Whippet style dogs can be seen in paintings, tapestries and works of art going back hundreds of years.
The modern whippet's most commonly listed ancestors are the Greyhound, the Italian Greyhound, and the Bedlington, Manchester, and English White Terriers. Whippets were once called Snapdogs, because of their ability to snap up and kill rats and hares. They were also referred to as the "poor man's Greyhound," as they were often kept by coal miners who raced them for sport. These early whippets were often the most valuable thing the working man owned, and they lived in their owners' houses, sleeping by the fire or curled up in bed with their people. Many were said to be fed better than the miners' own families.
Personality Traits of the Whippet
Whippets are playful but gentle dogs and make lovely family pets. Their personalities vary of course but on the whole they are a relaxed breed and spend much of the day fast asleep in the most comfortable and sunny spot they can find.
Whippets can be very mischievous! Behaviour such as leaping to the kitchen counter and surfing for food or tearing up a sofa cushion to make it softer is not uncommon, especially in puppies and young adults. Whippets do mellow as they grow up, but as puppies they can really be very naughty. These are not pups you want to leave loose in the living room while you nip out on an errand.
Whippets are sighthounds, bred to hunt game on sight. While generally not stubborn, they're independent and not the easiest breed to train. Don't let that discourage you: They are very intelligent and all can learn house manners easily, like sit, down, and stay. Some do well with more advanced obedience, including obedience competition. Most enjoy lure coursing (chasing a plastic bag pulled by a string) and racing and are also good in agility and flyball competition.
Rough handling, even in play, is an absolute no-no and you'll get the best training results with treats and praise. They respond very poorly to force-training. Whippets are one of the most affectionate of breeds; once they get to know you, nearly all will return your hugs and kisses with interest, and most are real snugglers.
They're sometimes referred to as "Velcro dogs." You might have more company than you want in the smallest room, and if you go out to get something in from the car you may be greeted just as enthusiastically upon your return as you would be after a two-week absence.
Whippets & Children
Whippets are not nearly as delicate as they appear and are usually excellent with gentle children . As long as a child is old enough to know how to treat him and is taught how to play with dogs, a whippet is a good choice for a child. A very young child should never be left alone with a dog of any breed and interaction between a child and a puppy must be closely supervised, for the protection of both.
Whippets & Strangers
As a rule, whippets are friendly with strangers, often even if not introduced! They are rarely much good as guard dogs. This is not generally a very vocal breed, and some hardly ever bark at all. The most common reason for a whippet to bark is that he has learned that he gets what he wants by barking.
Whippets & Cats
Whippets were bred to course and kill rabbits and hares - small furry prey that runs. Though most whippets are not used for that purpose today, they are still bred with that instinct , and the ones who are coursed and raced are bred specifically for this prey drive. Very few whippets are born without it. Even if your dog is brought up with your cat and loves and plays gently with it, if he ever sees the cat running outside, it won't be his beloved Tiddles, but prey.
Many owners do keep cats and whippets together successfully, but even the best training cannot be guaranteed to control basic instinct. It is best to have a young puppy rather than an older dog if you already have a cat.
The Loose Whippet
Don't even walk a whippet from the house to the car without a lead. It is amazing how quickly the worst can happen, and the first time a whippet gets away from you can easily be the last. It's easy to become casual about it when your whippet is generally obedient and calm. Remember that if he's okay off-lead 99 times out of 100, that 100th time could be the day you lose your best friend.
If your whippet does get away from you in an area where you he should not be loose, don't chase him. There's no way you'll catch him. If at all possible, get his attention. (not easy if he is chasing the neighbourhood cat) Then fall on the ground and begin laughing and yelling. He will come back just to see why in the world you are acting so strangely. Don't grab at him. Calmly take his collar and praise him for coming.