The breed was created in the late 18th century by crossing small Greyhounds and various terriers for the purpose of coursing rabbits and killing rats and other small vermin. When they weren’t betting on whose Whippet could kill the most rats in a given amount of time, workingmen such as miners raced the dogs against each other, giving rise to their nickname “poor man’s racehorse.” Today’s Whippet is still a fast and effective hunter, but in the home he’s a calm and quiet companion that loves nothing more than to snuggle with his family on the sofa or bed.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

At first glance, the Whippet seems like the perfect dog. He's a manageable size, doesn't mind snoozing the day away on the sofa, doesn't bark excessively and is friendly to guests and other people he meets. Whippets are extremely attached to their families and greet them joyously every time they see them --even when the separation has been for only a few minutes.

He likes kids and other dogs and often prefers to be part of a pack rather than an only dog. Whippets are generally easy to housetrain, although they're not wild about going out when it's rainy or cold. And everyone thrills to a demonstration of their muscular yet graceful athleticism.

So what's the downside? That same athleticism makes the Whippet an excellent counter surfer and fence jumper. Leave a plate of food on a counter or table and you have only yourself to blame when it disappears. He's also quite capable of breaking into the trash or the pantry in search of something good to eat.

He might bark to alert you that someone is at the door, but he is far from being a guard dog.

Whippets are runners. If they see something in motion, they'll take off after it, no matter how well trained you think they are or how frantically you call them to come. Whippets must always be walked on leash and never allowed to run free except in a safely enclosed area. An underground electronic fence does not constitute a safe enclosure; the Whippet will run right over it, heedless of any level of shock. To safely contain a Whippet, plan on installing a fence at least five feet high.

While the Whippet is often described as gentle, that word does not apply to the Whippet in pursuit of cats, rabbits or other small furry creatures. If you have pet cats, bunnies, hamsters or similar animals, you may want to think twice about bringing a Whippet into your home. Whippet puppies raised with other pets may live safely with them, but instinct is a powerful thing and it's essential to keep them separated when you can't be there to supervise.

Like most dogs, Whippets become bored when left to their own devices. They can easily become noisy or destructive if they don't have other dogs to keep them company and don't receive much attention from their family. Plan on walking a Whippet several times a day and taking him to a safely fenced dog park a couple times a week so he can flat-out run.

Whippets love soft, cushy furniture. Your bed, your sofa, your chair will all belong to him. Just as you can't train a cat to stay off the furniture, neither can you train a Whippet to do so. Get over it.

Speaking of training, Whippets are, well, whip-smart. But that doesn't mean they're easy to train. They can be independent thinkers, but positive reinforcement techniques --particularly those that involve food rewards --are usually the key to success. Your Whippet is not likely to achieve High in Trial in obedience competition, but he can excel at such canine sports as lure coursing, agility and flyball.

Looking for a dog with an easy-care coat? The Whippet has you covered. A rubdown with a chamois and regular nail trimming and ear cleaning are all he needs to stay clean and in good condition, plus the occasional bath if he rolls in something stinky.

If you have allergies to dogs, the Whippet may look like a good choice to you because of his short, smooth coat, but he is not a non-allergenic breed. No dog is. It's a dog's dander -- flakes of skin -- that triggers allergic reactions, not the coat. You should take the opportunity to meet as many Whippets as possible to determine whether you have any kind of allergic reaction to the breed. And Whippets do shed, so you will find hair on your clothes and furniture.

With his thin coat and bony body, it goes without saying that the Whippet needs to live in the house, preferably with access to soft furniture or bedding, and never outdoors. He isn't built to withstand cold weather, and besides, he loves his family. It's an unhappy Whippet who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Health Issues Common to Whippets

While all purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease, Whippets are in general a very healthy and hardy breed. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Knowledgeable Whippet breeders recommend that all dogs of the breed be tested for inherited heart and eye problems. At a minimum, ask the breeder to show documentation of a normal thyroid, a heart evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Whippet Puppy

The Whippet's sleek appearance and small size (25 to 35 pounds) make him a popular breed among puppy millers and greedy, irresponsible breeders. Do your homework before buying one of these dogs. Start by finding a breeder who is a member in good standing of the American Whippet Club, and who has agreed to abide by the AWC's Code of Ethics, which specifically prohibits selling puppies through retail outlets such as pet stores.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Whippets aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Whippets can live as long as 15 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Whippet to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Whippets

Pet insurance for Whippets costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Whippets are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Whippets are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Whippet is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.