Elegant, refined, and mysterious, the Weimaraner’s nickname, the Gray Ghost, is well deserved. In their native Germany, they were bred as a gundog; a valued hunter’s companion to help in handling large game. This gives them plenty of strength and stamina, which is something owners will have to consider before bringing this beautiful dog home!
Weimaraners will require a lot of extra care and attention and are not a novice’s dog. However, since they are eager to please, they assimilate into home life quite nicely. Weims love being part of the family; their valor gives them loyalty unlike any other! They may be silver, but these dogs have hearts of gold.
Are you looking to bring a Weimaraner into your life? We hope you’re ready to keep up with them! It can be difficult to address their needs without first knowing what they are. For this reason, we’ve written this guide to help you understand everything you need to know about this gorgeous, one-of-a-kind breed. In this article, we will go over the Weimaraner’s history, how they look and behave, plus all the little things you’ll need to know about their health and care. We’ll also look at how to source a dog or puppy from an appropriate breeder or rescue.
While the generally accepted theory is that the Weimaraner came about sometime in the 19th Century, there are pieces of art that tell us something about dogs who certainly look like them! From here, we can see that Weimaraners, or their ancestors, were a celebrated part of society as early as the 14th Century. It is interesting to note their popularity with nobility even then, as the Weimaraner breed was developed several hundred years later by German nobles!
In the early 19th Century, the Weimaraner breed was developed in Weimar, Germany. Nobles of the court of Weimar needed a hunting dog for their hunting excursions. The dogs helped handle big game, such as deer, wolves, and bears. For this, they required a dog with exceptional courage, intelligence, loyalty, and scenting ability.
While there is much debate as to how the breed came about, it could be that the Weimaraner was born as a gray German Shorthaired Pointer, or was born by crossing one of these dogs with an older German breed. This supposedly accidental gray coloration ironically became the hallmark of the breed! During these times, the breed was known as the Weimar Setter.
Forming the Breed Standard
Regardless of the finer details of the breed’s origins, German aristocracy had a firm grip on the breed during its development and controlled the Weimaraner’s availability to the public. They formed the Weimaraner Club, where they supervised the breed’s development.
This was an incredibly strict process, and they did not allow people without a membership to obtain the breed. Much of the breed’s history in these years was lost to time, but there were stories told of an incredible gray hunting dog. It is said that the latter part of the 19th Century had the dogs move to hunting smaller game, versus the larger game they were originally bred for.
Eventually, Howard Knight, a New England sportsman, joined the German Weimaraner Club in 1928. The rules had relaxed somewhat, so he wanted to bring the dog to America.
He was able to secure several dogs and bring them to the US, though there were a few mishaps with the German Club sending sterilized male dogs. Eventually, he was able to import breeding stock; the first American Weimaraners were born in the late 1930s. Later, others joined Knight in the breeding efforts. This continued until the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1943. The Weimaraner proved to be such a popular breed that they were entered in more competitions in their short years in the US versus all their time in Germany!
In Popular Culture
These days, the Weimaraner enjoys popularity as a family companion, as well as a hunting dog. They’ve had their fair share of fame; President Dwight Eisenhower had a Weimaraner named Heidi. Princess Grace of Monaco was given a Weimaraner for her wedding to Prince Rainier III!
You may also know the breed from the work of photographer William Wegman. He has photographed his beautiful dogs in various poses, wearing human clothing since the 1970s. The gorgeous expression of the breed lends a human-like quality to the photographs; they must be seen to be believed! As of 2019, the Weimaraner holds the AKC’s 39th spot of 193 for the most popular dog in America.
This breed looks intimidating, and can back it up as well if need be! Since they are hunting dogs, they are a bit high-strung, always ready to get up and go. Pet owners must be prepared to meet the high-energy needs this breed will have. For this reason, they are better suited to homes that aren’t too busy, as they will need to have special attention given to their exercise. Busier lifestyles aren’t recommended, and some experience is required.
Beyond this, you will find that your Weim is incredibly friendly, devoted, and loving. They make an excellent family pet and are great for families who love being outdoors. They will get along fabulously with children, though you will need to supervise their interactions with the younger members of your household in case of over-excitement. Still, they love to be with kids, and it may be difficult to separate them!
The Weim’s high prey drive might make it difficult to share the home with smaller animals, like birds and reptiles. However, provide them with the right socialization, and they can get along with other dogs and even cats! Introductions must be done properly with sufficient time allotted to let everyone get to know each other. This is a great way to make sure that all your furry friends can share the home without any issues.
Weimaraners are courageous, bold dogs with acute senses; AKC standard calls them, “friendly, fearless, alert and obedient.” Their size makes them a great option for a guard dog. They will definitely let you know when somebody new has arrived. Training them to bark only when appropriate will not be difficult given their intelligence and trainability. However, take care to have somebody with them at all times.
They may be large, but Weims can be big babies prone to bad bouts of separation anxiety. Leaving them alone for too long can result in much havoc wreaked upon your home if the very sad and lonely dog wasn’t bad enough!
Weimaraners do more than just cuddle and hunt; they’re also incredibly skilled at police work. Many Weims have joined the K-9 forces for tracking, retrieving, and pointing. With enough training, they can also be skilled service dogs, depending on what the service requires. As long as the person in need of help can give ample exercise to their Weim, they’ll find their canine companion serving them dutifully and excellently.
Size and Appearance
Weimaraners are considered a medium-sized breed by the AKC, though they can get to be quite large. Male dogs stand at around 26 inches at the shoulder, while females stand at 24 inches. They weigh anywhere from 55 to 90 pounds, with males being heavier than females. The AKC describes their general appearance as, “a picture of grace, speed, stamina, alertness, and balance.”
Weimaraners are described to have aristocratic, graceful features indicative of the poise of the breed. Their face gives a kind, intelligent expression. Weims have moderately long heads, with the skin drawn tightly across them. They have long ears set up high on their heads, dropping to a bit past their jaw.
Their eyes are set well-apart and come in shades of light amber, gray, or blue-gray; the eyes appear almost black if the Weimaraner is excited. Their noses are gray; they may come in pink, but this is penalized by the AKC. A Weimaraner’s lips are almost always pinkish.
Weimaraners are athletic and muscular; these qualities present well on their bodies. Their shoulders are strong and well laid-back. Their backs are straight and moderate in length, ending in a tail that the AKC requires to be docked.
They also have deep chests, with ribs that are long and well sprung. To allow for incredible running speed, their forelegs are straight and long, and their thighs are well-muscled. Their feet are firm and compact with nails either gray or amber in color. The way they move must be “effortless and should indicate smooth coordination.”
Coat and Colors
Weimaraners have a short, sleek coat. It is smooth and shiny and comes in a solid color. They do not have an undercoat, which makes grooming them fairly easy. The short coat is actually a required trait in Weimaraners, as longer coats are disqualified by the AKC. Despite the ease of grooming, a short coat, and a lack of undercoat, this breed still sheds. They aren’t hypoallergenic, which is bad news for allergy sufferers.
As for coat colors, they aren’t called the Gray Ghost for nothing! The Weimaraner has truly enchanting coat colors. They come in a variety of silvery shades, which is actually genetically some form of dilute brown or black. This usually presents itself in shades of silver to mouse-gray, blending to a lighter coloration on the head and ears. They can also come in blue and black coloring, though this is disqualified by the AKC. White spots can present themselves on the chest. However, this is penalized if found elsewhere on the body.
There’s no other way to go about it, Weimaraners require a lot of vigorous, tiring work. Their high energy needs dictate that they spend at least two full hours a day exercising. They will love going on long walks and will need ample time to explore the area they are in; they are hunting dogs and love to survey the land!
Still, they are highly intelligent and will need a lot of variety in their exercise regimen. You will need to provide them with different activities to keep them mentally as well as physically stimulated. When you are not playing together, they should have access to a lot of toys. However, being the faithful companions that they are, they will need to spend most of their time with you. Several walks a day can be good, but they also love activities like playing fetch or frisbee at the dog park.
Allow them to play off their leash to burn off the extra energy. This means they should have access to a well-secured, fenced-in yard. You can even elect to build them an agility course if your space is large enough. This will do great as an activity you can do together to build your bond and train them in both obedience and agility.
Given this dog’s size, they will need to live in a home that can accommodate their larger movements. It will be hard for them to thrive in smaller homes such as apartments. They need the room to move around freely, so a larger home is their best bet. As previously mentioned, you will need to provide them with a fenced-in outdoor area, where they can run around and explore as they need.
Since they have no undercoat, they can do well in places where the weather is warmer. However, take care to give them plenty of water in the summer months, as well as keep them cool indoors. Cold weather can be more difficult since they do not have the protection of the undercoat to keep them warm. In this case, when you must bring your Weim outdoors, you can dress them up in a sweater to keep them safe from the cold. Do this as early in their life as possible to get them used to the sensation of wearing clothes.
Training your Weimaraner is thankfully not very difficult. They’re very smart dogs coming in at #21 in intelligence ranking among dog breeds. They are obedient and love nothing more than pleasing their owners… that is if the bond is good! It’s best to establish your bond with your Weimaraner immediately and make it clear to them who the alpha is when you are training them. With them looking to you as their pack leader, they will be less stubborn and willful. This is done simply by training them as soon as they come home with you and continuing that training consistently.
Using positive reinforcement is incredibly important for this breed, as they will become timid and resentful around people who yell at them or hurt them. Pets, praise, and treats can really get you to where you want to be! Being patient and gentle but firm and steady will give your dog the leadership they need to be on their best behavior. Ensure that you train them to behave as soon as possible, as their larger size can easily topple people over! Leash training is very important for this reason.
Socializing your Weimaraner is also fairly simple, especially when done very early in their life. Weims are friendly, cheerful dogs who will be happy to get to know new faces as long as they are presented non-threateningly. It’s a great idea to go about introductions slowly, especially if it’s with animals your pup is sharing the home with. Allow both parties to adjust to each other with lots of time and patience.
We suggest enrolling your Weimaraner in puppy kindergarten classes to allow them to get to know other dogs in a safe way. These classes can help bolster their confidence around other dogs and learn to play nicely with them. Since they have a high prey drive, learning to behave around other dogs is necessary. These are great skills they’ll need in life, especially at the dog park!
If your Weimaraner comes from good breeding, you’ll know all the health risks they may be predisposed to. Ideally, they should have none of these, but sometimes they come through. While Weimaraners live fairly long at 12 to 15 years, they can still be susceptible to certain health conditions. Understanding these conditions is a crucial part of preparing a treatment plan with your veterinarian. We’ve listed a few different health conditions to look out for. Remember to always be vigilant to any changes your Weim may be undergoing, in case these are illnesses.
Gastric torsion, or bloat, occurs when the stomach becomes distended with air and then twists. This condition is common in deep-chested dogs. This condition comes from eating or drinking water too fast or exercising too soon after eating. It is dangerous and potentially even fatal, with the dog’s blood pressure plummeting as they cannot vomit out the contents of their stomach. This often sends them into shock.
Signs to watch out for are distended belly, excessive drooling, increased heart rate, restlessness, and retching without being able to vomit. This is an emergency condition, so if you notice these symptoms, get your dog to the vet immediately!
While this condition is rightly scary, it is easily avoided. Giving your Weimaraner the right amount of food and water is key to preventing this condition. Allowing exercise only an hour after eating will also help keep gastric torsion at bay.
Hip dysplasia is a bone and joint disease caused by developmental and environmental factors. While this condition is normally screened for in puppies from reputable breeders, Weimaraners can still develop hip dysplasia. This is caused by the femur and pelvic bones not fitting correctly together. This results in excess friction on the bones, which can later become painful arthritis.
It can manifest as strange posture, limping, or an uneven gait, which you will notice given how effortlessly your Weim should move! Discussing management with your veterinarian is key to maintaining a good quality of life for your dog.
Wobbler syndrome is a disease of the neck (the cervical spine). This is most often seen in larger dogs, though it is sometimes seen in Weimaraners of old age, and can also present itself in younger Weims. This condition occurs when there is a compression of the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. This results in neck pain as well as deficits in the nervous system.
This presents itself as an uncoordinated gait in the rear limbs, giving the characteristic “wobble;” again, easy to spot in the usually graceful Weim. They may lose muscle mass in the hind limbs and the shoulder blades. Acute neck pain and general weakness may also be observed.
This condition can be treated on an outpatient basis, with pain medication and rest from too much strenuous activity. This may be difficult for your Weimaraner, so be sure to keep them occupied with toys they can gently play within their downtime. More severe cases can be corrected with surgery.
Your Weimaraner’s health depends greatly on the quality of nutrition they receive. Being a larger dog, they will benefit from food meant for large breeds, though you should double-check with your veterinarian. Regardless, they should be eating high-quality, dry kibble with no artificial colors or flavors. Feeding them food appropriate for their life stage will help them develop properly in puppyhood and maintain good health in their adult and senior years.
Expect to feed your Weimaraner more than less active dogs in your household, if you have any. Their high energy needs dictate higher calorie needs as well. Puppies will need a large breed calorie-dense puppy food for correct development, and older dogs will need larger portions as is appropriate for their size. Even older Weimaraners should be eating more than many other senior dogs, provided they still have that youthful spirit!
Portioning out your dog’s food is crucial to their health; the portion sizes depend on their age, size, and overall activity level. You should ask your veterinarian for help on choosing how much food to give your Weim as they age. Too much food can lead to obesity, which creates many problems where there should not be any! Many preventable diseases come from obesity, so it must be avoided at all costs.
If your Weimaraner develops pickiness with their food, you may opt to be stricter about feeding times. Showing firm leadership is a great way to help your Weim remember that you are the boss. Give them 30 minutes to finish their food, and if they do not touch it in that time, take their bowl away until their next meal. You may also choose to add wet food to their kibble to aid in palatability.
While their short coats shed moderately, taking care of them isn’t strenuous. You can brush them with a nice, rubber brush around once a week to remove excess fur. This prevents it from getting on your clothes and furniture, though it doesn’t eliminate the possibility. This also helps remove dirt and other debris that may have gotten caught in their coat.
Bathe your Weimaraner only when necessary, meaning only when he is visibly soiled or obviously stinky. This could be more than you’d normally think, given the breed’s love of rolling around in the dirt, but it’s still not as often as other breeds would need.
Be sure to clean your dog’s ears thoroughly when grooming them, as wax and dirt can easily build up, causing infection. Simply use a cotton pad and veterinary ear cleaning solution, and wipe at the visible parts of your Weim’s ear. Keep their nails trimmed to prevent injuries, and brush their teeth several times a week.
Grooming may be an easy thing to do with your Weimaraner, but you should still take care to teach them to enjoy it. Do it as early in their life as possible to get your Weim used to the process. Use plenty of positive reinforcement and let them know that this is a relaxing bonding opportunity for the both of you. Once grooming is done, you can move onto more important things, like taking a walk, or playing fetch!
Breeders and Puppy Costs
In your search for your Weimaraner, seeing a responsible breeder could be an option for you. However, we must put the emphasis on the breeder being responsible and reputable. Many backyard operations have no regard for how they treat their animals. The purpose of these breeders is to create profit, not to spread a love for the breed. In these places, there is often very little food or clean water, and living spaces are dirty and uncomfortable. You must stay away from these kinds of breeders at all costs.
On the other hand, many responsible breeders are good people with great enthusiasm for the breed. Proper breeders will encourage you to visit your new puppy many times before you actually bring them home. This will help with socializing them to facilitate a smooth transition into harmonious home life. You will see at the breeder’s home, they live comfortably, with everything they need.
Responsible breeders will be able to answer all your questions about your new puppy and tell you everything you need to know about the breed. they will also be able to tell you the different veterinary procedures they’ve had done, and provide certification for tests, vaccinations, and deworming.
Looking for a breeder doesn’t have to be a difficult process. You can begin by asking your veterinarian if they have any leads for a good breeder. Otherwise, you can ask local enthusiasts at dog shows if they know anyone, especially if they own a Weimaraner.
Online, there is a host of resources available to you. You can check social media, as well as dog forums for any potential breeders you may want to look into. In fact, the AKC has a great source for breeder referrals. You can expect to pay around $800 to $1,500 for a pet-quality Weimaraner, and more for a show-quality dog.
Rescues and Shelters
While visiting a breeder is always a good idea in getting a new dog, we always recommend adopting and not shopping. There are countless animal shelters all over the United States, full of wonderful friends whom you can bring home. This includes Weimaraners if you do the legwork!
When going to a rescue, it’s a good idea to use all the knowledge you have at your disposal. Speak to the staff at the shelter and ask them anything that you’ll need to know about your new dog. Understanding your dog’s background, including their temperament and health issues, can really give you a great start on your dog’s new life.
Weimaraners in particular are very sweet dogs still but will need extra time to come out of their shell. We feel as though their already astounding loyalty will only double once they have come to trust you. They are grateful dogs who are very intelligent and will quickly understand the great favor you’ve done for them.
As Family Pets
- The breed were originally bred as hunting dogs
- This means you need to expect a high prey drive.
- Weimaraners should be socialized early to other animals.
- Provided they are socialized, they can exist in multi-pet households.
- Weimaraners are fearless, making great guard dogs.
- They are wonderful with kids and other family members.
- This breed is considered a velcro breed because they follow you everywhere.
- As such, they will easily develop separation anxiety.
- That makes them better suited for families who can dote on them.
- They will need more food than most dogs of their size, given their activity level.
- The breed does not require much grooming.
- Their coats are naturally short, and they don’t shed as much as other breeds.
We hope this article has given you the knowledge you need to care for your new Weimaraner. While this dog is not for novice owners, we’re confident that more experienced pet parents will have a wonderful time raising and loving their Weims. Give them the time needed to exercise and tire out, and they’ll be willing to do anything for you!
The Weimaraner will need you to care for their specific needs to ensure their health and happiness. As long as their needs are met, they are brilliant, delightful dogs who have no shortage of both energy and love– something we all need! While there are plenty of other breeds that make excellent canine companions, these pups can be the perfect addition to any active household!