How to Obedience Train a Whippet

Medium
4-24 Weeks
General

Introduction

As a new Whippet owner, you are on a steep learning curve. Previously, you owned Border collies and a German shepherd, which were highly trainable dogs and picked things up swiftly. Had you not had this previous experience, you might have questioned just how competent a trainer you are... because the Whippet is an entirely different fish altogether. 

For starters, there seem relatively few opportunities when the Whippet is in the right 'head zone' to learn. Then, when he does engage in the lesson, he quickly becomes bored and tunes out again. Indeed, training a Whippet has taught you a whole new level of patience and meant you embrace small improvements with the sort of enthusiasm you once reserved for a complex trick with a GSD. 

Anyhow, the good news is you and your Whippet are getting there.... albeit slowly. 

Defining Tasks

Obedience training is core to having a well-behaved canine citizen, but arguably more importantly, is key to keeping your pet pal safe. Whippets are all or nothing dogs--they're either snoozing and relaxing or chasing full pelt after a squirrel. This poses some unique hurdles to the would-be Whippet-trainer who may find their dog is apt to get bored quickly and wander off mentally. 

To successfully obedience train a Whippet means taking advantage of their more lucid moments, and engaging in brief bursts of training activity. Also, only use reward-based methods which major on encouraging the dog to behave, and be prepared to have the patience of a saint. That said, when all the stars align you will have a happy, well-trained, and obedient dog that will give you an immense sense of satisfaction at what you have achieved. 

Getting Started

Be prepared to be patient with your dog and know that your own mental attitude is as important (if not more so) than having fancy equipment. As well as a bucketload of patience you'll need: 

  • A quiet distraction-free place to train
  • A collar and leash
  • Bite-sized tasty treats to motivate the dog
  • A favorite toy or other attraction that the dog will work for
  • A clicker
  • A treat bag or pouch to keep those rewards handy.

The Reward Based Training Method

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1
First principles
Reward-based training uses encouragement (in the form of a treat reward, fuss, or a game with a toy) when the dog acts correctly. The idea is to have the dog think through what it was he did that earned the reward, so that he repeats the action in future. Add in a cue word to teach the dog what action is required, and you have the basic principles of reward-based training.
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2
Find a reward that motivates the dog
The first step is to find a reward the dog adores, so that he has that extra kick of motivation to make him work. Test him out with different food treats, such as tiny cubes of cheese, sausage, small pieces of chicken or cooked meat, or healthy commercial treats. See which one really pushes his buttons and then adopt this to work with. If your dog isn't food motivated, then take along his favorite toy and give him a quick game when he does well.
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3
Understand the importance of timing
Reward-based training will only work if the dog understands what he's being rewarded for. The trick to this is marking the exact moment he did good, with an excited "Yes" and then giving the reward immediately. If you overlook this and give the reward a few seconds later, the dog will not connect the two events and training will be less effective.
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4
Keep training fun
Whippets bore easily so it's doubly important to keep the training sessions short and sweet, plus fun and enjoyable. To do this, use a high pitched, excited tone of voice and chat away to the dog during training so as to engage his interest.
Step
5
Little and often
Engage in training in short bursts, but when your Whippet looks alert. It's no good rousing him from the sofa if he's napping, because his main priority will be to resume his catnap rather than concentrate on you.
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The Basic Commands Method

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Target certain basic commands
Prioritize those commands that will keep the dog safe and under your control. These basics include 'sit', 'stay', 'look', and 'come'.
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'Sit'
Hold a treat in front of the dog's nose so he can sniff it. Once you have his attention, raise the treat in a slow arc over and behind his head. To follow the treat, his bottom will sink to the ground. The moment he does this say "Yes" and give the treat. Once the dog starts to anticipate the treat's movement and offer a 'sit', say "Sit" as you start moving the treat, as an extra clue to what he needs to do. This helps put the action on cue.
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'Stay'
First teach the dog to sit. Then make him wait for a few seconds before giving the treat, while expecting him to stay in a 'sit'. Gradually extend the wait until he stays in 'sit' for at least one minute. Once he has the self control to sit for a minute, you can start adding in distance. Take one step away, say "Stay", then return to the dog and reward him. Gradually move farther away from the dog and expect him to stay before returning to his side for the reward.
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4
'Look'
Hold a treat in front of the dog's nose and then move the treat slowly in a straight line from the dog to the bridge of your nose. Make sure to keep the dog looking at the treat the whole time. Once the treat is resting on the bridge of your nose say "Look". Then reward him. Gradually stretch out the amount of time he has to stare at you before he gets the reward. This is a great command for distracting the dog's attention away from something he might chase or find frightening.
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5
'Come'
Start by saying "Come" when the Whippet happens to move towards you. Then reward him. This links the action with a reward and makes him think it's a good idea. Then try the same but as you step away from the dog, enticing him to follow you. Praise and reward. Then try this when the dog is a short distance away and therefore trigger him to come to you.
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The Do's and Don'ts Method

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Don't: Punish the dog
If the dog is slow to catch on or downright disobedient, never punish him. Punishment only makes the dog fearful of you and although he may appear to behave, this is done out of fear rather than true obedience.
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Do: Show disapproval
However, it is important to let the dog know when he made the wrong decision. For example, if the dog breaks a 'stay', simply say "Uh-oh" in a disapproving voice, and leave it at that. This guides the dog that getting up was the mistake that cost him a reward.
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3
Do: End on a high point
End each session on a positive note with a command the dog has mastered. This helps build his self-confidence and ensure he looks forward eagerly to the next training session.
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4
Don't: Just train in one place
Start off by training in a distraction-free room. However, as the dog gets into the swing of things vary where you train him. This helps him understand that obedience is important no matter where you are, and not just something that applies in the front room at home.
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5
Do: Be realistic
Know that Whippets are a challenging breed to train and even slow progress is still progress. Don't be phased by owners of highly trainable dogs who seem to fly through the basic commands. If those same owners had a Whippet to work with they would have their eyes opened. Be patient, and know you will get there in the end, but just not as quickly as with other breeds.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Sophie
Whippet chihuahua mix
One Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sophie
Whippet chihuahua mix
One Year

She jumps up people at every greeting, I anticipate it and say “down” just before the greeting but it seems like it is just not getting through to her

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
707 Dog owners recommended

Hello Linda, Check out the article linked below. When you and family members/willing friends are coming home and she jumps, practice the "Step Toward method" from the article linked below. When you have guests over and she wants to jump, practice the "Leash method" from the article below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Once she can handle not jumping on you, practice the method with more difficultly by getting excited, jumping up and down, waving your arms, and sounding excited...When she jumps, enforce no jumping with the Step Toward method - the goal at this point is to practice her not jumping EVEN when she is excited - since she will be that excited when guests come over. Help her develop self-control ahead of time too by practicing during times of excitement with you once she can handle normal situations with you and not jump. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Winston
Whippet
16 Weeks
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Winston
Whippet
16 Weeks

Hi, I have had Winston since he was 8 weeks and although we had a tough time with using people as chew toys we've got through.. He can sit on command and getting there with recall.. He also knows the word "pee" for doing a toilet (solid or wet!!) my problem now is that he will go for a walk in the rain (with a coat on) but he point blank refused to "do wee" outside when it either raining or the floor is very wet. I've taken him for walks and he's held on till he got home to go into the bathroom (downstairs bathroom) and do his business. When it's dry he takes himself off to the loo. Unfortunately I live in hull (East Yorkshire) so it gets wet a lot!! Any ideas? Thanks in advance - Charlie. (ps. My other dog is a lab retriever so he never cared about the weather!!)

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
707 Dog owners recommended

Hello Charlie, First, if there is a creative way you can have a dry alternative for him to go potty when it's raining, that will be easiest. Using a real grass pad on a dry concrete area is one idea, building a little outdoor space somewhere that stays drier during rainy times, looking for areas outside that naturally get less wet, ect... Since the above suggestion may not always be an option, the second option is to wait him out in the rain. Obviously this isn't the most fun, but right now he is probably holding it to try to come back inside as soon as possible because of the weather. He is doing what keeps him driest in his mind - not venturing into the weather, taking the time to sniff and relax, and potty, and instead trying to return home as soon as possible despite needing to potty. It sounds like he already knows "Go Potty" and is being given treats when he goes potty - if he doesn't know that yet, start saying "Go Potty" every time you take him potty and giving several small treats or pieces of dog food after he potties outside to teach him the "Go Potty" command. When it's raining, be prepared to get very wet, take him potty, tell him to "Go Potty" and walk him around slowly on the leash - you absolutely have to go with him and slowly walk him around outside to get him to leave the door and sniff at this point. If he potties, praise, give several treats and rush back inside. If he doesn't go, stay outside until he goes (yes, in the rain). As soon as he finally goes (which might take a LONG time at first), praise, reward, and rush back inside quickly. You want him to learn that the quickest way to get out of the rain is to go potty, so that he actually learns to go potty EVEN faster while it's raining - so he can go back inside sooner. Pottying = getting out of the rain. Start now while the weather is warm enough, so he isn't out in freezing weather for too long when fall and winter come. You want him to be faster at pottying by the time weather is super cold. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Hello fellow whippet owner! I just rescued a 4 yo whippet and could use some suggestions from someone familiar with the breed. I live in an apt., and she is seemingly AFRAID of everything. Other people, noises in the hall... makes it extremely challenging to even get her to walk down the hall without pulling me all the way when she’s afraid. She is only 28 lbs but really has a forceful pull on her. Doesn’t even seem aware that I’m on the other end of her leash!! Can they learn not to be so fearful and actually walk on a leash like any other dog? HELP... thanks for any info

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Jenson
Whippet
1 Year
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Question
0 found helpful
Jenson
Whippet
1 Year

When Jenson gets excited he starts to lose interest in his toy and focuses on biting my Fiance or me. What is the best method of stopping that?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
132 Dog owners recommended

When dogs are out of the puppy nipping stage and are adults and exhibiting this "playful" behavior, the best thing you can do is make no eye contact, get up and leave the room and make sure to shut the door behind you so he can not follow you. Many people scold in the moment which seems to make dogs more excitable. They are getting the attention and reinforcement they are seeking and don't care if it's positive or negative. Dogs are incredibly smart, but often they can not distinguish when you're returning playful behaviors, or pushing them off because you are annoyed with their behavior. Since he is wanting to seek attention and be playful, your cold absence from the room will quickly relay to him that his behavior is NOT how he gets play time with you.

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