Weimaraner

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Fast Facts

Country of Origin:Germany
AKC Group:Sporting Group
UKC Group:Gun Dog
Use today:Bird dog, pointing field trials
Life Span:11 to 13 years
Color:Verious shades of gray. May have a white spot on the chest.
Coat:Short, smooth, and sleek.
Grooming:Brush weekly.
Size:Large Dog Breed
Height:23 to 27 inches at the shoulder
Weight:Proportiante to height

Weimaraners were bred in 19th century Germany for speed and courage to hunt big game and later birds. The medium-size, all-purpose gundog was developed in Germany at the court of the Grand Duke Karl August of Weimar. Hunters shaped a solid protection drive into the breed to address such dangers as attacks by wild boars.

Today the Weimaraner is lauded for his exceptional hunting ability and high energy. First and foremost the Weimaraner needs exercise. He can jog, hunt, hike, track, retrieve, or excel in field trials. Left unexercised and alone, he may design “sports” such as digging, barking, chewing, or the ever-popular small animal chasing “Olympic event.”

Bold and bright, the “Gray Ghost” needs an owner with training experience. Reserved with strangers at first meeting, the Weimaraner’s protection drive makes him typically a good watchdog. Socialization will help him do ok with other dogs, but his chase drive for fur or feather is intense, so owners should supervise around small animals (and fence their yard).

Just like a shadow, the Weimaraner sticks close to his people. That endearing characteristic, along with its steel-gray color, gave rise to the nickname of “Gray Ghost.” A Weimaraner is usually ready to play with respectful household children, but because he’s an active breed, supervision is sensible around young children. The breed is easily trained and enjoys agility competition. Weimaraners need lots of daily outdoor exercise, so they're best suited to an active family with a suburban or country home.

The Weimaraner:  

Spirited hunter
Stately stature
Eager companion

Should I get a Weimaraner?

Terrific for a person who:

Wants protective traits, not just amiable athletic traits, in his sporting dog.
Stands ahead of the pack with dog training expertise and experience.
Dislikes being cooped up indoors, so won’t fault a dog for feeling likewise.
  
Think twice if you’re a person who:

Walks on eggshells around assertive, self-assured breeds.
Takes offense if his dog saunters away at times from "boring” training exercises.
Lets his cats "out of the bag” in the yard, expecting no chasing by the dog.

Weimaraner Care

Easy-care fine, sleek gray coat. Moderate shedding (the neutral hair color blends in easily with furniture!)

Weimaraner Standard Look

Male Weimaraners measure 25 to 27 inches at the shoulder, females 2 inches less. The coat, which requires weekly brushing, is short and sleek in shades of gray, and eyes, nose and lip pigmentation harmonize.

Possible Weimaraner health concerns

Hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, congenital heart diseas), corneal dystropy and entropion.


The Wonderful Weimaraner

Steve Carney

Weimereiner sittingJocko, a crafty 6-year-old Weimaraner, loves to open gates. He jumps, pulls down the latch, and pushes it open with remarkable ease. His Weimaraner housemates, Madchen, 7, and Ivan, 5, take advantage of the open gate and run to a nearby creek for a swim. Troublemaker and tattletale rolled into one, Jocko runs to the front door and barks to alert their owner, Vickie Lombardi of Fairfax Station, Va., that the dogs have escaped. "They're a special dog," says Lombardi, who has owned and bred the sleek, aristocratic-looking "gray ghosts" for more than 20 years. "It just seems like they're thinking more, they're figuring out things, they're more in tune with people," she says.

This dog breed’s history is shown in examples of apparent Weimaraner ancestors in art and literature, such as a 1631 painting by Van Dyck. Weimaraners might even trace back to the Gray Hound of St. Louis, a breed King Louis IX of France brought back from a crusade in Egypt in 1248.

Most histories trace the Weimaraner to German Grand Duke Karl August, who in the late 1700s and early 1800s bred Weimaraners to hunt big game in the forest. Originally known as the Weimar Pointer, or der Weimaraner Vorstehhund, the dogs later hunted birds. Bloodhounds and German Shorthaired Pointers might be in its ancestry, but August and his peers kept its exact background secret.

The Weimaraner as we know it today was refined in the 19th century in the region around the central German city of Weimar. This dog breed primarily served as a forester's dog, fending off predators, tracking poachers, hunting large and small game, and curling up in its master's home at the end of the day.

Howard Knight, a New England sportsman, imported the first Weimaraners to the United States in 1929 and founded the Weimaraner Club of America. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1943, and its popularity boomed after World War II when GIs returned from Germany with Weimaraners and extravagant tales of the dogs' prowess in tracking and hunting. The mania eventually settled down, and Weimaraners now rank at a level fanciers consider more reasonable.

Flexing Their Muscle

The Weimaraner’s varied roles in history produced an athletic, loyal, intelligent, flexible dog whose modern counterparts excel at obedience training, field trials, agility, tracking, hunting, search and rescue, and drug detection.

"The Weimaraner is kind of a jack-of-all-trades," says Sharon Pulling, a breeder near Akron, Ohio, who adopted her first Weimaraner 32 years ago. "It's not a star in anything, but it does many things well."

Their intellect and energy require a variety of challenges, or they get bored. Mary Brown and her husband, Jeff, of McLean, Va., love outdoor activities that make good use of the energy of their five Weimaraners-Teffa, 12; Bud, 8; Kane, 3; Penny, 1; and Saga, 5, a national field trial champion. Brown, director of a psychological rehabilitation program, also takes the dogs to the office as therapy for her clients, whose troubles range from anxiety disorders to schizophrenia. She says the dogs seem to sense which people can use the relaxation that comes with rubbing a belly or scratching an ear and which ones prefer to be left alone.

"From my experience, Weimaraners can be pretty flexible," Brown says. "They're very bright. You just want to make sure that's channeled in the right direction."

The Most Famous Weimaraners

Undoubtedly the most famous Weimaraners in the world are the dogs of photographer William Wegman. They have appeared in books, calendars, greeting cards, commercials, and even on the TV shows Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live.

Wegman's iconic photographs demonstrate Weimaraners' intelligence, trainability, and devotion to their owners. The dogs let Wegman dress them in costumes. The resulting photos showcase their muscular build, sleek monochromatic coats, translucent blue or amber eyes, and expressions that range from eerie to goofy to doleful. "They're spectacularly fun dogs," Wegman says.

Despite the silliness of the photographs, Wegman and his dogs take the work seriously. Eager to please, his four Weimaraners thrive on the attention and having a task. If a shot calls for only one dog in the studio, "the others will parade up there, too," Wegman says. "They want to be elevated, looked at, fussed over."

Some aficionados fear Wegman's work will make the dog breed too popular, as Disney did Dalmatians, and lead to overbreeding, uninformed owners, and overwhelmed rescue organizations.

Wegman is aware of those concerns. "People are probably seeing the work and thinking it must be a very easy dog to keep around," he says. "[But] if they're not happy, they can wreak a lot of havoc. They're great if you have lots of time."

Wegman's friend Virginia Alexander, co-author of the breed bible "Weimaraner Ways" (Sunstar, 1993, $79.95), agrees. "It's just like having a child," she says. "Weimaraners need to be stroked, touched, admired."

For example, when playing fetch, you can't simply grab the ball from the Weimaraner's mouth and heave it. "You admire the ball," Alexander says, "and then you admire them."

Too Close For Comfort?

Weimaraners crave human contact and attention. They trail their people everywhere -- outdoors, around the house, into the bathroom. Even at rest, a Weimaraner has a paw atop your foot, a head perched on your knee.

Weimereiner That inherent loyalty can lead to problems, including separation anxiety. To avoid this, use early, diligent crate training, says Alexander of Germantown, Md., who got her first Weimaraner, Bella, from Germany 46 years ago.

The Weimaraner’s stubborn streak dictates early and prolonged obedience training, otherwise the dog will run the house.

Another troubling issue: Some Weimaraners have allergic reactions to puppy vaccines -- the first live virus shot goes fine, but subsequent shots cause an autoimmune reaction resulting in lethargy, fever, swollen lymph nodes and joints, and a trip to the veterinarian. The Weimaraner Club of America recommends separating the distemper and parvovirus vaccinations by two weeks.

On the flip side, allergy-prone humans usually tolerate Weimaraners. The breed doesn't have much dander compared to most dogs. This dog breed sheds little and require minimal grooming.

Yet, the Weimaraner's biggest plus is sensitivity to people. When her brother-in-law was dying of cancer, Lombardi says one of her dogs stayed with him and "seemed to know it. He would lie by the side of the bed, and he was really, really gentle.

"Weimaraners have a little bit more of a bond with people than most dogs," says Lombardi, who has owned numerous other dog breeds. "The other dogs were ... just dogs. The Weimaraner just seems more people-ish."

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