Weimaraner

Ana Oliveira
Dr Ana Oliveira (DVM, University of Lisbon)
 
Photo of adult Weimaraner

Weimaraner or Weim is a sleek-looking dog breed known for its blue-grey shiny coat, unusual eyes and aristocratic presence. Weimaraners are originally from Germany and were used for hunting large game and accompanying their owners on the field at all times. Due to this deep bond they always shared with people, they are extremely attached to their owners and problems with separation anxiety are not uncommon among Weimaraners.

Large and athletic, Weims are good hunters and love running and all sorts of exercise. They have a strong prey drive, which makes them unsuitable to share a living with small furry pets. They can be quite demanding, as they tend to be stubborn and strong-willed, but they are also loving and extremely loyal, being the perfect house pet for those up to the task.

About & History

Weimaraners probably descend from a breed that is now extinct, the Chien-Gris (or Grey St. Louis Hound). This breed goes back to the 13th century and was used for hunting in the court of the king Louis IX of France. Some think that Weimaraners descend from the St. Hubert Hound (or bloodhound). In any case, the Weimaraner we know today started to be developed as a breed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the city of Weimar, thus the name. They are believed to be a mix of Bloodhound, English Pointer, German Shorthaired Pointer, blue Great Dane, and Huehnerhund (chicken dog).

Back in the 19th century, the Weimaraner, or the Weimar Pointer, as it was called then, was used for hunting large game, such as deer, bears and wolves, but as the German forests began to disappear, along with these animals, the breed started to be used for hunting smaller preys. They were bred exclusively for the nobility, who was after a distinctive, royal-looking hunting dog. Weimaraners were kept at home, not in kennels like other hunting dogs, which resulted in an affectionate family dog. In 1897, nobles created an exclusive club to keep the breed’s standards and control them. Anyone wanting to buy a Weimaraner had to be part of the club. In fact, Germans were so proud of their unique breed that the dogs that were sent to America were sterilized to prevent breeding and the consequent increase in their numbers.

In 1929, Howard Knight, an American fancier of the breed, tried to take some of these Weimaraners to breed in the United States, but his mission failed. Later in 1938, he finally made it and the breed started to proliferate in America. A few years later, the Weimaraner Club of America was created and the breed was recognised by the American Kennel Club. With the advent of World War II, many Weimaraners were sent to America in an attempt to save the breed – further increasing the dog breeding pool.

Later in the sixties throughout the eighties, Weimaraners became incredibly popular in the United States. The famous photographer William Wegman played an important role in the popularization of the breed, as he is known for his series of compositions involving his own Weimaraners (Man Ray, Fay Ray, and Fay Ray’s offspring) in various costumes, wearing wigs, and posing in different settings. Increased popularity led to irresponsible breeding at that time, which could fortunately be overcome by dedicated breeders who worked hard to restore Weimaraners’ health, temperament, and conformation standards. Nowadays, the Weimaraner is ranked number 30 among the 155 breeds and types recognised by the American Kennel Club.

Appearance

Weimaraner Large Photo

Weimaraners are large, elegant dogs that come in different shades of grey/blue:

  • Charcoal-blue
  • Mouse-grey
  • Silver-grey
  • Blue-grey

Their coat is short and smooth. There is also a longhaired variety, which is not recognised by the American Kennel Club and it is a recessive trait, so both parents must be longhaired for a puppy to be longhaired too. The eyes of a Weimaraner can vary from light amber, grey, to blue-grey. They have webbed paws, which make them great swimmers, and their tail reaches to the hocks, although it has been traditionally docked in countries where it is permitted.

A male Weimaraner usually weighs between 32 and 37 kg (71-82 lb) and measures 63 to 68 cm (25-27 inches), while a female weighs between 25 and 32 kg (55-71 lb) and measures 58 to 63 cm (23-25 inches).

Character & Temperament

Nicknamed “The Grey Ghost” for its unusual blue coat, the Weimaraner is an all-purpose gun dog possessing great stamina and physical endurance. Although slower than other gun dogs, they are thorough and work-oriented. Very intelligent and courageous, Weimaraners were developed to be close to people, which makes them devoted pets that tend to be attached to their owners. Separation anxiety is well recognised in the breed, as well as their behaviour in such episodes. They will bark, howl, dig, and panic, destroying everything around them and even injuring themselves.

Weimaraners are good at hunting, tracking, pointing, and retrieving both from land and water, as they are good swimmers. They need mental stimulation, lots of exercise, but above all, they need to be close to their owners, whom they will follow everywhere. They are good with children and they make wonderful companions, as their bond with humans is very strong. They are loving and lively, always motivated by reward. They are quite sensitive too, and they become easily offended by harsh training or reprimands. It is not unusual for them to present their owners with gifts of dead things (frogs, birds, mice) and they expect to be rewarded accordingly.

Because they are inherently hunting dogs, they have a strong drive for chasing smaller animals and even joggers or bicyclists. Even if acquainted with cats or other small furry pets, Weimaraners should not be left alone with them, as they will respond to their most basic instincts to hunt and they may hurt and kill them. Apart from that, they are friendly dogs, as well as being very smart and assertive. Weimaraners’ fearlessness and wilfulness may translate into a certain degree of domination – both towards other dogs and owners. They can be stubborn, manipulative, and obstinate. With its strong-willed and independent mind, the Weimaraner can be quite demanding and challenging.

The Weimaraner has a great presence and a strong character. It can be wary of strangers, which, along with its alert character, makes it a good guard good. Aggression and extreme shyness are flaws that must be prevented by a correct and early socialization and training. Nevertheless, Weimaraners are happy companions with a playful and loyal attitude.

Trainability

Photo of Weimaraner puppy

Weimaraners should be trained at an early age, as they are a demanding breed and sometimes tough to house-train. Crate training is advised and a firm but gentle treatment should be applied. Weimaraners are sensitive and may become resentful of punishment or harsh training towards them.

Obedience classes are helpful to teach them how to be calm and to control both their dominant temperament and their strong chasing instinct. Early socialization is also beneficial for a healthy adult life since they tend to be suspicious of strangers. Traits like aggression or shyness are preventable through correct training and socialization.

Health

Weimaraners are large dogs that live between 11 and 14 years. They have the potential to develop the following health issues:

  • Bloat and gastric torsion – Because Weimaraners are a large breed with a deep chest, they are more prone to having a bloated stomach that can twist around itself, blocking the circulation. It usually occurs after a large meal followed by exercise and the signs are restlessness, anxiety, attempts to vomit, coughing, and extreme discomfort. Treatment is surgical but the problem can be prevented by feeding the dog several small meals a day and not allowing it to exercise right after.
  • Cancer (mastocytoma and fibrosarcoma) – These are two types of cancer that may occur in Weimaraners. Mastocytomas are mast cell tumours and fibrosarcomas are considered as a group of tumours affecting different types of cells but all resembling each other. Both types are malignant and may considerably shorten a Weimaraner’s lifespan.
  • Hip dysplasia – More frequent in larger dog breeds, hip dysplasia results from an abnormally formed hip joint. The constant wear and tear of the defective articulation causes inflammation, pain, and lameness. The condition is diagnosed with X-rays and hip scoring tests and the treatment available aims at alleviating the symptoms.
  • Skin allergies – Skin allergies are characterized by intense itching of the affected regions and consequent licking, chewing, or scratching of the skin, which may lead to lesions and further bacterial skin infections. Treatment is usually based on anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Heart disease – Tricuspid valve malformation is a condition that may occur in Weimaraners and consists of an abnormal heart valve that does not close completely, thus resulting in the blood that is pumped from the atrium into the ventricle being sent back into the atrium. The condition affects the blood flow, thus preventing the normal functioning of the heart.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Weimaraners love being outdoors with their owners and they need lots of exercise and games. They are demanding regarding exercise and also mental stimulation, as they are very intelligent dogs. They can live a happy life in an apartment if they are provided with enough exercise opportunities. They love to run and they love water. A fenced yard will work best for them to vent all their energy and also prevents them from chasing potential preys. Weimaraners do not deal well with confinement and they master the art of escaping, either by digging holes, jumping fences, or opening doors, so it is important not to leave them alone for long periods of time or without supervision.

Grooming

The Weimaraner’s short coat is easy to maintain and a weekly brush with a bristle brush usually suffices to keep its coat looking at its best. Additionally, wiping its silvery coat with a chamois will keep it shiny and healthy-looking. Because they have pendant ears, owners should check for signs of redness or swelling, as they are prone to inflammation and otitis.

Famous Weimaraners

Popular references to the breed include:

  • Man Ray, a famous Weimaraner that died in 1982 and was owned by the photographer William Wegman. Wegman popularized Weimaraners in his art works that portrayed Man Ray in costumes and poses.
  • Fay Ray, Wegman’s female Weimaraner that followed Man Ray’s legacy. Both Fay Ray and its offspring were used in the photographer’s famous creations.
  • Heidi, the dog of the American president Dwight D. Eisenhower. Heidi was rehomed to the family’s property after ruining a very expensive carpet in the White House.

Cross-Breeds

These are the most common Weimaraner cross-breeds:

  • Boweimar – Cross between a Weimaraner and a Boxer
  • Golden Labmaraner – Cross between a Weimaraner, a Golder Retriever, and a Labrador Retriever
  • Goldmaraner – Cross between a Weimaraner and a Golden Retriever
  • Great Weimar – Cross between a Weimaraner and a Great Dane
  • Labmaraner – Cross between a Weimaraner and a Labrador Retriever
  • Pointeraner – Cross between a Weimaraner and a German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Vizmaraner – Cross between a Weimaraner and a Vizsla
  • Weimapeake – Cross between a Weimaraner and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Weimardoodle – Cross between a Weimaraner and a Poodle
  • Weimarrott – Cross between a Weimaraner and a Rottweiler
  • Weimshepherd – Cross between a Weimaraner and a German Shepherd

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