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The Whippet: Your Complete Dog Breed Guide - PawSafe

The Whippet: Your Complete Dog Breed Guide

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

The Whippet

Whippets, with their sleek forms and piercing gaze, embody the essence of grace and speed in the canine world. Often described as the perfect blend of athleticism and companionship, they make a sophisticated yet playful addition to any family. However, like any breed, they come with their own set of challenges and rewards.

In this article, we aim to explore the characteristics, care needs, and suitability of Whippets as family pets. To ensure our information is accurate and insightful, we have consulted sources and interviews with Bo Bengston, a respected Whippet expert from Sighthound Review. His extensive knowledge and experience with sighthounds provide us with a unique perspective on what it truly means to live with a Whippet.

This introduction sets the stage for a deeper exploration into the world of Whippets, leveraging expert insights to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the breed.

Whippet Keypoints

  • The Whippet is a medium-sized sighthound known for its sleek build, gentle temperament, and surprising bursts of speed.
  • Whippets are intelligent and athletic dogs that excel at lure coursing and racing.
  • Despite their athletic prowess, Whippets are calm and affectionate companions indoors.
  • These gentle dogs are great for active families and adaptable to apartment living with moderate exercise.
  • Whippets are relatively low-maintenance when it comes to grooming thanks to their short, smooth coat.

The Whippet Profile: Physical and Personality Traits

three Whippet dogs blue, black and fawn for Whippet dog physical traits

According to the AKC breed standard, Whippets are medium-sized dogs with an elegant and athletic build. They typically stand between 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm) tall at the shoulder and weigh between 25 to 40 pounds (11 to 18 kg). 

They have a sleek, streamlined body designed for speed, characterized by a deep chest, narrow waist, and long, slender legs. 

Their short coat is smooth and comes in a variety of colors, including black, white, red, blue, fawn, brindle, and various combinations of these.


Whippets are known for their quiet, friendly nature and affectionate behavior. They are often described as gentle and loving companions who enjoy spending time with their families. Despite their calm demeanor as adults, they are lively and energetic during their puppy years. Expert Bo Bengston aptly describes this transformation:

“Whippets are naturally civilized, they are so sophisticated and easy to keep. That is if you can survive the first year. Having a whippet puppy in the house is a bit like having a live squirrel in the house, they climb on everything, they run around, they chew on everything and they can be a nuisance. But as adults they are very sensible, sweet, and easy to handle.”

This blend of spirited youth and serene adulthood makes Whippets a unique and rewarding breed to own. While they thrive on human companionship and can be quite attached to their owners, they are also independent enough to be left alone for reasonable periods. 

Their sophisticated and easygoing nature makes them excellent pets for a variety of households, provided they receive adequate exercise and mental stimulation.

Living with a Whippet: Pros and Cons

living with Whippets pros and cons two Whippets sleeping on a couch

Whippets are known for their gentle demeanor, making them wonderful pets for many households. Their friendly and quiet nature, combined with minimal grooming needs and ease of training, makes them an appealing choice for families and first-time dog owners. However, like any breed. 

Whippets come with their unique set of challenges. They are sensitive to cold, have a high prey drive, and require a home where they can be part of the family. This section explores the pros and cons of living with a Whippet, helping you determine if this elegant and affectionate breed is the right fit for your lifestyle.

Good for families and first-time or inexperienced ownersSensitive to cold (need sweaters in cold weather)
Easy to trainProne to sunburn if light-colored and exposed to heat for too long
Very quietNot good guard or watch dogs due to their sweet and quiet nature
Relatively healthyHigh prey drive and will chase smaller animals. Will chase cats if the cats run away from them.
Laid-back dogs that love to sleep on the couch all dayNot always suitable for small children due to their sensitivity
Only need about 15 minutes of free running dailyNot allergy-friendly
Very adaptable to small spaces if given time to runNeed to be part of the household and prefer homes that allow them on furniture
Light shedders with minimal grooming needs
Get along well with other dogs and animals when socialized
Intelligent and easy to train

Whippet vs. Italian Greyhound vs. Greyhound: What’s The Difference?

Whippet vs Italian Greyhound vs. Greyhound

When choosing a sighthound, understanding the differences between Whippets, Italian Greyhounds, and Greyhounds can help you determine which breed best fits your lifestyle. It’s also easy to get these dog breeds confused, so what’s the difference between them?

Whippets are medium-sized with a balanced temperament, making them versatile companions. 

Italian Greyhounds are the smallest and most delicate, needing gentle handling and warmth. Greyhounds, the largest, are calm and reserved, requiring the most exercise but adapting well to various living environments despite their size. This comparison will help you identify the ideal sighthound for your needs and preferences.

CategoryWhippetItalian GreyhoundGreyhound
Size and BuildMedium-sized, elegant and athletic build. Stands 18-22 inches (46-56 cm) tall, weighs 25-40 pounds (11-18 kg).Smallest, delicate and slender build. Stands 13-15 inches (33-38 cm) tall, weighs 7-14 pounds (3-6 kg).Largest, robust and muscular build. Stands 27-30 inches (68-76 cm) tall, weighs 60-70 pounds (27-32 kg).
TemperamentBalanced temperament; slightly playful and adaptable.More delicate and sensitive, requiring gentle handling.Calm and reserved, dignified and independent.
Exercise NeedsModerate exercise needs; enjoys sprinting but also loves lounging.Least exercise needs; enjoys short bursts of play.Highest exercise needs; enjoys long sprints and regular vigorous exercise.
Living EnvironmentsAdaptable to apartments and homes with yards; content with daily exercise and indoor relaxation.Well-suited for apartments; needs warmth and a cozy environment.Adapts well to both apartments and homes with yards due to their laid-back nature despite their size.
Health and LongevityRelatively healthy but prone to heart conditions; lifespan of 12-15 years.May have dental health concerns; lifespan of 12-15 years.Prone to osteosarcoma (bone cancer); lifespan of 10-14 years.
Ideal OwnersVersatile, fits well with many families; needs companionship and moderate exercise.Needs gentle handling and warmth; best for owners who can provide a calm and protected environment.Thrives with owners who appreciate their quiet dignity and can provide regular exercise and companionship.

Whippet Common Health Issues & Lifespan

White Whippet standing in field how long do Whippets live

Whippets are generally known for their good health and can live around 12 to 15 years. Proper care and attention to their specific health needs can help ensure a full and healthy life.

To understand more about genetic predispositions in Whippets, we refer to Dr. Alex Gough’s comprehensive guide, “Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats“. This resource is invaluable for pet owners looking to deepen their understanding of breed-specific health issues.

Cardiovascular Conditions

Whippets are susceptible to several heart conditions, including Mitral Valve Disease. Studies indicate that Whippets are significantly more likely to develop this condition compared to crossbreeds. The onset of heart issues in Whippets necessitates regular veterinary check-ups to manage these risks effectively.

Drug Reactions

Whippets can have Multiple Drug Sensitivity, linked to the MDR1 mutation, which affects how their bodies handle certain medications. This sensitivity is particularly important to consider during treatment scenarios as it can lead to severe neurological signs if not managed correctly.

Hematological/Immunological Conditions

Eccentrocytosis, a condition involving abnormal red blood cells, has been noted particularly in Whippets, affecting their overall blood health. Additionally, they can suffer from Phosphofructokinase Deficiency, an inherited condition that becomes evident around one year of age, leading to exercise intolerance and other symptoms.

Musculoskeletal Conditions

A notable condition among Whippets is the presence of Double Muscling, caused by a mutation in the myostatin gene. This condition results in a heavily muscled appearance and can contribute to muscle cramping and unique physical characteristics like an overbite.

Cancerous Conditions

Whippets show a higher propensity for certain cancers, such as Canine Cutaneous Histiocytoma and Haemangiosarcoma, compared to crossbreeds. These conditions require vigilant monitoring and prompt veterinary intervention upon detection.

Eye Conditions

Whippets are at risk for several eye conditions, including Cataracts and Primary Lens Luxation, both of which can significantly affect their quality of life. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is also a concern, with a notable prevalence in the breed, leading to potential blindness if untreated.

Physiological Conditions

Interestingly, many Whippets can exhibit an Innocent Systolic Heart Murmur, often associated with athletic training and not necessarily indicative of underlying heart disease. They also tend to have larger heart sizes and reduced thyroxine levels compared to other breeds, which are physiological traits that veterinarians must consider during diagnosis and treatment.

Best Dog Food For Whippets

When selecting dog food brands, it’s important to choose those that offer high-quality ingredients and cater to the specific nutritional needs of different life stages and health conditions of Whippets. Here are some recommended dog food brands for Whippet puppies, adults, and seniors, as well as options for those with specific health needs like heart conditions:

For Puppies

  1. Royal Canin Medium Puppy – Specifically designed for puppies of medium-sized breeds, this food offers a balanced diet with optimal levels of protein and fats to support healthy growth and development.
  2. Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Small Paws – This formula provides high-quality protein for muscle growth, plus DHA from fish oil for healthy brain and eye development, suitable for small and medium breed puppies.

For Adult Whippets

  1. Orijen Original Dry Dog Food – High in protein from free-run chicken, turkey, and fish, this food helps maintain lean muscle mass and is grain-free to aid digestion.
  2. Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 – Formulated for active dogs, this product offers a 30% protein and 20% fat ratio to fuel metabolic needs and maintain lean muscle.

For Senior Whippets

  1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior – Tailored for older dogs, this formula includes proteins, antioxidants, and L-carnitine to help maintain muscle mass and support overall health in aging dogs.
  2. Wellness Complete Health Senior – This food provides whole foods, balanced nutrients, and reduced calories to meet the needs of less active, aging dogs, ensuring they maintain a healthy weight.

For Whippets with Heart Conditions

  1. Hill’s Prescription Diet h/d Heart Care – Specifically formulated for dogs with cardiac conditions, this diet is low in sodium and high in taurine and L-carnitine to support heart health.
  2. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Early Cardiac (EC) – An early-stage heart disease food that is moderate in sodium and enriched with nutrients like taurine to support heart function.

When choosing food for a Whippet with specific health issues or dietary needs, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian. They can provide guidance tailored to your dog’s individual health profile and nutritional requirements.

Daily Care and Management for Whippets

Whippet in harness running over water daily routine care exercise needs for Whippets

Proper daily care and management are essential for maintaining the health and happiness of your Whippet. This section focuses on the specific needs of Whippets, drawing on expert insights to provide tailored recommendations for grooming, routine care, and exercise.


Whippets possess a short, fine coat that is generally easy to maintain, which simplifies the grooming process significantly. 

Bo Bengston, a renowned sighthound expert, emphasizes that Whippets don’t require extensive grooming — a monthly bath is sufficient to keep their coat clean and healthy since they are typically allowed on furniture and need to be kept tidy. Between baths, use a soft bristle brush or a grooming mitt once a week to remove loose hair and distribute skin oils, which will help maintain their coat’s natural luster.

Routine Care

  • Check your Whippet’s ears weekly for signs of infection, irritation, or wax buildup. Clean them using a vet-approved ear cleaner. Whippets’ ears aren’t as prone to infection as those of dogs with longer, floppier ears, but regular checks are still essential.
  • Dental health is crucial for Whippets. Brush their teeth several times a week with a toothpaste formulated for dogs to prevent tartar buildup and gum disease. Considering their expert’s mention of low grooming needs, focus on integrating dental care as a routine aspect of their health management.
  • Keep your Whippet’s nails trimmed to prevent discomfort while running and walking. This breed is active and uses their feet heavily, so regular nail maintenance is necessary to avoid overgrowth and splitting.

Exercise Routines

Bo Bengston notes that Whippets require about 15 minutes of intense running daily to satisfy their exercise needs. They thrive on having a safe, enclosed space where they can sprint freely, which is crucial for their physical and mental well-being. 

Beyond this burst of intense activity, Whippets are content to relax for the rest of the day. Include activities such as:

  • Fetch – This game caters to their chasing instincts and provides short bursts of running.
  • Agility Training–  Engaging them in agility training not only meets their physical exercise needs but also provides mental stimulation.
  • Daily Walks – While they do need a chance to run, daily walks are also important for their routine, helping to keep them mentally stimulated and socially engaged. Walks should be on a leash unless in a secured area, as their prey drive can lead them to chase small animals.

By integrating these specific grooming, care, and exercise practices into your daily routine, you can ensure that your Whippet remains healthy, happy, and well-adjusted to family life.

Training and Behavior for Whippets

Owner training Whippet to shake paw how to train Whippets

Proper training and behavior management are crucial for ensuring that Whippets become well-adjusted and obedient companions. Despite being ranked as the 51st most intelligent dog breed by Dr. Stanley Coren, Whippets’ easygoing nature often leads owners to overlook the benefits of comprehensive training. 

However, investing time in training and socialization can significantly enhance the quality of life for both the dog and owner.

Behavioral Management

Whippets are intelligent and eager to learn, which makes them generally responsive to training if approached correctly. To leverage their intelligence:

  • Use treats, praise, and play as rewards. Positive reinforcement helps reinforce good behavior and motivates them during training sessions.
  • Establish and maintain clear rules. Consistency in commands and expectations helps your Whippet understand and adhere to household rules.
  • Keep training sessions short and engaging. Whippets are more responsive when training involves variety and challenges that keep them mentally stimulated.

Addressing Behavioral Challenges

  • Whippets have a strong prey drive, making them prone to chasing small animals. Training them to respond to commands like ‘come’ or ‘leave it’ in controlled environments is essential. Start this training in a secure area and gradually introduce distractions to ensure they listen even in tempting situations.
  • Keeping them on-leash in parks or places with small animals is sometimes best to avid them chasing after small wildlife or other small animals
  • Whippets are sensitive both physically and emotionally. They respond best to gentle training methods. Harsh corrections can be counterproductive, leading to timidity or anxiety.
  • Teach your Whippet impulse control exercises, such as waiting for permission before eating or gently taking treats, which can help manage their instincts and improve overall obedience.

Importance of Socialization

  • Introduce your Whippet to a variety of people, environments, sounds, and animals early in their life. This exposure helps them become more adaptable and less fearful in different situations.
  • Continue to expose your Whippet to diverse scenarios throughout their life. Regular visits to dog parks, urban walks, and interaction with other dogs and people can help maintain their social skills.
  • Enroll them in puppy classes or doggy daycare where they can interact with other dogs under supervision. These structured settings help reinforce social norms and behaviors in a controlled environment.

Although Whippets are relatively easy to keep, dedicating time to comprehensive training and socialization can greatly enhance their abilities to interact safely and enjoyably with their surroundings. It not only fulfills their potential but also strengthens the bond between you and your Whippet.

Purchasing and Adoption of Whippets

Brindle Whippet puppy for sale

When deciding to bring a Whippet into your life, whether through purchase or adoption, it’s important to choose a path that supports ethical breeding and animal welfare. Here’s how you can ensure a responsible choice:

Finding Reputable Breeders

To find a reputable Whippet breeder, consider the following guidelines:

  • Look for breeders who perform health screenings on their breeding dogs to ensure they are free of genetic diseases. Ethical breeders will be transparent about the health and lineage of their puppies.
  • Visit the breeder’s facility in person. This allows you to see the conditions in which the puppies are raised and how they interact with the breeder.
  • A reputable breeder should be willing to provide references from previous buyers and veterinarians.
  • The best place to find an ethical breeder is through breed-specific clubs. For Whippets, the American Whippet Club offers resources and referrals to trusted breeders committed to the health and welfare of the breed.

Adoption Options

Adopting a Whippet can be a rewarding alternativ-e-archive to purchasing from a breeder:

  • Organizations such as WRAP Whippet Rescue specialize in rehoming Whippets and provide a valuable service by helping these dogs find forever homes. They assess the health and temperament of each dog to match them with suitable families.
  • Adoption not only gives a dog a second chance at a happy life but often involves lower costs compared to purchasing from a breeder. Rescue Whippets are usually spayed or neutered and vaccinated, which can save you initial veterinary expenses.

Cost Overview

  • Typically, you can expect to pay between $800 and $2,000 for a Whippet puppy.
  • Owning a Whippet involves ongoing expenses such as food, veterinary care, grooming, and training. Regular expenses include high-quality dog food, annual vet checkups, vaccinations, and heartworm prevention. Also, consider costs for items like leashes, beds, and toys.

Choosing whether to purchase from a reputable breeder or adopt from a rescue should be based on thorough research and consideration of your ability to meet the needs of a Whippet. Both paths require a commitment to responsible pet ownership, ensuring your Whippet leads a happy, healthy life.


Choosing to bring a Whippet into your home is a decision that promises both joy and responsibility. Whether you’re drawn to their sleek appearance, affectionate nature, or their history as a capable sighthound, Whippets make wonderful companions for those who understand and respect their needs. By investing in proper care, training, and regular health management, you can ensure that your Whippet thrives in your family.

If you’re considering a Whippet, remember the importance of finding a reputable breeder or adopting from a rescue organization that prioritizes the welfare of these graceful dogs. Embrace the opportunity to provide a loving, structured environment for your Whippet, and you will be rewarded with a loyal and charming companion for years to come.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.