A descendant from the Bloodhound, the Weimaraner is most known for its role on Sesame Street where it was often dressed in people’s clothes during short skits. Bred in Germany to hunt large game, this breed is now an excellent bird pointer and retriever. Imported to the states in the 1920s, Weimaraners are wonderful with children and make excellent family pets.
Originally bred as a gundog to handle big game like deer and bear, the “Silver Ghost” was a highly sought-after dog breed in its native Germany. Today, these elegant but demanding dogs can still be found out on the hunting grounds, but can also make a fine family friend if well exercised.
You may not know his name, but you probably recognize his silvery gray snout and long ears, a face made famous by Weimaraner photographer William Wegman. His distinctive look aside, the Weimaraner isn’t an ornament — he’s an active dog, with a deep need to hunt and connect with his human family.
In fact, there are two things a prospective owner needs to know about the Weimaraner: He has no “off” switch, and he’s not happy when left alone. Bred in Germany as a hunting dog and a family companion, the Weimaraner would love nothing more than to spend the day hunting with you — all day long, every single day. Failing that, he’ll settle for obedience training, agility, hiking, or participating in canine sports, just as long as it means that he can be active with you.
If you’re getting the idea that Weimaraners tend to attach to their owners like Velcro, you’re right. Separation anxiety is a serious problem in this breed; some Weimaraners become so distraught when left to their own devices that they bark, dig, escape, and even injure themselves. They can also be stubborn, demanding, and tough to house-train. They’re frequently a hazard to cats and other small pets, and if they don’t get a lot of daily exercise, they go stir crazy.
So why even have one? The answer is simple: They’re incredibly intelligent, loyal dogs who bond deeply with their owners. For some people, the depth of that relationship, coupled with the unique appearance of the breed, makes them the only dog to consider. To see if the Weimaraner is the right breed for you, take the Weimaraner Club of America’s interactive quiz.
- Weimaraners were bred to have a lot of energy and stamina. Be prepared to provide them with lots of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Weims aren’t a soft-mouthed dog like a Golden Retriever and some have a low tolerance for small, furry animals, such as rabbits, and even cats and dogs. Until you know your dog well, watch him carefully when small animals are in his presence.
- Weims are high-strung dogs and can suffer from severe separation anxiety. If left alone for too long, they may bark, become destructive, or even injure themselves.
- Although Weimaraners are hunting dogs, they don’t like living outdoors. They require a lot of attention and want to be close to you.
- Weims often are suspicious of strangers and can be unacceptably aggressive. Socializing them to many different people and situations when they are puppies and throughout their lives is critical.
- Weimaraners are intelligent and they think for themselves. Firm, consistent, gentle training must continue throughout their lives.
- Weimaraners can be difficult to housetrain. Crate training is recommended.
- Unethical breeders may advertise blue or black Weims as “rare” to attract buyers and will charge more for pups of these colors, but the truth is that blue and black Weimaraners are disqualified in the breed standard.
- Weims are intelligent and can learn quickly, but if their intelligence and energy aren’t channeled constructively, they may learn some things you don’t want them to know, such as how to open doors and escape.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
Other Quick Facts
- Weimaraners aren’t suited to apartment life — they need a home with a yard and an owner who won’t scold them for digging up moles and mice.
- The Weimaraner’s beautiful coat is a snap to maintain, but it sheds.
- Weimaraners love to play in the water, and they drip copious amounts it when they drink.
- They are talented escape artists who excel at breaking out of enclosures, jumping fences, and figuring out how to unlatch doors and gates.
- The Weimaraner has a mind of his own, so he needs consistent training throughout his life to reinforce that you’re the one in charge.
- Females weigh between 55 to 70 pounds, while males can weigh in at 85 pounds.
AKC group: Sporting group
UKC group: Gun Dog group
Average lifespan: 10 – 12 years
Average size: 50 – 70 pounds
Coat appearance: Short and smooth
Coloration: Various shades of gray, silver
Other identifiers: Athletic build; blue, gray or amber eyes; folded straight ears; gray-colored nose; long legs with small, webbed paws
Possible alterations: May have a pink-colored nose.Comparable Breeds: Greyhound, Vizsla
Members of Germany’s Weimar court created the breed in the early 19th century. They wanted a dog who possessed courage, intelligence, and good scenting abilities in order to hunt big game. It remains a mystery just how they achieved their dream dog, but it’s believed that several breeds played a role, including the Bloodhound, English Pointer, German Shorthaired Pointer, blue Great Dane, the silver-gray chicken dog, and the red Schweisshunde, a stellar scent hound. The result was a dog with speed, stamina, and the versatility to switch gears from hunting to pointing and retrieving upland game birds and waterfowl when big game was scarce.
The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1943. In Germany, the Weimaraner is still used to hunt furry and feathered prey, as well as retrieve on land and in the water. In the United States, he doesn’t compete in retrieving trials, although he is used as a personal hunting dog. His popularity is evidenced by his AKC registration ranking, which has held steady at 32nd for the past decade, with a slight rise to 29th in 2005.
Early tales about the Weimaraner made it seem as if the dog came fully trained and was perfect in all respects. Even today, many people still hold this belief about the breed. Unfortunately for them, there’s no such thing as a dog that comes programmed with good behavior.
The typical Weimaraner is friendly, fearless, alert, and obedient, all traits that make him an excellent companion and watchdog. On the flip side, he’s assertive, smart, restless, and willful. This is a dog who will take over the household if you give him half a chance. He’ll chew, bark, chase cats, and steal the roast off the counter — if you don’t give him the socialization, training, and structure he needs throughout his life.
Aggression and shyness are temperament flaws that are seen in this breed. They must be dealt with early and may require the assistance of a behaviorist or experienced trainer to avoid serious behavior problems such as biting.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who’s beating up his littermates or the one who’s hiding in the corner. Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who’s available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you’re comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, Weimaraners need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they’re young. For the Weim, however, socialization should continue throughout his life. Socialization helps ensure that your Weimaraner puppy grows up to be a well-rounded, outgoing, friendly dog and stays that way. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Weimaraners enjoy low rates of dysplasia. The breed is ranked 102nd of 153 total breeds and has a very high test rate and a very high percentage of excellent rating among those dogs tested. It is generally recommended to acquire Weimaraners only from breeders who have their dogs’ hips tested using OFA or PennHIP methods.
As a deep-chested dog, the Weimaraner is prone to bloat or gastric torsion, a very serious condition that can cause painful and rapid death when left untreated. It occurs when the stomach twists itself, thereby pinching off blood vessels and the routes of food traveling in or out. Symptoms include signs of general distress, discomfort, no bowel movement or sounds, and a swollen stomach. Immediate medical attention is imperative when bloat occurs and surgery is the only option if it is caught early enough.
One way to help prevent bloat is to spread out the Weimaraner’s feedings to at least twice daily and to avoid any vigorous exercise an hour before or after meals. It is also recommended that the dog’s feeding dish not be placed on a raised platform to discourage it from gobbling its food too quickly and keep air from entering the stomach. Raised food bowls have been found to more than double the risk of bloat in large dogs.
Skin allergies can affect some dogs. Take your dog to the vet if he starts to lose hair, itch constantly or develop rashes. You should also check for dog for parasites, as they can cause an allergic reaction in addition to the normal irritation from bites.
Weimaraners will do okay in an apartment if they are sufficiently exercised. They are relatively inactive indoors and will do best with at least a large yard. They are not suited to outdoor kennel life.
These are powerful working dogs with great stamina. They need to be taken for a daily, long walk or jog. In addition, they need plenty of opportunities to run free. Do not exercise them after meals. It is best to feed a dog after a long walk, as soon as it cools down.
The Weimaraner’s short coat is easy to maintain: Brush it with a rubber curry brush at least once a week. The brush removes dead hairs that would otherwise end up on your floor, furniture, and clothing. Weimaraners shed, so the more you brush, the less hair you’ll have flying around. And bathe your Weimaraner only when he’s dirty, which shouldn’t be very often.
The Weimaraner is a hunting dog, so good foot condition is important. Keep his toenails trimmed short. Last but not least, brush his teeth with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Is this breed right for you?
Characteristically happy and affectionate, the Weimaraner will do best in a home in which it has a large yard to play and is given a sufficient amount of exercise. If not given enough activity, it will become disorderly and misbehave. Due to inactivity while in the home, it does OK with apartment life but is a loud barker. In need of training, this breed needs a happy and calm owner who is never harsh or abrasive. Known for becoming overexcited, it is best that it learns commandments for when this type of behavior is appropriate. The Weimaraner is awesome with children but does not do well with other small animals.
Children and other pets
For an active older child who’s familiar with dogs, a Weimaraner can be a great companion. They’re far too rambunctious for toddlers, however, and may chase small children who are running.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Weimaraners are not the best choice for families with cats, small dogs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, or birds. Weimaraners have a strong prey drive and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to redirect that instinct. They will go after and kill, if possible, any small or large furry animals they see.
Did You Know?
“Blue” Weimaraners can’t compete in the American show ring, but the color is considered normal and is not associated with any health problems. “Brown” Weimaraners, on the other hand, are not purebred Weimaraners, but rather German Shorthaired Pointer/Weimaraner mixes.
A dream day-in-the-life
This happy-go-lucky breed will love to wake up surrounded by its loved ones. Going outside for a romp in the yard, the Weimaraner will happily hang out indoors with the family for the remainder of the day. Keeping its guard up as the good watchdog that it is, it’ll be excited as ever when you two go for your daily run at sunset.