The Obedient Whippet - does it exist?
Does it exist? Or are stories that I have heard about Whippets being sight hounds and not really trainable, true?
Our previous dogs were Border Collies and I gained a Companion Dog (CD) title in Obedience with one and two were therapy dogs. I assumed that obedience work with our new Whippet pup, Billy, was going to be a real struggle. I had never seen one doing obedience work in all the years I trained with various clubs and thought as sight hounds, they weren’t that reliable. From the start we went to two different puppy pre school classes where he mixed freely with many other pups and I found he was a sociable and confident pup. After learning simple commands, he progressed well and won a prize for best sits and downs. The instructor at a local obedience school had seen Billy at the vet puppy school and was surprised how well he was doing. He told me he’d seen a couple of Whippets at his classes spinning around on the end of the lead, but he agreed to accept Billy as the youngest pup at 14 weeks and see how he coped. This was a ten week basic class and Billy was one of ten dogs of assorted breeds, including Pomeranian, Beagle, Labrador, Border Collie and others, aged up to about 18 months. At the end of the course, he could walk reasonable at heel, sit, stand, drop, stay and best of all, be left on a sit while I walked away then come immediately when I called and sit in front of me. On the last night we had a competition where points were awarded for each exercise and the top scoring dog was Billy.
We have continued our training and he has progressed steadily up to the top classes. He now is part of the Knox Obedience Demonstration Team, representing the Club and also representing his breed. I see no other Whippets at the other clubs I attend, which is disappointing. He is almost 12 months old now and has passed his pet therapy assessment with the Victorian Canine Association, so will be working in nursing homes.
Obedient BillyTraining hasn’t always been easy; Whippets need lots of encouragement but I have been constantly surprised at how clever this dog is and how quickly he understands what is required of him. On the other side, he is a sight hound and one of the problems is his fascination with flying machines. He is often gazing skywards with a wrinkled brow, pondering on the speed and destination of an aircraft, as I am frantically trying to gain his attention at a distance. The other Whippet problem is sitting. It is not their preferred position. He is always a slow sitter and the sit/stay exercise often sees him gradually extending his long front legs and very slowly sinking in a downward direction. Next year, I may enter him in an Obedience Trial if I feel he is ready and perhaps do a little agility work, which I think he would love. Whippets have wonderful temperaments, alert minds and socialize really well with other dogs – large or small. My advice to new Whippet owners is to take your Whippet out and socialize him from the very beginning at puppy pre school, parks, cafes, car rides, streets and other people’s houses. Go to obedience classes and train at home regularly; be consistent and always make training an enjoyable experience with treats and games afterwards. I love it when strangers stop to pat Billy and say “I thought you couldn’t train Whippets – you only race them.” Or, “I thought Whippets were really trembling, timid dogs – he’s very sociable.” Billy represents his breed well, but it does take time and effort. The long-term effect though is a dog I can take anywhere and put in any situation and know that he will be calm, obedient and sociable. Does the obedient Whippet exist? I really think it is a definite possibility!