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The Whippet: A Waterdown, ON Veterinarian Celebrates A Lightning-Fast Dog

February 15, 2024

There are a few special doggy holidays this month, including Whippet Day, which is celebrated on the 19th. Whippets may not be as well known as their larger kin, the Greyhound, but these sweet dogs could definitely use some love. A local Waterdown, ON veterinarian offers some insight into the breed below.

Whippet Basics

The Whippet is a Sighthound, which means that they track game visually. Whippets look very much like their close kin, the Greyhound, though they are smaller. Males can grow up to about 22 inches, with females being just a bit shorter, averaging 18-21. The pups weigh between 25 and 40 pounds, and can live about 12 to 15 years.

Fido’s name derives from a 17th-century word which meant to move briskly. (The term may have become obsolete if not for the Devo song.) That description is certainly fitting. Like the Greyhound, these sleek dogs are very fast. In fact, the Whippet was often described as the “poor man’s Greyhound.” They have the fastest idle-to-running acceleration speed of all our canine pals, and can actually reach speeds up to 35 mph.  And while the Greyhound holds the record of being the fastest dog on earth, Whippets can sometimes beat them.

Breed History

The Whippet was bred from English Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, and terriers. However, Fido has quite a large extended family tree. Similar Sighthounds include the basenji, Pharaoh hound or saluki. These dogs have been at our sides for some time. Dogs that closely resemble these pooches have been depicted in art from Ancient Egypt. The breed also has ties to dogs owned by the ancient Celts and Turks.

Whippets were bred from dogs that were used for poaching rabbits. They soon became popular with gamblers, and were commonly used as racing dogs in England during the 18th century. Fido was also sometimes called a Snap Dog, which meant he could win contests by ‘snapping up’ the most rabbits in a certain period of time. Thankfully, that sport is now outlawed.

Grooming And Coat

As far as coats go, these guys can wear 12 different colors and patterns, including fawn, red, orange, tan, cream, black, brindle, and blue. They can also be white or dun, though these colors are quite rare. They don’t need to be bathed too often, but should be brushed regularly. Use a soft brush: hard bristles may be too rough for Fido’s delicate skin. When you do bathe your canine friend, you’ll need to use a very gentle shampoo. Like Greyhounds, these guys are very sensitive to chemicals.

Because of their thin coats and lack of body fat, Whippets do not do well in the cold. Fido will need sweaters and jackets when it’s chilly out. They also absolutely hate hard floors: a comfy bed is a must.


Whippets are very affectionate. They tend to be very sweet pets, who can quickly melt hearts with their soulful eyes. They’re good with kids, and tend to get along well with other dogs. As far as cats go, it varies: if Fido is raised with Fluffy, he may be just fine. However, we wouldn’t recommend bringing a Whippet that hasn’t been around cats into a home with a kitty.

Are Whippets High Energy Dogs?

Because of their speed, one may assume that Whippets are very high-energy dogs. That isn’t necessarily the case. Fido does need a good walk every day, and will appreciate having a yard to zoom around in. However, once they have burned off their zoomies, Whippets usually turn into couch potatoes, and will happily spend a good chunk of their days napping and dreaming of chasing squirrels.

Do Whippets Bark A Lot? 

Those who prefer quiet dogs may want to take note: these guys rarely bark.

Are Whippets Cuddly?

Yes! Whippets are known to be very, very cuddly, and love to snuggle with their owners. 

Are Whippets Healthy Dogs?

There are a few things potential owners need to be aware of here. First and foremost, these dogs are not built to carry extra weight. While obesity is bad for all pups, it’s particularly detrimental for these guys, as they can quickly develop orthopedic issues if they are allowed to become obese. Because they are somewhat slender in nature, people may assume that Fido needs more meat on his bones, and overcorrect by overfeeding him. Consult your Waterdown, ON veterinarian regularly on your pet’s diet and exercise needs.

The breed standards do recommend a few specific tests, such as the Ophthalmologist Evaluation, BAER Testing, and Cardiac Exam.

It’s also important to note that, like many other Sighthounds, Whippets’ physiology is a bit different from that of other dogs. Their blood work may look a bit different. They’re also extremely sensitive to chemicals. That comes into play with things like sedation, parasite control, and even choosing lawn and garden products. Be sure to find a vet that is familiar with the breed.

What Are The Whippet’s Exercise Needs?

Like many other Sighthounds, Whippets can easily become fixated on things like cats and squirrels, and is somewhat prone to bounding off after them. You’ll need to keep a good leash on Fido during your walks. These guys can slip out of regular collars, due to the size and shape of their heads. They therefore need special collars, called Martingales. 

You may find Fido a very fun dog. Your canine pal may very well enjoy playing ball, or chasing a flying disc or lure.  Many Whippets also enjoy playtime with other dogs.

Are Whippets Hard To Train?

Whippets are quite intelligent. However, they are  easily distracted, and will run off after anything that catches their attention. Training is of course important, as it is with any dog. However, you should never rely on this alone, as your pet’s instincts as a Sighthound often override his petucation.

Are There Any Celebrity Whippets?

Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot to report here. There aren’t many famous Whippets. One was supposed to be in Alien 3, but was actually too cute for the role. Whippets also inspired the creation of their own sport, competitive canine Frisbee catching. However, Fido’s cousin, the Greyhound, has appeared in many films and TV shows. In fact, the Simpsons’ dog, Santa’s Little Helper, was also a Greyhound. 

Celebrating Whippet Day

How does one celebrate this pawesome occasion? Well, the obvious options would be to play Fido the Devo song, or perhaps watch the 2009 roller-derby movie Whip It. Your pooch may also appreciate a Pup Cup, which is whipped cream, though you don’t want to go too crazy with sweet treats.

Of course, if you don’t have time to do much on the 19th, you can just mark your calendar for July 4th, which is International Whippet Day.

Helping Whippets

As you may know, racing dogs have had a rough go over the last few centuries. Unfortunately the dog racing industry was more concerned with profit than animal welfare. This led to horrible treatment and a plethora of rescue dogs. Things have gotten better for the Greyhound here in the U.S., as dog racing has been outlawed in many places. However, there are still many Greyhound rescues in operation. Overseas, the Galgos dog, or Spanish Greyhound, another Sighthound, is also in need of help: the Galgos is one of the most abused breeds in the world. Consider donating to or otherwise supporting a rescue that helps one of these breeds.

Conclusion: Sweet, fast, and lovable, the Whippet can make a wonderful pet for the right family. Just do plenty of research before adopting one.

Do you have questions about Whippet care? Contact us, your Waterdown, ON pet hospital, today! We are dedicated to providing both excellent care and top-notch service.

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