember that sighthounds are generally 'aloof.' This comes from the fact that these breeds were developed to hunt independently, working FOR the hunter rather that directly with the hunter. They're sort of the independent contractors of the hound world -- not employees.

I'd say that Whippets are the most affectionate of the sighthounds and they love their people. But they're not lap dogs, like (say) a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, that will simply soak up as much petting and affection as you will give.

They do love their comfort. Whippets demand soft beds (that's in the Whippet union contract) and enjoy covers and (in winter) PJs and other warm clothing, especially for outings. Most would prefer to sleep in your bed. They're usually tolerant of being dressed up, even by gentle children.

" . . . (Whippets are) the independent contractors of the hound world -- and they have Their Own Copy of the contract which may have clauses that you didn't notice in yours . . . "
Whippets insist on being spoiled. The bad news is that part of spoiling a Whippet is learning to be gentle when dealing with misbehavior. They're easily offended and no animal on the planet will make you feel guilty for longer than a Whippet if you say a harsh word when she (for example) jumps on the dining room table and helps herself to the turkey when you are at the front door letting your guests in.

Now repeat after me: "Now Antoinette, dear, Mummy is distressed when you help yourself to the dinner that she spent all day cooking." Well ... you need to practice saying that in a softer tone, but you've got the idea. Your Whippet will only pout for an hour or so.

Also practice your response to "Mom, this bed isn't soft enough." (The only correct answer is "Yes dear, I'll get you a much softer bed.") And "Mom, I want those treats on top of the refrigerator." ("Yes, dear.") And "Mom, there's a bit of food under the stove -- get it for me." ("Yes, dear.") Why yes, Whippets do get fat ... why do you ask?

Yes, independent contractors -- and they have Their Own Copy of the contract which may have clauses that you didn't notice in yours.

Doubtless I exaggerate a bit. Whippets generally make excellent pets but some of them will give a whole new meaning to 'dog training' if you allow them to.

Anyway, most breeders have a pretty good idea of the temperaments of their puppies by the time (8-10 weeks) that they start going to their new homes, and most litters have one that's more a snuggler than the others, so be sure you discuss your views on this with your breeder.

In my opinion Whippets are in the mid range of dog intelligence. They're not Border Collies -- but trust me, you do not want a BC as a family pet. Neither are they 'slow' or hard to train. They do agility, we have some that would be cinches for obedience competition (though probably not at the highest levels) and we haven't had problems with housetraining. They're plenty smart enough to be good pets and learn ordinary household obedience requirements. Some are somewhat independent thinkers but they are not stubborn.

"Whippets Make Great Pets" Copyright © 2007 Walt Hutchens.
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission.

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