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The decision to join the ranks of those whose lives are made more complicated and restricted by pets is not to be undertaken lightly. There is no doubt that owning a dog does place restrictions on the freedom to come and go. Dogs have to be fed, exercised, groomed and, above all, loved, every day of the year, Christmas and Bank Holidays included. It matters not whether you feel like getting out of your chair, because when supper or walk time comes around, your furry friend will be there looking at you expectantly - and don't let anyone tell you that they cannot talk! A slogan which you often see on car stickers, says 'A Dog is for Life - Not Just for Christmas' and this maxim ought to be borne in mind by those about to buy a dear little cuddly puppy, whatever the time of year. Do think long and carefully about the characteristics you require from such a companion who will be sharing your home and hearth for many years to come.


Whippets are medium-sized dogs, with short coats and a reasonably light build. As such. they rarely frighten small children by overwhelming them with sheer size. Even the most timid child will pluck up enough courage to pat their sleek heads. Whippets have a very even temperament and growl or snap only under extreme provocation. It is in fact very important in the socialisation of any puppy, Whippet or not, that he or she should be introduced to children and handled by children, from nine weeks onwards.

Both puppy and child should be supervised so that neither becomes over-excited. but the puppy needs to get used to the high pitch of children's voices and their sudden and often more uncontrolled gestures, and the child needs to be taught the right way to handle a young puppy and to appreciate when the puppy is tired and wants to go back to his basket. Just as in humans, how a dog grows up depends to a great extent on his upbringing.

Neither are the vast majority of Whippets aggressive towards other dogs. Like most animals blessed with great speed, they prefer to use their speed to avoid a fight and in fact they avoid other dogs.


In many breeds, it is generally considered that a bitch makes a better house pet than a dog, but this is not necessarily the case with Whippets. Whippet bitches can be somewhat feline in their nature, more aloof than a dog and less inclined to join in games of chasing sticks or balls. The dogs are more outgoing and friendly, more obedient and they rarely go off looking for extra-curricular activities.


As a breed, the Whippet is remarkably free from hereditary diseases. In fact. Whippets are much tougher than they look. and will happily go for a walk in weather that would deter most owners. The Kennel Club Standard describes the Whippet as 'an ideal companion', and so he is. They are very loving and affectionate and remarkably little trouble in the house. Being high on the leg, they bring in relatively little dirt even after an energetic walk, and they have short coats which require only the minimum of grooming to keep in trim.


Whippets have been described as the lazy man's dog, which is true in that they are an easy breed to look after and to feed, but they do need daily exercise, though hardly the amounts some prospective owners fear. Like most dogs half an hours brisk walk on the roads on a lead will keep him healthy and reasonable fit but being a Whippet, with an in-built need to run, he will appreciate fifteen minutes free running when he can really stretch out. Most Whippets, when let off the lead in a field or park, will chase round and round and let off steam, coming back very pleased with themselves and quite ready to go home and settle down in front of the fire. A piece of fur tied on the end of a string and swung round from a long pole provides lots of chasing and running in paddocks which are full of sheep, or parks full of large dogs of uncertain temperament.


The Kennel Club Standard goes on to say that Whippets are highly adaptable in domestic and sporting surroundings. There are all too few breeds where the same dog will be a loving, docile family pet; an elegant, immaculate show dog and a brave and courageous sporting hound. Your Whippet will thoroughly enjoy an afternoon at the racetrack, yapping and barking, pulling and straining at the lead, all to chase a piece of rag pulled on the end of a string and catch it before the other dogs do. He knows perfectly well that it is only a piece of rag, but considers the whole thing enormous fun.


The more books on Whippet you read, the more theories and opinions you will find on the origins of the breed. Some authors seek to prove from early paintings and pottery that Whippets have existed as a recognisable breed from the earliest times, while others will state equally categorically, that the breed only came into being in the late nineteenth century when small Greyhounds were crossed with various terrier breeds to produce a fast little dog for hunting rabbits, and later for racing.


Man has used dogs to help him while hunting since time immemorial and different types of hound have evolved to deal with the various quarries. Larger, heavier hounds would have been needed to deal with wolves or wild boar, but in areas where small deer, rabbits or hare were hunted, the speedier, more agile Greyhound type would have been more suitable. The more enclosed an area meant a smaller hound would have been the preferred rather than the Greyhound.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the medium-sized running dogs appears to have acquired a name of his own - the 'whippet' or 'snap dog' - and was a popular breed amongst the working men in the north of the country. These dogs were used for rabbit coursing and later for racing to the rag. This form of so-called 'coursing' bore no resemblance to the coursing of hares under National Coursing Club rules, but it is probably responsible for many of the misconceptions held about the sport today.

It is not possible to course rabbits in the way that hares are coursed as they rarely emerge more than thirty yards from their burrows, so therefore the rabbits were netted and then released into enclosures for the dogs to chase. The dogs would be expected to run twenty-five or thirty times a day, so Bull Terrier or Manchester Terrier crossed were introduced to achieve the greater strength and stamina.

The scandals that resulted from rabbit coursing caused this sport to fall into disrepute, and the reputation of the little dogs involved also suffered. The men of the north turned to rag racing their Whippets, and the infusion of terrier blood ceased as speed again became the criteria. Then, as now, there was a handicapping system in Whippet racing based on weight, which advantaged the smaller, lighter boned dog. The favoured weight for a racing Whippet was around 16 to l7 pounds (7 to 8 kilograms), whereas the rabbit coursing Whippet had weighed in at about 25 pounds (11 kilograms).

Whippets had become known as 'the poor man's Greyhound' and were highly prized possessions living curled up by the fire and, it is said, often fed rather better than members of the family. They were expected to earn their keep at race meetings where much betting took place, so a dog that lacked speed would not be considered of any value. Only the best bitches would be bred from, and only the fastest dogs used at stud, so once more, the Greyhound type of animal predominated and the Whippet quickly reverted to type.

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