Celebrate the Whippet Breed

Pack Behavior

Submitted by Diane McMaster, Whippet Owner

I am experiencing male aggression in my dog Joshua, after recovering from a spinal embolism. He was always territorial. But at his last visit to the acupuncture vet, he went after a docile, older, female golden. Then at his visit to his regular vet, he went after an older, female beagle. He had never done that before. Now I am nervous about a visit to the vet. I know I cannot take both dogs together because I cannot handle two when one is being aggressive. I am thinking about a behavioralist. In the meantime, he is safe in the house and yard.

Diane McMaster

Submitted by Melissa Eyler, Whippet Rescue Contact, Idaho

I grew up with Borzoi, my dad has had at least 2, sometimes as many as 5 males, since I was about 8 years old. There was only 1 in all that time that showed any agression towards the others, they were all indoor dogs, stayed home alone while dad worked etc.. but they definitely knew that dad was the alpha. Two years ago when I bought my first Whippet I never really gave any thought to having another, but from the get go with him it was quite obvious that he considered me the alpha.

Now, when I took in my rescue back in November, I brought him home and there was just a bit of tension between he and my male, he would growl if my male came near the food dish.. but yet would allow me to pick it up. They now seem to have this totally worked out as they will eat out of the same bowl.

The only time I notice any agression is when we're playing fetch, my rescue (who is now my 2nd male)is a bit protective of his toys, but nothing even serious. Doesn't seem to bother my first male though, as he'd just as soon chase the 2nd male as chase the toys (He's like this with our lab too. the toys must be too boring)

My rescue came to me because he was biting the guys 2 year old kid... but yet my 3 year old daughter can play with him, throwing his ball or frisbee for him, and taking it from him when he comes back (sometimes he'll drop it, and let you know he wants you to take it, sometimes he'll drop it and almost gaurd it, but never has become agressive when someone takes it).

Melissa Eyler
Idaho Rescue Rep.


Submitted by Linda Garwacki, Bitterblue Whippets
I don't want to get too preachy here, but...you know me ;-)

I think *some* of the problems arise from several misconceptions. The first being the "alpha" thing. This tends to be a term that is bantered around with great aplomb, and *very* little real knowledge. In a pack, the *true* alpha individual is not merely the most aggressive. Far from it. I hear so many people equate aggressive behaviors with an "alpha" personality. Over the years when I've had a large pack (10 or so) of more males than bitches, I think the two dogs that stand out as my alpha males (at two different times) Toucan and Oatie. All the dogs respected these two, but *neither* ever acted in an aggressive manner. It had *nothing* to do with use as a stud either. Another fallacy. Wilbur was used more than any of my males and even with bitches in heat would *NEVER* for *ANY* reason fight. He was a *super* soft dog, as have been his two sons (Oatie and Cosmo). Which made him a poor show dog. The noise of fighting/barking dogs totally unnerved him. At field trials or race meets, he was *one* of those noisy ones. He knew the difference in what these dogs were saying, obviously. I was actually told by a breeder "of note" that she considered a Whippet with a soft temperament incorrect. A breeder who keeps dogs (a dog and a bitch per run) in kennels and wouldn't *expect* to keep males together. This is *not* uncommon. So, pray tell, how does one *know* that the dogs they are breeding from can even live in a pack situation, like the average person wants? Selecting from *only* dogs that show well and just don't attack the judge is not my idea of breeding for temperament. But these are the first breeders to say that the breed is in great shape as far as temperament. I disagree.

The other big (huge!) fallacy is that Whippets with great prey drive are more aggressive. That dogs from show only lines make better pets because they lack prey drive. *Bull*. My keenest, most over the top dogs when it comes to chasing lures or even live things (and killing some) have been some of the sweetest, softest temperamented dogs. One has *nothing* to do with the other. The old, "These are hunters, you know, you have to *expect* them to be aggressive", is bull. Don't forget, the dogs that hunt or race (or LC) are expected to do so with *others*. Aggressive ones would not be bred from. A top show dog however... It needs to have that "fiery" personality.

I also don't think the average person really understands canine behavior. "Oh, he loves me so much and is jealous. That's why he acts aggressive." Sure... Some, not all, control can be instilled as pups and young adolescents. When play gets too out of control between my pups, I step in and grab each by the scruff. *I'm* in charge here, don't forget it. If at any time I see a dog walk stiffly towards another (usually a young one who wants to try a move), it get's a smack and yelled at. My dogs do understand that I am the "alpha" individual here. I don't even need the "She who must be obeyed" T shirt ;-) There are plenty of good books out there on canine behavior. There have been plenty of canine, wolf mostly, shows on TV. Pay attention to them. These are *not* "Fur babies"! They are dogs. They want to be treated like dogs. Dogs *like* it when someone is in control. It gives them a sense of security. *Not* the other way around. Your dog is not going to love you more because you don't correct bad behaviors. *The* biggest fallacy. With human kids too.

Finally. I know there are situations (seems like lots) where two dogs need to be separated. This is always going to be a stressful situation. *Always*. Remember, that in a wild pack if a member is cast out it is an enemy forever. In a domestic situation that is compounded because *both* individuals feel they have cast the other out. I hope I never get into this type of situation. Yes, I understand it can happen no matter how hard you work at it. I had one dog that I placed with my sister because, though he never started anything, he was a tough dog and wouldn't back down. The one who tested my resolve on too many occasions (Wembley) was castrated. Much to the chagrin of those who wanted to breed to him. He was not aggressive in *any* way. He just liked to posture a lot. Being far from an alpha individual in the pack. *Those* are the trouble makers, not the true alphas. Okay. End of morning preach. If I've offended anyone, then it was worth it ;-)

Linda Garwacki


Submitted by Nancy Billups, Cloud Nine Whippets and AWC Whippet Rescue Contact

My whippet household consists of 5 females and 3 males. My first male was over 2 years old when I brought the second male into the house. They have never really gotten along and there have been some fights between the two. In the house they are fine, but they cannot be put out into the run together. I kept 1 male out of my first litter and he gets along with my first male, but not the second male. My second male seems to do better if he is the only male in his run. I have managed a system that has worked for me and it is work, but it has been worth it. I also have two females that don't get along and cannot be put out together. One is spayed and one is not. I think having multiple whippets could have something to do with it, but I am not sure. None of my males are aggressive towards other dogs outside of my home (at shows). They seem to want to dominate their runs and since I have separated them, everyone is happy. Inside the house is mine, and they respect that, but I would never leave them alone together in the house when I wasn't there. The male that I kept out of my first litter doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body and has not shown any tendency to fight and he is 2 1/2 years old now. My oldest male is 5 and the second male is 3.

Both my oldest spayed female(7 yrs.) and oldest male(5 yrs.) were the first male and female whippets that I had for several years and therefore the alphas of the pack at my house. Maybe that has something to do with it, I don't know.

Nancy Billups
Cloud Nine Whippets


By Julie Alplanalp, Bayberry Whippets

Linda G. had an excellent post that I TOTALLY agree with. In my house I've also found that the alpha is a "quiet leader" and never asserts themselves aggressively. The other dogs simply know and respect the position without aggression on either side. I completely disagree with the posts that have said that aggression = alpha. I have 3 intact males, ages 11, 5 and 1. I've never had them even look cross-eyed at each other, even with bitches in season, including strange bitches in season here to be bred. Same goes for the bitches, everybody gets along. I don't separate dogs here. If I ever get a dog who doesn't co-exist peacefully here, it will find a more suitable home.

Several years ago at a local dog show one of the exhibitor's whippets tried to attack a friend of mine's dog. The breeder/owner of the first whippet apologized for her dog's behavior. She said that "once he's finished I'm going to have him neutered, he's too aggressive". Well, of course now that same dog is out there siring litters. And guess what? I've met a couple of his pups, and they're aggressive too. Why in the world would anybody do this?

Julie & Todd Alplanalp
Bayberry Whippets