"Libby" is the granddaughter of my very first Whippet, "Lizzy" and my best friend, Mary Beth Lake's champion male, "Billy".
In October of 2004, Mary Beth had a litter of Whippets. I really didn't want another dog as I already had a male, "Timmy" and a bitch, "Sally", from the same line. I was very busy working "Sally" in Utility and another dog wasn't in my plans. I prefer petite bitches and Mary Beth promised me that one of the females in this litter would be small. She convinced me that since this was her last litter, I needed this pup. Reluctantly, I agreed.
"Libby" was a very active puppy that ate anything that surfaced in the yard, wasn't easy to housebreak and she wasn't happy about being crated. The one thing she loved to do was sit. She was ever so proud when she learned to sit on command. Every time I turned around, she was sitting. She would sit while I prepared her food, sit by the door to go out, and sit waiting to get into the car. Needless to say, sitting in the
obedience ring has never been a problem.
She flew through her CD title in 4 shows and her CDX title in 7 shows. Presently, at 2 years of age, we are competing in Utility. She is close to qualifying, but sometimes working up to 50 feet away takes a bit more confidence than she has.
In working with my girls I've found that Whippets can be very willing and reliable obedience dogs. "Libby" particularly is a "thinker". She analyzes every move, working methodically through each exercise trying her best and appears very disappointed when she doesn't quite get it right. I've used some compulsion methods showing the dog that there are consequences when there is no effort. I also use lots of praise and food rewards for a job well done.
The main problem that I've found is that Whippets get discouraged easily, and sometimes they just don't catch on too quickly to what we are trying to teach them. It is ever so important to keep their spirits up with whatever it takes. Libby and I play between exercises, but when we work it is serious. It is crucial to be fair though. Look at the whole picture and decide if you are doing your job in getting through to your dog or if the dog is
shutting down for another reason. Fix any problems before continuing. During a training session, I always begin and end with an exercise that I know will be successfully completed. I work on the problem areas in the middle of the session.
My experiences have taught me that every exercise has to be broken down into smaller parts, then gradually put back together. If the dog still is not performing the exercise correctly, go back and work on the weaker areas separately. Give the dog every opportunity to succeed, along with lots of praise for trying.
To train your dog properly to compete in obedience, endless hours and effort are necessary. There are no shortcuts. Dog obedience with any breed teaches us patience, humility, self confidence and self control. But most of all, it creates a bond with your dog that is by far one of the most rewarding experiences in life. The two of you are a team. What a high it is when you become one and qualify.