Can Whippets Be Trusted Off The Leash?

Whippets are known as “the poor man’s racehorse,” and rightly so. They are the fastest dog in their medium-sized weight group, being able to reach a speed of 35 mph.

The whippet is also a sighthound, bred to hunt using their excellent vision. I’ve never seen one with glasses! Some hounds like the bloodhound, are scent hounds and can locate prey by smell.

The whippet locates their prey with their superior vision and can reach a high speed swiftly, quickly “snapping up” their prey, giving them the name “snap dogs.”

So, with that speed that your whippet has, along with their sighted prey instinct, can whippets be trusted off the leash? Absolutely, yes, they can be trusted to be off-leash.

By reading the following you will gain the knowledge as to why your whippet can be trusted off the leash and how to accomplish this task with confidence, patience and ability.

Whippets Are Great Off The Leash

Whippets are great off the leash but, and that is a very big but, you definitely need to train them and train them properly.

If you are adding a whippet to your family, puppy or adult, never leave them off-leash unless they are in a fenced-in area until they are trained and ready to safely be without a leash.

can a whippet be trusted off the lead?
Image: Darien and Neil

Never forget that whippets have that strong prey drive, and if not trained properly, that instinctual drive can lead them straight into the path of a car if they should chase a squirrel or rabbit. Not to worry: your whippet is very intelligent and trainable to be off-leash.

They love their freedom to run but they love being by your side too and that is the glue that will be your useful tool to keep them coming back.

Why Whippets Are Excellent Off The Leash

Whippets are excellent off-leash because it makes them happy and they are quick to catch on, but, again, this is with thorough training.

Teaching any dog recall, especially, which I will explain as we go, is essential for any breed of dog for their security and to prevent accidents.

Any dog’s leash can break or be pulled out of their owner’s hand. Training a dog to come when called is key to their safety and well-being.

Your whippet, being a gentle soul, is very intelligent and easily trainable, because they aim to please.

Whippets are extremely attached to their owners so while indoors they usually will follow you around and generally outdoors they generally want to be right by your side too. It is you that is in their visual field and you that this sighthound doesn’t want to lose sight of!

Their eager to please attitude and their desire to be by your side are two of the reasons why whippets are excellent off the leash.

How To Train Your Whippet To Walk Off The Leash

Training your whippet to walk off the leash is best begun when your whippet is a puppy. That being said, it is by no means impossible to train an adult whippet that you may have adopted to walk off-leash.

Contrary to the saying, it is never too late “to teach an old dog new tricks”. Time and patience are needed while training each.

If you are familiar with the whippet breed, then you may know personally that these dogs can be couch potatoes indoors, but need plenty of exercise outdoors.

These dogs crave the “need for speed” and like to chase, so training off the leash may seem daunting especially when you factor in nearby traffic or vast wooded areas but don’t be put off.

These dogs need to expend this running energy and exuberance, so walking on a leash can only satisfy them for a short time.

Bad things can happen anytime your whippet is off the leash, but this is true with any breed and why you need to be in control and they need to be trained.

All dogs should be trained to obey commands and come when called. You may have no intention of letting your dog off the leash, but again, if the leash breaks, you want your dog to come right back to you easily and without a chase or bribery.

If your whippet has been properly trained, they will come right back to you when called without a panic attack or an accident.

When beginning your pup’s training, do so in a fenced-in area, your yard or a local ballfield. This way you can concentrate comfortably on teaching keeping distractions to a minimum.

Not wanting to add any pressure, you do need to understand that keeping your whippet under control at all times outdoors is mostly your responsibility.

Yes, your whippet is smart and quick to pick up on things, but always keep in mind that they still have that instinct to chase prey, so no matter what, you must ensure that they listen to your commands by showing them that you are in charge to guarantee safety.

Recall Training Your Whippet

Training the recall is very important before training to walk off the leash. It is never too late or early to train recall. Keep training sessions short to start and always use a happy inviting tone using plenty of praise.

Reprimanding and losing patience will only hurt your whippet’s feelings and equate an unpleasant experience with training.

For training recall have a helper or family member restrain your whippet in a hallway or smaller outdoor enclosed area. Keep distractions to a minimum early on.

Call their name with the word “come.” Of course, they will surely come to you and reward them with lots of praise and a treat if you wish to use treats.

Gradually increase the distance and also the time, making them wait until called. This can be practiced at intervals throughout the day and even in the house if you are in different rooms. Call their name with the word “come.” Reward with plenty of praise.

Practice when walking your whippet on the leash. If they get too far ahead, call them.

Move outdoors to a fenced-in area with a few distractions and as they are playing, occasionally call them and make it a fun game with lots of excitement and praise for a job well done. Whippets are the most intelligent of the sighthounds and pick this up quickly.

Clickers are also an excellent way to train your whippet and works well with this breed. They like the sound clickers make and they will really get the attention of a distracted whippet.

Consider this type of training. If you feel you need help and are unsure, enrol your pup in obedience classes or look for books or DVDs on training.

When you feel comfortable, move to a field or area without any nearby traffic and see how things go. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in ensuring a happy but obedient whippet.

Walking Off The Leash

Once you and your whippet have mastered the recall, it’s time to practice walking off the leash. Your whippet should also have learned the sit and stay commands as well.

Walking off-leash should also be practiced in a fenced-in area until things are running smoothly. You will want them to walk by your side; stop when you stop; move when you move.

You may use commands like “walk” when moving. Have them “sit” when you stop. These commands should have been used when your whippet learned to walk on a leash so that they are already familiar and had been walking well on the leash with no tugging or pulling. If this is the case, the only thing that has changed is there is no leash.

When beginning with off-leash training outside a fenced area, find a low or no traffic area until you’re sure of your whippet’s ability. Also, be respectful of other pet owners.

Their dogs may not be good with dogs off-leash and this may cause problems for them.

Once again, consider training with a clicker. This is a very reliable method. Clickers are cheap and their very distinctive sound is sure to get your whippet’s attention when distracted.

Other Considerations

One very important consideration on or off-leash is to make sure your whippet has a collar and tags on at all times. Tags will be their license, rabies tag and perhaps an identification tag with your name and contact information.

With at least a license, if your whippet should run for the hills, someone can locate you, as all license numbers are registered with county or local agencies.

can whippets be trusted off the leash?
Image: Darien and Neil

Another excellent idea would be to have your whippet microchipped. This is not at all painful and they are inserted easily. Any humane society or animal shelter can locate your pup easily if they should become lost.

Final Thoughts

Yes; your whippet can be trusted off the leash, but there is work involved for both parties and your little couch potato needs to be trained thoroughly for this endeavour.

With much love, patience, praise and positive reinforcement, your whippet can have the freedom to run and roam, within reason, and be right back by your side in a flash with the sound of your voice or the pop of a clicker.

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