Max spent the rest of his life with my parents, accompanying them through the final stages of their lives and bringing them daily joy in the process.
During his fourteen years of life, Max thoroughly demonstrated the finest characteristics of the breed.
Firstly, the speed, for which whippets are renoun, reaching speeds of up to 65 kilometres per hour over short distances. Whippets are sprinters. Their sleek bodies, with long legs, huge chests and streamlined shape are features designed for running fast. Over a short distance, whippets can even out-speed a greyhound. Anyone who has ever witnessed a whippet in full flight will recognise the sheer poetry in motion of the breed.
Secondly the couch potato factor, the whippets capacity to sleep and laze around. Yes, whippets need to recover from such huge spurts of energy used up in their sprints. This means whippets are gentle and not particularly demanding of attention, during times not at full pelt, making them ideal pets for young children, elderly people, nursing homes and anyone not wanting a 24/7 highly active dog. Their capacity to dream is evident, when they madly whimper, twitch and run with their legs as they rest, as their mind, no doubt is busy chasing a rabbit!
Other qualities that commend whippets as ideal family pets include their intelligence, loyalty, affectionate nature and usually superb social skills with both people and other pets. They are a nice size, being big enough to not require bending down for pats, but light enough to easily lift into the car, in the unfortunate circumstances they are injured.
Whippets are not an aggressive breed, so are not going to serve as guard dogs successfully. However, if anyone was to threaten their family, then, even a timid whippet will act as protector.
Whippets are thin skinned and fine coated. They feel the cold here in Ballarat, so like to be indoors in winter, except when they go out for that vital sprint. Even then, they like a warm coat, to protect them from the elements. They require no grooming other than an occasional claw trim and are not smelly, so only need a bath to bring up their colour, or if they roll in something disgusting.
Their thin skin also makes it an issue if they are out socialising with more aggressive breeds. I only take my whippet boy to romp with friends in Victoria Park’s off leash area, here in Ballarat, wearing a coat to protect him from scratches and bites. Another issue here, is that running at speed, as they do, they are vulnerable to injury through impaling themselves on unseen objects, especially if on the trail of a rabbit. Be careful to exercise them only in clear areas if this is an issue for you, but if you do want your whippet to engage in what comes naturally, then just be aware, that serious impalement of its chest, may be the outcome.
Your whippet will love to chase things. They were bred to chase rabbits, but with good training from puppyhood, you can train your whippet not to chase birds or cats. The Whippet Association of Victoria, also holds whippet race days, which are an excellent outlet for your whippet to indulge in what comes naturally; run and chase!
Whippets are also good at jumping and climbing. This makes them ideal candidates for agility training and competitions. I have trained my whippet boy to jump “over” obstacles on command, which he absolutely loves. Their minds and bodies are active, so any stimulation, or challenges you can provide is appreciated by them.
My whippet eats 2 cups of quality dry food a day, plus a big chunk of mince or sausage. Twice a week he has a rib bone to clean his teeth and training treats are a regular addition to his diet.
Ideally, whippets are naturally thin dogs. Their ribs, but not spine, should show when they are in top condition. Some people cannot bear that whippets are so thin and are repulsed by the breed. However, if you are lucky enough to be owned by a whippet, you will meet a legion of whippet lovers as you walk proudly with your whippet at your side in public.
Whippets are not barkers. They do vocalise with yowls and the odd yap, with joy and excitement, but it is rare to hear them bark more than three barks in a row and only then, to let you know they are worried about something. This is another bonus with keeping them as city dogs!
Paintings of whippet shaped dogs go back as far as Egyptian times, though the breed is meant to have originated in the North of England, for hunting and poaching rabbits as well as companions to their owners. Certainly, they are closely related to Greyhound and Italian Greyhounds. The long haired equivalent of a whippet is the picturesque Saluki!
The two daily essentials to keep your whippet a happy and balance dog is a walk and an opportunity to run. Whippets were bred to sprint. Failing to find a place for them to do this regularly and safely means you should probably look for another breed. However, if you can provide a place for them to sprint, they do not need a big yard, or a lot of space at home.
As a gentle, smart, loving and affectionate companion, that is content to quietly relax at home, but will enjoy robust outdoor activities with you, whilst not requiring much time grooming, I can vouch that whippets are truly “top dogs”!