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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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.
Step
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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2
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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Written by Pippa Elliott

Published: 02/27/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
timmy tiptoe
Whippet
9 Weeks
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Question
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timmy tiptoe
Whippet
9 Weeks

how to help timmy understand recalll

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
938 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would start by teaching pup to pay attention to his name. To teach pup to respond to his name better, practice saying his name and holding a treat next to your eye. When pup looks toward your eye, praise and give a treat. Practice often until pup consistently looks at your eye when you say his name. Next, pretend to hold the treat by your eye with your hand but actually have it hidden behind your back in your other hand. Say pup's name and praise and reward pup with the treat from behind your back when they look at your eye. Practice until pup looks consistently. Also, practice at random times throughout the day when pup isn't expecting it. Next, simply point to your eye and do the same process until pup is good at looking at your eye then even at random times during the day. Finally, simply say pup's name without pointing at your eye and reward with a treat hidden in your pocket throughout the day at random times of the day - you can also use pup's meal kibble as treats kept in a ziploc baggie in your pocket. Next, teach a formal recall with the Come command, from the article I have linked below. Come training methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Joie
Whippet
9 Weeks
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Joie
Whippet
9 Weeks

Introducing him to our 2 indoor cat and not have him chase them.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
938 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the videos linked below for teaching calmness around cats. Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E Work on impulse control in general with pup, by teaching things that increase impulse control and calmness - such as a long Place command around lots of distractions. Practicing the command until you get to the point where pup will stay on Place while you are working with the kitten in the same room. I recommend also back tying pup while they are on place - safely connecting a long leash attached to pup to something near the Place just in case pup were to try to get off Place before you could intervene. Make sure what the leash is secured to, the leash itself, and pup's collar or harness are secure and not likely to break or slip off. This keeps kitty safe while practicing and reinforces to pup that they can't get off the Place. The leash should be long enough that pup doesn't feel the leash while they are obediently staying on the Place because it has some slack in the leash. You want pup to learn to stay due to obedience and self-control, and the leash just be back up for safety. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Below are some other commands in general you can practice to help pup develop better impulse skill/self-control - impulse control takes practice for a dog to gain the ability to control herself. Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Pup is very young so also try to be patient with them since it will take some time for puppy to learn self-control and various commands. When you can't supervise the animals together at this age, I would crate train pup, and give pup a dog food stuffed chew toy in a crate or exercise pen to keep them from potty accidents, chewing things, and chasing the cat. You can also tether pup to yourself with a hands free leash as needed. Most 6 foot leashes can be made hands free by adding a small carabiner to the handle and clipping it to a belt or around your waist then back to the leash. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Alfie and Myrtle
Whippet
20 Months
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Alfie and Myrtle
Whippet
20 Months

I have two whippets, male and female, both have been neutered. They are 6 weeks apart in age and from different breeders. They have lived with us since they were 10 weeks and 8 weeks and are extremely close. We also have two other, older dogs, of different breeds (a Great Dane and a Doberman/Pointer X).
When I walk them, they bark and are very aggressive towards other dogs. It has become very embarrassing and means I can't always let them off the lead for a run if there are other dogs around. I have tried gently introducing them to other dogs, but they behave in the same way. I would really appreciate some help in how to encourage them to behave better around other dogs.

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

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell his fear. First we reduce his fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make her concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at his (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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Question
Jenson
Whippet
1 Year
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Question
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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
239 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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Sophie
Whippet chihuahua mix
One Year
1 found helpful
Question
1 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
938 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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