Introduction to the Weimaraner

Known as the “Gray ghost” for his stealth and gray coat, the handsome Weimaraner is a medium-large, athletic dog that originated in Germany in the 19th century.

The breed was originally used to hunt large game such as bear, boar, and deer but when those animals became scarcer, the breed was eventually adapted for smaller game and then for use as a bird dog. Today they are an all-purpose gun dog and known as one of the most versatile of all breeds.

The Weimaraner makes an excellent family dog as long as you are able to provide him with plenty of exercise. This is a very active breed and they do require firm training since they tend to be wildly playful when they are young. They are good with children but they can knock over small children and older people when they are being rambunctious.

The breed also has a strong prey drive so they are often not reliable around cats and other small animals.

This is a great breed for the right person or family, but you need to make sure that the breed is a good fit for you.

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History of the Weimaraner

According to some breed experts, ancestors of the Weimaraner date back to the Middle Ages and the breed may descend from the St. Hubert Hound – an ancestor of the Bloodhound and other European hounds. Early Weimaraners were bred to hunt large game at the court of Grand Duke Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach in Weimar in the 19th century (in Thuringia, Germany today). The breed was originally known as the Weimar Pointer or der Weimaraner Vorstehhund. The dogs were exclusively for the use of the nobility. Later the dogs were adapted for hunting smaller game such as rabbits, fox, and birds (water and game birds). There were undoubtedly crosses to some of the European pointing dogs of the time to help the breed become better bird dogs. The first Weimaraners were imported into the U.S. in 1929 by Howard Knight, a New England sportsman. The breed’s popularity took off after World War II when service members returning from Germany brought some of the dogs back to the U.S. with them.

Because the breed was not developed as we know it today until the late 19th century and Germans were slow to allow the dogs to leave the country, the Weimaraner was not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1943. However, the Weimaraner was quickly admired and prized by hunters and other dog lovers. Possibly because of the difficulties associated with war in Europe, many fine dogs were sent to the U.S. in the 1940s and the breed grew here. Today the breed is ranked 34th in popularity among dogs registered by the AKC.

Weimaraner Health-Related Issues

According to the Weimaraner Club of America, the following tests are recommended for breeders who are considering breeding their dogs:

  • Hip Dysplasia –  OFA evaluation or PennHip evaluation
  • Eye Clearance – CERF
  •  Autoimmune Thyroiditis – OFA evaluation from an approved laboratory
  • Canine Hyperuricosuria (HUU) is an “optional” test performed by VGL at UC, Davis

Hip dysplasia can occur in the breed but the current rate of CHD in Weimaraners is low. Most breeders do have their dogs x-rayed with many dogs receiving “Excellent” ratings.

Weimaraners are one of the breeds prone to bloat (gastric torsion). Bloat is most common in deep-chested breeds. In this condition, the stomach fills with air and becomes twisted, cutting off the blood supply. This is a life-threatening condition and requires emergency veterinary care. Dogs that are prone to bloat should be fed several small meals per day instead of one large meal. It’s also recommended that dogs are not allowed to exercise right after eating.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) can also occur in the breed. HOD is a bone disease that can affect rapidly growing large breed dogs. The cause of HOD is unclear though it may involve the immune system. It usually strikes puppies between 3 and 6 months old. Treatment involves supportive care. It is a serious condition that causes painful swelling to the growth plates in the dog’s leg bones. Symptoms can resolve on their own but some dogs can suffer permanent structural damage. In severe cases a puppy can die.

Heart disease is a concern for some owners. Eye issues can also appear in the breed such as corneal dystropy and entropion.

Weimaraners can also experience some other health issues but most of them are not common in the breed. Your best source of health information for Weimaraners (or for most dog breeds) is the breed’s parent club web site. These sites are maintained by breed experts who know the dogs and their health issues. They are also usually the people who fund research into breed health problems.

If you are considering getting a Weimaraner puppy or dog, you should talk to the breeder about these tests and other health issues in the breed. Ask about health guarantees. Breeders cannot guarantee that dogs will never have a health problem. No one can do that. But they should have reasonable guarantees that explain the obligations of both the breeder and the buyer.

Weimaraner Temperament

The Weimaraner is known for being fearless, friendly, alert, and obedient. They can also be stubborn at times. Weimaraners are intelligent dogs and ranked 21st in Dr. Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs. They understand new commands quickly and they obey the first command some 85 percent of the time. Like many sporting breeds, the Weimaraner is considered to be a “soft” dog and they do not do well with harsh words or training techniques. They love their families and their work. They work to please you. If you yell at your Weim or get angry, they can shut down.

The Weimaraner has always been a family dog and they do well living with you in an indoor situation, having lots of your attention. They do not do well as a kennel dog or living outdoors. The breed is affectionate and loving. The require plenty of one-on-one attention. Expect your Weimaraner to follow you wherever you go. This is what the breed has always been bred to do.

As already mentioned, this is a breed with a strong prey drive and it can be dangerous to have a cat or other small pet in the house or yard with a Weimaraner. If you live in a rural area, some Weims will also chase livestock so make sure you have a good fence.

Weimaraners tend to be reserved with strangers until they get to know them. They make good watchdogs and will bark to give an alarm when someone unknown approaches your home.

Expect a Weimaraner puppy to be wild and crazy. The breed has tremendous energy and when they feel good, they will play like wild things. Your young Weimaraner can be boisterous and rambunctious for a couple of years until he starts to settle down. For this reason, he can accidentally knock over small children or elderly people without meaning any harm.

This is a very active, athletic dog and he does need lots of room to exercise. The Weimaraner does best with an owner or family that can indulge him with outdoor activities. It’s also important to provide him with some obedience training so you can keep him under control.

If you don’t provide your Weimaraner with enough mental and physical stimulation, you can expect him to destroy your house and find other terrible ways to entertain himself. And he is big enough and strong enough – not to mention smart enough – to come up with some very bad ways to keep himself busy! It’s much easier to find some hobbies that you and your Weimaraner can enjoy together than to have to replace your furniture or replant your neighbor’s garden.

According to a health survey from the Weimaraner Club of America, about 15 percent of owners report that their Weimaraners have problems with separation anxiety. The breed has a reputation for having separation anxiety issues. The Weimaraner has always bonded very closely to people and some of them don’t do well when they are left alone. You need to be aware of this tendency in the breed when you get a puppy and work on socialization. Socialization helps to build confidence. Check with your local kennel club or pet store for puppy preschool or puppy kindergarten classes so your puppy/young dog can meet other dogs and people. Take him places so he can meet people. Enroll in a basic obedience class. Consider getting involved in some dog activities with your Weimaraner. If your Weimaraner has an active life, he is less likely to have problems with separation anxiety when you have to leave him at times. He becomes accustomed to coming and going, changes in routine, and relaxing at home by himself.

The Weimaraner is one of the most versatile of all dogs. They and their owners participate in dog events such as hunting, tracking, obedience, rally, agility, flyball, and other sports. Weimaraners also make excellent therapy dogs and search and rescue dogs.

Weimaraner Grooming

The Weimaraner is a low maintenance breed. Their coat is short, smooth, and sleek. They do not have an under coat and shedding is minimal. Brush your dog regularly to help remove the dead hair and bathe as necessary to keep your dog clean.

Male Weimaraners stand 25 to 27 inches tall at the withers; females stand 23 to 25 inches tall at the withers. Males typically weigh 70 to 80 pounds; females usually weigh 55 to 70 pounds. Dogs should look lean, muscular, and athletic. Tails are docked in the United States.

The Weimaraner comes in varying shades of gray. The eyes can be gray, blue-gray, or light amber (yellow).

As with all dogs, you should clean your dog’s ears regularly and trim his nails. Brush his teeth often.

Weimaraner Fun Facts

  • There is a longhaired version of the Weimaraner that is recognized in other countries. The AKC does not yet recognize this version. The longhaired version has a silky coat and a long, feathered tail (supporting the theory that some Setters were used to help create the Weimaraner as bird dog in the 19th century). The gene for long hair is recessive so both parents have to carry the gene for puppies to have this coat type.
  • The first Weimaraners Germany allowed to leave the country were all sterilized before they left Germany. They prized their dogs and didn’t want breeders in other countries to make them popular.
  • Dogs with blue coats can occur in the breed. They are registered as purebred Weimaraners but they are not allowed to be shown in dog shows. Black coats are automatically disqualified. Occasionally Weimaraners have a coat that is gray with faded tan points (Doberman markings). None of these non-standard coat colors are desirable for breeding or showing.
  • Weimaraners are probably best-known and most recognizable because of photographer William Wegman who is famous for photographing his Weimaraners in human clothes and situations.

Common Weimaraner Mixes

The Weimaraner’s large size and some of his other traits do not make him particularly popular for crossbreeding. Here are some of the Weimaraner mixes we found online:

  • Boweimar
  • Golden Labmaraner
  • Goldmaraner
  • Great Weimar
  • Labmaraner
  • Pointeraner
  • Weimapeake
  • Weimardoodle
  • Weimarrott
  • Weimshepherd

Weimaraner FAQs

What is a Weimaraner’s life expectancy?

According to a 2004 breed health study conducted by the Kennel Club in the UK, the median age at death for the Weimaraner was 11 years and 2 months. The oldest Weimaraner death reported in the survey was 18 years and 10 months (a phenomenal age for a large breed sporting dog). The most common causes of death for dogs in the survey were cancer (24 percent), gastrointestinal (14.9 percent – includes bloat), old age (13.6 percent), and cardiac (11.6 percent). In the United States, Weimaraners are commonly reported to have an average lifespan of 11 to 14 years.

Is the Weimaraner easy to train?

Although they can be stubborn at times, the Weimaraner is considered to be a very intelligent dog and easy to train. They have a close emotional bond with their owners and they can be sensitive so it’s important to use positive reinforcement methods when training these dogs. They do not respond well to harsh methods or constant, boring repetition. Make training fun for a Weimaraner, be firm but kind, and things should go well. Most of all, the Weimaraner wants to spend time with his people, so give him time and attention.

Do Weimaraners shed a lot of hair?

No. Weimaraners have a short, sleek coat but they don’t have an undercoat. They don’t shed a lot. They are sometimes considered to be a good breed for people who are allergic to dogs. If you are allergic to dogs and considering a Weimaraner, be sure to meet the individual dog to see how you react to him. People with allergies to dogs can have different reactions to different dogs.

Do Weimaraners make good apartment pets?

If there’s a will, there’s a way, so if you absolutely, positively wanted to keep your Weimaraner in an apartment with you, you probably could. However, the Weimaraner would be a difficult dog to keep as an apartment pet. They require a lot of daily exercise. Weimaraner puppies and young adults can be wild. Some Weimaraners suffer from separation anxiety – which can include howling. This breed would not be an easy dog to keep in an apartment for most people but, again, some people do make a success of it.

Are Weimaraners good with children?

The Weimaraner makes a great family dog for an active family. They are happy, good-natured dogs and they love people. They are great with children in general – especially active kids who love to run and play with them. However, young Weimaraners can be so enthused that they can knock over toddlers and small kids. Weimaraners are not bad-tempered and they don’t intend to hurt anyone. They are just very happy and excited. Young dogs don’t always look where they are going. An older Weimaraner might be safer with small children. Or, if your kids are older, they can probably manage a Weim puppy or young dog without getting knocked over.

It’s always important to teach all children how to play gently with a dog so they don’t pull on tails and ears or do things to provoke a dog into biting. Thousands of children are bitten by dogs every year and most of those cases could be prevented with a little education. Take normal precautions.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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