Whippets aren’t easy to keep as apartment dogs when they are puppies, but they mature into lovable couch potatoes who have good manners as adults—as long as they get 30 minutes to an hour of exercise every day.
Why People Love Whippets
Whippets captivate their owners with their large, expressive eyes.
They are built a lot like Greyhounds, their ancestor breed, except they are smaller and more curvaceous.
Unlike Greyhounds, Whippets are small enough to be lap dogs. Unlike Miniature Greyhounds, they are large enough to go along with you on a run or bike ride.
Whippets come in a variety of colors. Their coat is soft and sleek and very pettable. Because of their lack of body fat, Whippets are often described as heat-seeking missiles.
They take every opportunity to cuddle with their owners in cold weather.
Whippet Personality, Temperament, and Athletic Ability
There are two characteristics of Whippets that make them stand out from other breeds:
- Whippets respond to what they see, not just what they smell and hear. Whippets chase any small animal they see, including other dogs and cats. This isn’t because they are mean. It’s instinctual.
- Whippets are extremely loyal to their people. Training Whippets as puppies makes them social butterflies.
It is important to understand that Whippets aren’t automatically warm, cuddly dogs who are a friend with everybody.
You can train them when they are three or four months old to accept a variety of people and other pets, but if you don’t, antagonisms with other animals and strange people will persist throughout life.
It is also important that they do not have negative experiences with people, pets (especially cats), and things when they are six to nine months old.
Whippets and kids
Whippets are great with kids. They are famous for giving extremely active children an outlet for their excess energy.
Whippets will also energize older dogs, keeping them active and healthy.
Whippets and cats
Whether your Whippet will be able to live in the same apartment with a cat depends on training.
Introduce your Whippet to an adult cat when the Whippet is about seven weeks old, and they will be friends for life.
But if your Whippet’s first encounter with a cat is after the age of six months, problems are likely.
Whippets in play
Whippets love to play “catch me if you can.” Even if you are an Olympic sprinter, chances are that the Whippet will always win this game.
Whippets also love to catch Frisbees. But they will quickly become bored with a simple game of catch with a ball or fetch with a stick.
Whippets in competition
Whippets are major contenders in agility drills. They are the unrivaled sprinter in the canine world, accelerating to high speed around hairpin turns.
They are the most popular breed for lure-coursing, and they inspired a new sport, competitive Frisbee-catching.
The Basics About Keeping Whippets as Apartment Dogs
Here are some essential facts you need to know before you adopt a Whippet to live with you in your apartment.
Whippets usually meet weight requirements
Whippets usually weigh between 15 to 42 pounds (6.8 to 19.1 kg).
They are a little smaller than a standard Greyhound, which might be too large under the terms of your lease, but they are larger than a Miniature Greyhound.
Whippets are extremely affectionate dogs
Properly trained as puppies (see the section above), Whippets are the kind of dog that will nuzzle up to complete strangers seeking attention.
They love to spend all their time in close proximity to their human family. In this regard, they are wonderful apartment pets.
Whippets aren’t barkers but they are good watchdogs
The name “Whippet” comes from the English term “whappet,” which refers to a dog that yaps instead of barking.
Whippets won’t disturb the neighbors with lots of barking.
But they will let you know when someone is approaching the door or comes into your apartment uninvited.
As sighthounds, Whippets need to be kept on a leash outdoors
A sighthound is a hunting dog that pursues prey on sight rather than on command.
This is the kind of dog that will become excited at the sight of a bird or a squirrel.
Their flash-and-dash reflexes can send them in hot pursuit of small animals if you take them out without putting them on a leash first.
Whippets can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour (almost 60 kilometers per hour).
It is OK, and actually, a good idea, to let your Whippet run off leash in a well-fenced dog park if the park is surrounded by a fence at least six feet (2 meters) high.
Keep in mind that Whippets can jump 10 feet (3 meters) or more in a single bound when pursuing prey.
Whippets shed frequently
Whippets don’t shed a lot, but they shed all the time. Regular brushing (once a day is not too much) and biweekly bathing help to keep your Whippet presentable.
If you pet your Whippet while you are wearing dress clothes, your clothes will need a once-over with a lint brush.
But Whippets aren’t smelly
Whippets don’t have a typical “dog” order, and they groom themselves when their coats get dirty.
They aren’t as fastidious as cats, but they seem to enjoy keeping themselves clean. You still need to give your Whippet an occasional bath.
Whippets are low-maintenance with regard to health needs with one exception
Whippets don’t have a lot of the genetic illnesses that plague other breeds.
They aren’t especially prone to hip dysplasia or knee problems, although you can protect them from the disease by making sure they don’t have to go up and down stairs when they are puppies.
They don’t have hereditary blindness or muscle weakness. They don’t snore and they aren’t prone to gas.
There is a condition called hereditary phosphofructokinase deficiency that can occur in Whippets, but breeders test for it. An ethical breeder will at least disclose the condition, and will probably choose to give the dog a happy life in his own home.
However, Whippets absolutely, positively need regular nail clipping. You don’t want long nails in a pet that can run 35 miles per hour.
Learn how to trim your dog’s nails with this eBook from the American Kennel Club, or be sure there is a groomer nearby who can trim them every month.
You should also make sure your vet has experience treating sighthounds. Nearly (but not quite) all veterinarians will realize that sighthounds are very sensitive to anesthesia.
It’s not that your Whippet couldn’t have surgery. It is just that recovery can be complicated.
Whippets are sensitive to cold
Whippets were bred as hunting and racing dogs for English and Welsh coal miners who could not afford Greyhounds.
They raced their Whippets and used them for hunting rabbits, an essential food source for poor families of the time.
Whippets were prized possessions of owners who made sure they always had a place near the fire. Even today, most Whippets are cold-sensitive.
This means that you need to provide your Whippet with a well-heated space in cold weather.
You will need to invest in dog sweaters and paw mitts for outdoor runs in icy or snowy weather.
Puppy or Rescue Dog?
Whippet puppies are a challenge to train.
They are so stimulated by the world around them, by everything they see, that they have trouble focusing on learning a new command for more than a minute or two.
Training Whippet puppies requires many, many one- to two-minute sessions, dozens of times every day, over a period of months.
Sending your Whippet to obedience school helps. Once your Whippet has reached adulthood, however, you will have a docile, lovable dog that will probably live to be 12 to 15 years old.
Pure-bred rescue Whippets are available nationwide, but you will be interviewed to make sure you can provide a suitable home for your dog, and you may have to wait several months before a rescue Whippet becomes available.
There are some advantages to adopting a rescue Whippet. The rescue organization will make sure they are in the best health possible.
They will be clean, flea-free, and already housebroken. They will have developed the “snugglebunny” disposition of adults of the breed.
And you will have a great resource about all the ways you and your dog can have a happy experience together.
Frequently Asked Questions About Whippets as Apartment Dogs
Are Whippets hypoallergenic?
No. Whippets don’t shed a lot, but they shed constantly.
They also like to lick themselves, causing particles of dried saliva to accumulate in the air.
Can Whippets swim? Are they safe around the apartment swimming pool?
Some Whippets take to swimming naturally, but others don’t. They don’t like getting baths.
They won’t splash in a puddle if they can avoid it.
But some Whippets enjoy time in swimming pools, lakes, and rivers. Do not, however, assume that your Whippet can swim just because they like the water. Give your dog swimming lessons for safety’s sake.
Why do Whippets need special collars?
Whippets need “fishtail” collars. The widest part of the collar rests over the Whippet’s throat.
This design places less pressure on the Whippet’s long throat, so there is a lower risk of injury to the windpipe if the dog takes off suddenly in pursuit of a bird, a squirrel, another dog, or a neighborhood cat.
Do Whippets whine or bark a lot?
Whippets don’t whine or bark a lot. When they whine, it is usually because they can’t get to their favorite toy, they want to go outside, or they are hungry.
Or maybe the cat has taken over their bed. Whippets usually stop whining when the problem is fixed.
Barking is usually a sign of pent-up energy. Take a run with your Whippet, and in 30 minutes the barking will stop.
What is the best way to make sure my Whippet and my cat can get along?
Make sure your Whippet spent time with cats about the time they were weaned, around the age of two months.
During the second and third months of a puppy’s life, the brain is being wired to recognize friends.
Between the age of six and nine months, however, a dog’s brain is wiring to recognize threats.
It is important to introduce your Whippet to good experiences with cats early in life. Otherwise, it may be better not to try to keep both a Whippet and a cat.
Will my Whippet be a good hunting dog?
Whippets are more interested in chasing small animals than in helping you hunt for them.
Their prey drive is difficult to control. If you are planning to shoot the animal you hunt, a Whippet will not help you get more game.
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