The Whippet is a sighthound that is obviously descended from the Greyhound. Despite being an athletic racing dog, the Whippet does need sufficient exercise, but probably not as much as you may think. They are a sprinter, not an endurance athlete. However, insufficient exercise can make them hyper which can lead to problem or destructive behavior.
Whippets are usually calm in the house but most have spells of running and leaping about in play a few times a day. They should be given the opportunity to run to release pent-up energy. They can be couch potatoes to a degree, so should be encouraged to exercise to keep them healthy.
Whippet exercise requirements
Their exercise needs can be broken down into three groups
- 1. a daily walk
- 2. free play and toys (purposeful activity)
- 3. mental stimulation
We will look at each of these three categories along with suggested activities and type of exercise you can incorporate into their daily routine.
A Whippet requires a daily walk of between 30 – 40 minutes at a brisk comfortable pace for them. This can be a walk on a leash around the block or can be off leash exploring at the local park. Remember that the Whippet was bred to chase. If something may catch their eye and they will be gone, at up to 35 miles-per-hour.
The daily walk is not only a good way to release some pent up energy, but is also a good opportunity for training and is great for building your bond with each other. It also provides mental stimulation by way of the sights, sounds and smells they come across and social interaction with other dogs you meet along the way.
A short daily walk is more beneficial that nothing all week with a long walk at the weekend. If you prefer you can take your Whippet for two shorter walks instead.
Obviously, every dog is an individual, even of the same breed. By observing your Whippet you can assess how long of a walk they need. If they are panting excessively or falling behind they have probably had enough. It is probably a good idea to end the walk. If they are happily trotting along you can choose to walk a bit further.
How to play with a Whippet
The Whippet can be a playful little dog. They enjoy a good game with people, other dogs and often by themselves. Provide an opportunity for them to play whenever possible. This will help burn energy, stimulate their mind and strengthen their bond with you. Some suggestions for free play include;
The Whippet in most cases is what we term a light or moderate chewer. This means they tend not to be overly destructive with their toys. Dogs like this quite often favor Plush Toys. To learn more about the benefits and uses of your dog’s toys read “Secrets to the benefits of your dog’s toys”
Dog toys that move on their own
There are many dog toys available that shake, rattle, roll and move about on their own. Being a breed that was bred to hunt prey these type of toys really appeal to Whippets. See “Dog toys that move on their own” to learn more.
Self Playing Dog Toys
There are a variety of dog toys that your dog can use to play by themselves. These are great for times when your dog is home alone, you don’t have the time or you are otherwise occupied. This way your dog can still get some physical activity and mental stimulation without your direct involvement. See “Self Playing Dog Toys” for some ideas.
Fetch is a favorite game for most dogs. It not only gets a dog moving but is also a great bonding activity for you both. Remember not to overdo it and end the game if they are panting excessively or showing signs that they have had enough. Try to throw the ball as far as possible or use a ball launcher so they can get up to speed.
Most dogs can chase and catch a ball. But a Frisbee requires a little bit more skill, coordination, and timing. Whippets look spectacular playing this. Roll the Frisbee on the ground towards your dog. They will instinctually want to grab it in his mouth. Once you’ve accomplished this, try tossing it at a very low level first to your dog. If you feel like your dog is ready to go to the next level, toss the disc a little higher and further. Great energy burner and you may be amazed at your dog’s agility and acrobatic skill.
A good energy burner if you have stairs in your home. Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your dog “stay”. Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “Go!” Let your dog dash up the stairs as fast as they can. Have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury.
For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.
Play with other dogs
Provide the opportunity for your Whippet to play with other dogs. This is not only great to burn energy and stimulate their mind, but teaches them important social skills. Some Whippets can be a little anxious, so socialization is good to build their confidence.
Set up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard. You can use items you have around the home, build your own agility or you can get reasonably priced agility sets on Amazon.
You can include tasks such as the weave, hurdle jumps, tunnels or jumping through hoops or a platform to jump on and stay.
There are countless fun games that you can play with your dog. Check out “50 Boredom Busters and games for dogs” for ideas.
The Whippet is a sporting dog and there are many sports in which they can participate. This includes agility, flyball, lure coursing, rally, and obedience. Consider involving your Whippet in one of these sports. You don’t have to compete seriously if you don’t wish. However, it is a great opportunity for them to show off their skills and lightning speed.
Your Whippet will get some mental stimulation and enrichment from their daily walk and time spent with free play. However, it is a good idea to provide other activities that stimulate the mind. Mental exercise can burn as much energy as physical exercise. Many dog behavior problems are a direct result of boredom. Read “Mental enrichment and mind stimulation for dogs” to learn about the six categories of enrichment for dogs.
Some ideas to provide mental stimulation include;
Puzzle toys are a great way to test your dog’s intelligence and improve their problem-solving skills. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.
Kong toys which you stuff with food and treats work in much the same way. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs”.
Puzzle toys are great for times when your dog is home alone. If your dog is home alone while you are at work or out you may find some helpful information at “Leaving a dog alone while at work”
Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.
Chewing is a natural instinct for dogs and has many benefits including keeping them busy and occupying and stimulating their minds. Chewing is also great for reducing anxiety in dogs. To learn more about the benefits of and the best chew toys see here.
Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your Whippet to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.
Enrich their environment
Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.
Over exercised dog symptoms
With any dog, it is possible to over-exercise them. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a dog that has overdone it. Read “Overexercised dog symptoms” to learn more.
How much should you exercise a Whippet puppy
The exercise suggestion above relates to a healthy adult Whippet. The exercise needs of a puppy are quite different. With puppies, their bones, muscles, and joints are still growing and developing.
Overly strenuous walks are not necessary and in fact, could possibly cause harm. The best exercise for a young puppy is free play with age-appropriate toys. Socializing with other puppies or friendly adult dogs is a great way to burn some of that puppy energy along with teaching them the social skills they need.
As your Whippet puppy gets older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and get used to being on a leash. Puppies under three months probably haven’t had all their vaccinations so shouldn’t be walked in public. Check with your vet when it is alright to venture out to the park or street.
The general rule of thumb for walking a Whippet puppy is around 2 – 3 minutes for every month of age. So, for example for a 4-month-old puppy, a walk of 8 minutes to 12 minutes is enough. Monitor you Whippet puppy on the walk for signs such as lagging behind, lying down or panting. End the walk if they seem too tired.
Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.
For more on puppy exercise read “How to exercise a puppy“
How much exercise does an older Whippet need
As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read ” Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.
Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.
So, how much exercise does a Whippet need?
The Whippet doesn’t require excessive exercise but should receive sufficient to release pent-up energy and to prevent boredom. By providing a walk each day of between 30 to 40 minutes, some free play, and mental enrichment you will have a happy, healthy and well-behaved dog.
Thanks for your comment. The main reason not to overexercise a puppy is to avoid damage to the growth plates. The 5 minutes per month of age is a guideline and every puppy or dog is an individual. Unless you have noticed your puppy limping or showing soreness it is unlikely you have done any damage. If you have any doubts have your vet give them a check-up and advise what is suitable for your particular puppy.
I feel so bad reading all this. I didn’t know a lot about Whippets and treated them like any other dog. Now I feel as guilty as anything. My Whippets were allowed at a very young age, 5 months, to chase rabbits, they were at it for 11/2 hrs., that’s one and a half hours a day and another walk in the afternoon. Now my male who is 5 has more pronounced muscle in one back leg, at the top, licks his legs a fair bit , jumps in the car occasionally, we lift him in mainly and his gait is a bit funny, stiff looking. If he gets the chance now, he’s off at full speed for a long time. They no longer chase at the moment as it’s summer here and too many deadly snakes around so they get walked on the beach, he has his good days but you can tell when he’s not himself.
Sorry to hear about this. The licking is probably to relieve soreness. It would be worthwhile consulting a canine therapist. Hydrotherapy or other rehabilitation methods may be able to help.