Whippet: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners



Capuski / Getty Images

The whippet is a dog breed quite similar to the greyhound, though smaller in size. They can run as fast as 35 miles per hour, making the whippet the fastest dog breed of its size. This sighthound is also known for its alert, friendly, and playful demeanor. The joyful whippet is a lovely and loyal companion that makes a delightful addition to almost any household.

Breed Overview

Group: Hound

Height: 18 to 22 inches

Weight: 25 to 40 pounds

Coat: Short and smooth

Coat Color: Black, blue, fawn, red, white, and various shades of brindle, or a combination of any of these colors

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Temperament: Quiet, friendly, gentle, calm, affectionate, Peaceful, Sweet-Tempered

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: England


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Characteristics of the Whippet

Sleek and skinny, whippets are an underrated and easy dog breed perfect for families of all types. Their approachable size and medium exercise needs mean they require a below-average amount of care, while their sweet and easy-going temperament makes them just as likely to enjoy an evening on the couch or a walk in the park.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Whippet

The whippet was the result of selective crossbreeding between greyhounds and terriers in England, explaining its appearance as a "miniature greyhound." Once used by the English working class to hunt small game (particularly rabbits), the breed eventually became quite valued in the sport of coursing. Much like the greyhound, the whippet is an extremely swift runner and is considered the fastest dog of its size.

The whippet was first brought to the United States in the late 1800s and registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1888. Surprisingly, the breed was not officially recognized by the English Kennel Club until 1891.

Whippet at Westminster dog show
This whippet Ch. Courtenay Fleetfoot was named best in show at Westminster Kennel Club show. Bob Gomel/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images 
Whippet breeder
September 2, 1922. Mrs. Charles G. West Jr., one of the largest breeders of Whippets in this country, weighing in her entry, "Madford Man-O-War", for the Whippet race. Bettmann / Getty Images

Whippet Care

Whippets are very affectionate with their families and prefer not to be left alone, lest they experience separation anxiety. If your dog must be alone most of the day, a whippet may not be the best choice. They are rarely aggressive and act quite welcoming to strangers. For this reason, they do not make ideal guard dogs.


When it comes to whippets, it's important to ensure they get a moderate amount of exercise to circumvent any behavioral issues. Without exercise, you may see some destructive indoor habits, but they will wear off steam quickly when exercised. They tend to get along well with other dogs without being prone to aggression or dominance.

Whippets do love to run, so be sure to provide them with plenty of space and daily exercise. As a sighthound, the whippet is likely to run after anything in motion, and will not easily find its way back. The breed should never be permitted to run off-leash, and the "invisible fence" is not an option, as they will not stop once they spot something to chase. A fence that is 5 to 6 feet tall should keep them safely in the yard.


The whippet has a very short, smooth coat that needs very little grooming. The breed sheds at a low to moderate rate, but shedding tends to increase seasonally. Most whippets will only need periodic brushing with a grooming mitt and occasional bathing. Their nails should be kept short to prevent slipping on slick floors.


Proper training and socialization are both important for the whippet, as with all dogs. The breed is able to learn well with persistence and encouragement, though they do not seem to do well with crate training and often exhibit claustrophobia.

The American Whippet Club notes that whippets often show "Excessive Greeting Disorder" for both their family and anybody visiting. You will need to train your whippet not to be over-exuberant when you come home or somebody rings the doorbell.

It is important to know that cats and other small animals (such as squirrels) may provoke the whippet's predatory instinct. Proper socialization is essential, but the breed might never truly be trusted around small creatures. They are suitable for multi-dog households as long as any other breeds are similarly well-behaved with other dogs.

Whippet puppy
Whippet chasing ball
Whippet and owner

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in whippets. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Von Willebrand's Disease: A blood-clotting disorder
  • Anesthesia Sensitivity: All sighthounds are more sensitive to barbiturates than similarly-sized dogs. Ensure your veterinarian is familiar with this before any treatments requiring anesthesia.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): An inherited disease of the retina that leads to blindness in affected dogs
Whippets as Pets

Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

A whippet will need two meals a day of up to 3/4 cup of dry dog food. Individual needs depend on the dog's size, activity level, age, and other factors. Your dog's nutritional needs will change throughout its life, so discuss what is appropriate with your veterinarian to get recommendations. Be sure to monitor your pet's weight to ensure the dog does not pack on any extra pounds.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Whippet

If you think you are ready to get a whippet and believe it may be the right companion for you, then your best option may be to start with the American Whippet Club. A responsible breeder should register the litter with the AKC and provide registration applications upon request. The American Whippet Club encourages the registration of all whippets, even those bought solely for companions, and you may find that if you develop an interest later in coursing or obedience, you will be glad that you have a registration number for your dog.

You can also use local online pet adoption services like Petfinder or Adopt a Pet and search by breed, but in those cases, you may not have pedigree papers or get information about the dog's upbringing. Much like a rescue or dog shelter, you rarely get a full accounting of the dog's lineage or family history.

Whippet Overview

  • Friendly with visitors, children, and other animals

  • Does not shed much

  • Good apartment companion

  • Can get destructive if left alone or with no outlet for exercise

  • Quick to chase other animals; do not let off leash

  • Prone to separation anxiety

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any breed, if you think the whippet is the right dog for you, be sure to do plenty of research before adopting one. Talk to other whippet owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you are interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are Whippets good apartment dogs?

    This breed generally does well for apartment living, since it's not known to be much of a barker, is fairly inactive indoors, and just needs a good walk or run.

  • Are whippets good family dogs?

    Whippets get along extremely well with children. Their size is just right for not knocking over small kids and they are big enough not to be easily injured. However, you will need to make sure your kids are old enough to treat a dog with respect. In return, a whippet can be a great companion for kids, especially if they play fetch and other active games to wear off energy.

  • Are whippets aggressive?

    Whippets are not considered an aggressive breed at all and are known to get along very well with other pets in the household or those they encounter out at the park or trail. That being said, they do have a strong chase instinct and will be prone to going after small animals they may spot outdoors like squirrels and other wildlife.