How to Train a Whippet to Race

Hard
1-6 Months
Work

Introduction

As soon as you even look at the door, your Whippet leaps into action, desperate to head out. Their energy is endless and their speed impressive. As soon as Dexter sees another dog on the horizon, they’re off and nobody is going to be able to catch up with them. You love watching their four legs in a blur as they travel at breakneck speeds. That’s actually part of the reason you brought them into your life. So you can train them to race!

Training a Whippet to race only brings benefits. Firstly, you’ll have a fantastic way to exercise Dexter, keeping him fit and healthy, hopefully into old age. You’ll also have a brilliant way to bond with your canine companion. But most importantly, you’ll have a racer who will hopefully be able to win competitions, prizes, and more.

Defining Tasks

Training a Whippet to race doesn’t come without challenges. You’ll need to start as early as possible when your dog is developing. Training will also consist of getting him used to the racing track, equipment, and being around other dogs and people. Then you’ll need to work on gradually building up his stamina. Of course, you’ll also need an effective motivator to get him sprinting as fast as he can.

If your Whippet is just a puppy, you’ll have the perfect racing student. He should learn and develop quickly, so you could see results in a matter of weeks. If Dexter is older and not quite the acrobatic, keen listener he  was when he was younger, then you may need several months. Stick with training and you’ll soon have a prize-winning Whippet capable of winning races statewide. You’ll also find training will tire him out, so you have a well-trained and easy-to-live-with dog when you’re at home.

Getting Started

Before you get to work, you need to make sure you have a few things. The most essential ingredient will be access to a race track where you’ll be able to train regularly over the coming months. You’ll also need good quality food, as you need to give your Whippet the right fuel.

Time will be the other main component. Both you and your Whippet need to be willing to put the hours in if he is to compete and hopefully win. So set aside several hours each week for training. You’ll also need a friend for one of the methods.

Once you have all that, just bring patience and enthusiasm. Then work can begin!

The Early Start Method

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Step
1
Run free
The first thing to do is regularly take your Whippet out for exercise. Take him to fields where he can roam around without a leash on. This is important to build muscle and condition Dexter to begin with.
Step
2
Racing environment
Start taking Dexter to racing tracks. You want him to get used to the sounds, sights, and other people around. Don’t make him race to start with, just walk him around to get him comfortable.
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3
Obedience classes
Enroll Dexter in group obedience classes. Firstly, this will get him used to being around other dogs, so he hopefully won’t get distracted when it comes to race day. It will also teach him a range of useful commands, which will make it easier for you to control your Whippet when you’re racing.
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4
Gradually increase the distance
Don’t make your Whippet run too far to start with. It’s important you build his stamina gradually or you may risk injury. So start with short sprints, then next week have him run a little longer, and the week after, a bit further. Continue to do this until your Whippet is comfortable sprinting the maximum distance you want him to run.
Step
5
Don’t use punishment
Avoid using punishment as a training technique. Whippets do not respond well to negative reinforcements. Instead, focus on verbal praise, playing with toys and motivating him with positive means. This will yield the most effective results in the long term.
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The Pull Back Method

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Play time
The first thing you need to do is find an effective motivator. Spend a few minutes each day playing around with a toy at home. Play tug of war and fetch. You want to get Dexter as worked up as possible so he'll do anything for the toy.
Step
2
Head outside
Now you can start training him to race using the toy. Hold your Whippet by the collar while a friend starts running twenty meters or so away. Make sure the friend waves the toy in the air and shouts in a high-pitched voice as they go. This will help make training feel like a game.
Step
3
Pull back
As soon as they start running, hold your dog's collar so he cannot run off. Hold it for a few seconds and then you can release him. The very fact that he cannot run will only make him want to sprint more. You can then run alongside your dog, shouting and pointing to encourage him further.
Step
4
Reward
Make sure your friend stops when Dexter catches them and that he gets the toy. Spend a couple of minutes playing around with it and showering him in verbal praise. The happier he feels, the more eager he will be to play again. Practice this a few times a week for a few weeks.
Step
5
To the track
Once you have built up his stamina and he's had some experience racing with people, you can start taking him to tracks with other dogs. Stay close by to keep him comfortable to begin with. Your job is to ease him into the environment so he builds confidence steadily. Now practice regularly at the track until he is totally comfortable and ready to compete in races.
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The Full Package Method

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Diet
You must make sure your Whippet gets the right food. If you overfeed him, he won’t be able to run as fast. Likewise, if you underfeed him, he won’t have the energy or the sustenance required to help his muscles grow strong. Use good quality food and feed him at the same times each day.
Step
2
Rest
Many owners make the mistake of pushing their Whippet too hard. This will only lead to injury and hinder your progress. So make sure Dexter has rest days and just as importantly, that he gets a decent, undisturbed sleep each night. The better rested he is, the better his performance on race day is likely to be.
Step
3
Tailor training
It’s easy to follow a strict technique, but the most effective training regimes take into account a Whippet’s personality and temperament. Some dogs will respond to being constantly pushed and worked hard whereas others will need a softer approach, with more rest and play time. So tweak training accordingly.
Step
4
Keep it fun
Of course you want your Whippet to win races and you may well take it extremely seriously. But remember, Dexter will always learn and perform best when he thinks he's playing a game. So stay animated, high-pitched and be there with toys and rewards at all times. You’ll find he's much more eager to train if he thinks the whole thing is a game.
Step
5
Introductions
Introduce Dexter to the race track and starting box gradually. Secure him to a leash and slowly walk around, allowing him to sniff and explore. Make sure there aren’t any other dogs around the first couple of times as well. You don’t want to scare him, so take it slow and make sure he's had some practice at the track before you take him there when there are lots of other dogs and spectators.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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