Looking for information on the whippet breed?
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A quick summary of the breed’s history
The name “Whippet” first appeared in print in 1610. Many people support the theory that they are a cross between a Greyhound and Terrier dating from the 19th century in Britain. The antiquity of the Whippet is supported by many ancient sculptures and tapestries in many countries. Whippets were known to be great poacher’s dogs and the coal miners in Great Britain raced them for sport and dubbed them the “Poor Man’s Greyhound”.
What’s a whippet’s temperament like?
Whippets are lively and alert but not in the least high strung. They are a very versatile breed that can run, play and then be a couch potato 10 minutes later. Whippets are very attached to their people and those they love. Whippets are often recommended due to being a medium-sized, short-coated, relatively quiet and good-natured breed. What is NOT mentioned is that they can be very DESTRUCTIVE when young or left alone for long periods. They are not a suitable breed if you are gone 12 hours a day, every day. Even more importantly, Whippets were bred to RUN and CHASE and most possess a very strong PREY DRIVE, which means they will chase (and can quickly kill) most things that move outside (cats, squirrels, rabbits, etc). Unfortunately every year many whippets are seriously injured or killed while chasing “prey” as they are totally unaware of dangers of moving vehicles, etc. They are not a dog that can be taken off lead unless in a very safe environment. That said, if you do get a Whippet you will find that they are also great couch potatoes, love to share your bed, are great with kind children, and generally make fine pets.
Maintenance & care
Whippets are low maintenance. Since they have a single layer, short coat, they have no “doggy odour” and only occasionally require a bath, but do enjoy a good brushing with a hound glove. Toenails should be trimmed once a week. In spite of what some of the pet match sites would have you believe, they do shed, especially if they are not fed good quality food. Since they have very little body fat and very thin skin and coats they do not tolerate being cold or wet very well. Do not even think of getting one if you are not prepared to have it live in the house as one of the family!
Environment & exercise
Although Whippets can do well as apartment dogs, a fenced yard is ideal to have a whippet. You don’t require a lot of property, daily walks are all they need in exercise. Whippets are excellent house dogs and love nothing more than to snuggle under the covers. Whippets love to chase balls, frisbees and especially a white fur. A run in the park makes for a happy Whippet as long as there is a fenced-in, safe area. Whippets really enjoy lure coursing and racing where they can chase a “fake” rabbit. Whippets are also very adept at Flyball and Agility.
What kind of activities can I do with my Whippet?
Whippets are truly the “do-it-al” breed. You can have a lot of fun with your Whippet whether you choose lure coursing, racing, showing, obedience, rally, flyball, agility or just enjoying the wonderful companionship of this delightful breed. Check out the sites on the NWCC Links page to find out where you can get more information.
Sighthounds were originally bred to hunt many types of game, from small rabbits to the large wolves and deer. Put simply, lure coursing is a simulation of the chase. Two or three hounds of the same breed, selected by random draw, line up at the start line and, on the signal from the Huntmaster, are simultaneously “hand-slipped” by the handlers. The dogs follow an erratic course and are judged not only on speed, but on enthusiasm for the lure and the chase, follow (chasing directly behind the lure and not cutting corners), agility (cornering ability, surefootedness, etc.), and endurance (not running “out of gas” at the end of the course). The hounds are judged by two qualified judges and the one that crosses the finish line first is not always the winner. Courses are set up over a large area and can range from 400 to 1,500 yards in length. The length of the course, the length of the straightaways, the sharpness of the turns, and the terrain, as well as many other factors are variables used in designing the “hunt”.
The lure machine reels in the line at speeds up to and above 40 mph. At the end of the line is the lure — usually white plastic streamers — which the hounds chase. Pulleys are placed in the ground and the line is strung around them, permitting the lure to change directions and thereby simulating the turns made by live prey. Each hound runs twice (unless dismissed, excused, or disqualified for interference) and all the scores are posted for the exhibitors to see.
Only Afghan Hounds, Basenji, Borzoi, Scottish Deerhounds, Ibizan Hounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Greyhounds, Pharaoh Hounds, Saluki, Italian Greyhounds and Whippets one year of age or older and registered with the Canadian or American Kennel Clubs may enter lure field trials. Spayed females, altered males and those with show ring disqualifications may also compete.
A Field Championship is awarded to hounds who have earned 100 lure coursing points with at least one first or two second placements over competition. The maximum points per trial is 40, which is based on four times the number of dogs in the stake, to a maximum of 10 dogs. Points are also awarded for second, third and fourth, with a maximum of 30 points for 2nd, 20 points for 3rd and 10 points for 4th. All trial results are submitted to the Canadian Kennel Club which keeps accurate records for each hound.
STRAIGHT & OVAL RACING
There are two types of Whippet racing – straight racing and oval racing. Both are pure tests of speed and purely for fun, ribbons and titles. Since Whippets are sprinters rather than long-distance runners, many consider this the ultimate test. In straight racing, the whippets chase the artificial lure (plastic streamers/fake fur) for a distance of 150 or 200 yards in a straight line, out of starting boxes. At a race meet, Whippets run four times, and are matched with other Whippets who have shown similar ability in previous races. At the end of the meet, Whippets are assigned a score based on their performance in the four races they have run. Oval racing is very similar, except the races are run on an oval or U-shaped track setup with an inner rail for a distance of 220 to 440 yards. Smart Oval racers know to go to the rail quickly and hold that position. Oval races are usually run in groups of 3 to 5 whippets and each whippet races 3 or 4 times, depending on the distance. Scoring and grading are similar to straight racing. Most whippets enjoy racing, are easily trained and it is fun to compete with whippets of similar speed. Spayed and neutered whippets are eligible to compete. In straight racing, they must conform to the American Kennel Club breed standard which has a disqualification for over height and undersize, as well as several other breed standard disqualifications. Whippets at the highest level of racing generally come from those breeders dedicated to the sport whose breeding programs focus primarily on breeding for speed. If one wishes to successfully compete at a high level in racing, it is suggested a dog be obtained from a breeder with racing success.
Dog shows are the “beauty pageant” of the dog world, where structure, movement (and beauty!) are of prime importance. In dog shows, whippets are judging according to how well they conform to the CKC Breed Standard, a written description of the desirable traits of the whippet. Whippets need to be trained to “show” – must stand still during the judge’s examination which is often on a table, trot under control on a leash so that their movement can be evaluated. With practice, most owners can learn the basics of proper show handling and ring procedure. There are often Show Handling classes and “Fun Matches” which provide a great opportunity for novice dogs and handlers to practice their skills. For those unable to show their own dogs, there are many capable professional handlers who show dogs for a fee. Dog shows are held all both indoors and outdoors, throughout Canada and the world. Points are awarded for the number of dogs defeated on earning the award of Winners at a show. The Championship (Ch.) Title is awarded by the CKC to dogs who earn 10 points by defeating the required number of Whippets, under at least three different judges. Spayed and neutered whippets can only compete at Specialty shows in Altered classes and can earn an Altered Championship. If conformation is of interest, it is suggested that one purchase a whippet from a breeding program where the focus is on breeding for conformation, and to select a dog that is considered by its breeder to be show quality or show potential.
Agility is a very popular dog sport providing a lot of fun (and exercise!) for dog and handler. Developed in Britain, it was loosely modeled after equestrian show jumping. To compete, each dog is required to navigate an obstacle course under the direction of its handler within a set time and with a minimum of faults. The set of obstacles includes jumps, tunnels, ramps, catwalks (renamed dogwalks), teeter totters, and a series of upright poles that the dogs must weave through slalom style! Every course is unique. Agility is an excellent training/bonding activity for Whippets and their owners. Whippets enjoy testing their agility, coordination, and speed while navigating the course. Spayed, neutered and rescue dogs are eligible to compete.
OBEDIENCE and RALLY OBEDIENCE
Whippets are coming into their own as obedience dogs, thanks to the many methods of motivational training which have become popular with obedience instructors over the past 15 years. Obedience competitions are open to all registered Whippets, including those with disqualifying faults. The CKC rewards those handlers who successfully train their Whippets to perform exercises under their command with three titles: Companion Dog (CD, a basic obedience proficiency), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX, more advanced obedience, including jumping and retrieving), and Utility Dog (UD, very advanced obedience, including scent discrimination and work with hand signals only). In order to earn a title three passing scores must be earned under three different judges. Obedience Whippets can be obtained from any type of breeding program and spayed, neutered and rescue dogs are eligible. The most important requirement for an obedience Whippet is temperament — try to find one with an outgoing temperament who likes retrieving games and food rewards.
Flyball is a hurdle relay race for a team of four dogs. Each dog in turn goes over four jumps spaced 10 feet apart. At the end of the four jumps is what is called a flyball box. The dog presses the front of the box with its foot and out shoots a tennis ball which they catch and return over the four jumps. Once one dog passes the start/finish line, the next dog starts. Flyball is very exciting to watch. Titles are awarded to dogs based on their lifetime point accumulation. Points are earned by running on a team that completes the four dog relay in sufficient time. Whippets can be very good at flyball due to their speed and jumping ability, so look for a happy retriever who is very playful if you are interested in Flyball with your Whippet. Spayed, neutered and Rescue whippets are eligible to compete.
How do I find myself a Whippet?
Now you know a little about the Whippet and have decided this is the dog for you? Talk to breeders referred to you by this Club. Go to dog shows and talk to the breeders there. Do NOT be in a hurry. Nothing worthwhile is attained overnight. Reputable breeders do not have puppies available all the time, but their puppies will be worth waiting for. Be sure to visit a local breeder just to see what whippets are like in their home environment. Visit our “Members & Breeders” page for a NWCC club member in your area.
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