The Whippet, also known as the “poor man’s racehosrse”, was bred as a dog that would aid their masters in short duration hunts to chase small, fast prey – such as rabbits, hares and squirrels.
As such, they are extremely comfortable and excited to be involved in a chase, where they can engage their natural burst of speed.
Now the question is “Do whippets like to swim”?
The answer to this is sometimes. Some whippets love nothing more than to dive into a body of water after they’ve been for a run and stretched their legs. However, a lot of whippets don’t really enjoy the water, and in-fact avoid it like the plague. This is usually because whippets have very low body fat, meaning they get cold very easily, and there’s nothing worse than being wet and cold on a winters day.
As mentioned above, whippets have super burst – getting up to a top speed of 35 mph from a resting position.
This characteristic of being able to chase a target at high speed has led Whippets to be recognised as a racing dog.
However, whippets are not used to being outdoors for long periods of time – they are not herders or guard dogs that are used to staying outdoors in all sorts of inclement weather.
Neither were they traditionally used in hunts involving long stalking and chasing.
As a result of this, whippets are a comfort-loving breed. They need to be coddled with a sweater when it gets too cold and frequent drinks of water when it’s hot outside.
They hate baths and getting wet in the rain, even stepping in mud puddles.
This is not just due to pampering – whippets have short coats and can get cold quickly.
Also, whippets’ bodies are streamlined in the extreme – which is great for a speed bout but not good for swimming, they do not have enough body fat to float easily.
Having said this, whippets love the thrill of the chase. They like strenuous activity at least a couple of times during the day.
Also, they love people, are playful and seek companionship with people and other pets.
So, if they can be encouraged to participate in a fun session and overcome their aversion to getting wet, whippets can learn to swim and like it.
Are Whippets Strong Swimmers?
Don’t confuse your whippet with a natural swimming breed like a Labrador, Retriever, Newfoundlander, Water Spaniel or a Portuguese Water Dog.
Like mentioned above, the very low-fat content in the body of a healthy whippet cuts down on natural buoyancy, so whippets have to overcome that.
This may be one reason why whippets have a hard time swimming back extended distances to shore.
On the other hand, a lack of buoyancy may be the only major drawback a whippet has in regard to swimming once you overcome their natural aversion to avoid discomfort and wetness.
Unlike breeds such as basset hounds and bulldogs, which might have a combination of physical attributes (e.g. deep chests, short legs, dense bodies, floppy ears) and health problems (bulldogs are brachycephalic and prone to breathing difficulties), whippets are natural athletes with lean, aerodynamic bodies, long legs and an ability to sprint (which means breathe properly during strenuous activities).
So, a whippet can become a strong swimmer with the right inducements and training.
There are multiple instances of whippets holding records for dock diving (e.g. speed retrieve, distance jump and air retrieve) – that’s a sign of the competitive nature coming out.
Surveys of pet owners will normally reveal that a whippet goes to one extreme or the other in terms of their love of swimming.
Either they will be enthusiastic swimmers – some are even champion divers or retrievers – or they will absolutely abhor going into a large body of water, be it your swimming pool, a lake or the open ocean.
How to Encourage Your Whippet to Swim
First, the analysis above has hopefully reassured you that your whippet is not ill-equipped to handle a swim, even a vigorous one.
They are natural athletes and capable of overcoming their lack of buoyancy through sheer effort if they want to do so. There’s the key.
Different techniques may work for different dogs – it’s almost a matter of devising a method to suit their personality to help them overcome their natural reluctance.
Here are a few ideas:
- Start them out in heated pools or warm water if possible. As mentioned before, whippets are not just comfort-loving, they get cold really easily. In fact, if your whippet does go for a swim, encourage them to run around for a bit after they come out, so they can dry out and warm up.
- Induce them with fetch toys, balls or other playthings thrown into the pool – this may not work on a standalone basis, the whippet does not have a strong enough retriever instinct to go after something in water if s/he hates to get wet and cold.
- Go in yourself and take your dog with you – this may work much better since whippets love companionship. Take in playthings by all means or set up swimming laps to encourage your dog to lose themselves in the thrill of the activity and being around you. A variation of this, if you don’t want to get wet, may be to have your whippet on a leash and walk around the swimming pool as s/he swims in the pool.
- (Probably the best method) – Find dogs, preferably a whippet but other species will do, that loves to swim and shove your whippet into the pool with them. Their natural playfulness and competitive instincts will most likely kick in and they might snap out of their natural aversion to water.
Like with many pets, whippets have an independent streak, so the methods above may not be successful. But they have a better chance of getting your whippet to swim than many others.
What Age Should I Let My Whippet Start Swimming?
Whippets become better swimmers if they are introduced to swimming as puppies.
You should wait till they are at least 8-12 months old, to give their limbs and lungs a chance to gain sufficient strength.
There are whippets that might take naturally to water at an early age -but watch out if you see them in the water.
Remember, because of their lack of buoyancy – whippets need to be strong enough to overcome that handicap.
Also, puppies getting cold chills may be more susceptible than adults.
Finally, definitely start out in relatively calm water like your swimming pool or a small lake – but they should keep close to the shore.
Should I Let My Whippet Swim in The Ocean?
If your whippet is a strong swimmer, you could expose him/her to the open ocean but take care to remain close to the shore.
Their lack of buoyancy and tendency to not be an endurance hound makes them poor candidates for long-distance swimming – they have to fight to stay afloat, which means they will be using a lot of energy and tend to get tired and may give up.
This is worse if there are strong currents. Also, remember your whippet can “catch” cold fast – so long bouts in the open ocean may not be a great idea.
It’s best to have whippets indulge in short but vigorous bursts closer to the shore, preferably in a setting where their competitive nature kicks in but let them have the ability to come out of the water, get dry and warm up.
We hope you have the answer to the original question – Do whippets like to swim? The answer is that some of them do and some don’t, but training from an early age and the lure of competition can overcome their natural aversion to being uncomfortable.
Whippets are not natural swimmers like Labradors or retrievers, but they have a streamlined body, long limbs and plenty of athletic ability.
Work at it and enjoy swims with your furry friend.