adapt and provide new sources of sport- ing fun for its owner. While one would expect to see Whip- pets excel at anything to do with running, and they are certainly top- fl ight racing and coursing hounds, their athletic ability has suited them very well to some of these newer sports. Perhaps the fastest growing of all canine sports is Agility, and while the Whippet is unlikely to seize the crown away from Border Collies and “sport mixes” atop the agility heap, among its hound brethren, the Whippet’s jumping ability, agility, and fearlessness makes it a top contender. At the 2013 AKC Nationals held in concert with the Eukanuba, Whip- pets swept the top three placements in the Hound Group. Anecdotally, the most dif- fi cult element for Whippets to master is the weave poles, but they can be spectacu- lar on the portions of the course that call for athletic displays of aerial excellence. Not all Whippets are natural retriev- ers, but for those which are, or which can be trained to retrieve, Disc Sport, Dock Diving, and Flyball are three ven- ues where Whippets have demonstrated serious talent. Th e Whippet who did the most to expose the American public to Whippets was of course, the famous Ashley Whippet, whose halftime shows thrilled all who were fortunate enough to see one. Whippets today still enjoy com- peting in fl ying disc competitions. How- ever, two newer activities have shown great growth potential among Whippet owners today. Dock Dog or Dock Div- ing is perhaps the most surprising, given that Whippets have never been noted for their love of water or their swimming ability. However, the Whippet’s natural power and athleticism give it an advan- tage in the “Big Air” division, and the current world record holder in this event is a racebred Whippet from Washington State. Flyball, another fast growing sport, is heavily-populated by Border Collies and sport mixes, but purebred Whippets can, and have, achieved advanced titles. Th is loud and fun team sport requires a lot of investment in training time, but the Whippet’s fearless nature and speed can render a well-prepared Flyball Whippet an asset to its team.
Recently, the Whippet has had an opportunity to go back to its very ancient roots as a ratter, with the new sport of Barn Hunt. Whippet owners have taken rapidly to this new sport, and Whip- pets are racking up titles and having a wonderful time doing it, fi nding the rat amongst bales of hay. While certainly not as talented in trailing as the Scenthound breeds, the Whippet nonetheless possess- es a perfectly functional canine nose, and enjoys using it in both Tracking and the newer activity of Nosework. Tracking is, of course, the sport version of search and rescue, while Nosework is the sport ver- sion of security work, such as is done by drug and bomb-sni ffi ng dogs. Truth in advertising—Whippets are not generally noted as a breed that an OTCH-level competitor should choose for an obedience prospect. Th at said, their disposition is steady and amiable, and with modern motivational training meth- ods, they are perfectly capable of gaining their titles. Rally Obedience seems to be particularly well-suited to Whippets, who enjoy a more “active” form of obedi- ence and receiving verbal encouragement from their trainers. In 2013, we saw an amazing Whippet obedience achieve- ment: High in Trial at the AWC National went to a Whippet bitch who received her third qualifying leg in UTILITY with an amazing score of 193! Th is inspiring performance proves that with the right Whippet and a very dedicated and talent- ed trainer, the Whippet can excel. Racing, coursing, hunting, jumping, retrieving, and even performing a series of trained exercises on command are all admirable sporting pursuits and make use of the foundational qualities of the Whippet breed. But the most important quality is their value as steady and lov- ing companions, and in those roots as the companion of hearth and home, we fi nd a modern application—the Whippet as Th erapy and Personal Comfort Dog. So valued is this aspect of our breed’s capabilities that an award is given each year at our AWC National—the Willow Award—privately-sponsored and publicly awarded to the Whippet Th erapy Dog of the Year. Whippet Th erapy Dogs are
active in nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. Th ey have proven their worth, laying quietly with the sickest children as they receive their chemotherapy, com- forting the elderly, and sitting quietly for petting for hours by schoolchildren prac- ticing their reading skills in the READ program. Th e gentle, non-reactive nature of the breed and their medium size makes them ideal Th erapy candidates, and we in Whippets are so very proud of those own- ers who have dedicated themselves and their Whippets to this valuable work. So, if you have a Whippet—what’s holding you back? Give one of these many activities a try! You may fi nd your Whip- pet has a real talent for it. And whatever you choose to do with your Whippet, no matter how much or how little—the most important thing is to HAVE FUN. References 1. Genetic Differences between Western bred Sighthound (FCI group 10) and Primitive breeds (FCI group 5) Summary of a talk by Dr. Dr. Barbara Wimmer, Eurofins Medigenomix GmbH summarized by Dr. Dominique de Caprona, 2013. http://sloughi.tripod.com/preserving/ge- neticswesterbredsighthoundsgermany.html 2. Compton, Herbert. The Twentieth Century Dog: Volume II. London: Grant Richards. “The Whippet”, p. 426.
A young Whippet in training is encouraged to increase its distance as it dives from the dock. Photo Credit: Rhonda M. Gold Photography
240 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M ARCH 2014
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