How to Obedience Train a Whippet

How to Obedience Train a Whippet
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon4-24 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

3

'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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

By Pippa Elliott

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Uno

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Whippet

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10 Weeks

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Question

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How can I stop her biting. Its a constant thing from the moment you go near her. I think shes aying but it hurts

June 27, 2022

Uno's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Tam, Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when she attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if she makes a good choice. If she disobeys your leave it command, use the Out command from the second article linked below to make her leave the area as a consequence. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The Out method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just playing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area, is also a good command for you to use if pup bites the kids. Check out the section on Using Out to Deal with Pushy Behavior for how to calmly enforce that command once it's taught. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Right now, an outside class may be best in a fenced area, or letting friends' pups play in someone's fence outside. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, she probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help her calm down and rest. Practicing regular obedience commands or having pup earn what they get by performing commands like Sit and Down before feeding, petting, tossing a toy, opening the door for a walk, ect... can also help stimulate pup mentally to increase calmness and wear them out. Commands that practice focus, self-control, and learning something a bit new or harder than before can all tire out puppies. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 28, 2022

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timmy tiptoe

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Whippet

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9 Weeks

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how to help timmy understand recalll

Sept. 2, 2021

timmy tiptoe's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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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

Sept. 2, 2021


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