Weimaraners (pronounced WHY-ma-rah-ners) are active, athletic hunting dogs with distinctive grey/blue coats that have earned them the nickname of 'gray ghost'. The breed was originally developed in England for hunting bear, deer, and boar, and also for guarding property and downed game. Although most Weimaraners make outstanding family pets, personality disorders are not infrequent in the breed - this is something that potential owners should be aware of.
What Problems Could My Weimaraner Develop?
Many Weimaraners will never exhibit any of the below personality traits; some may have one, and some may display more than one. Most of these problems can be easily corrected with the right training and early intervention - but in any case, prevention is always better than cure.
- Because Weimaraners were bred to hunt large, aggressive game animals, and to guard people, property, and game from strangers and predators, a certain amount of aggression is an innate characteristic of the breed. This can usually be easily controlled with the right training and socialization. However, some Weimaraners will display unacceptable aggression towards people and/or animals - this seems to be a genetic throwback in the breed, as upbringing often has little effect. This is an unfortunate occurrence and one that those who are knowledgeable about the breed will attest to.
- Weimaraners are infamous for their tendency towards severe separation anxiety.Symptoms of this condition include panicky attempts to reunite with an owner (the dogs can harm themselves in the process, often with grazes, bleeding paws, broken teeth, etc, as they attempt to chew and dig their way out of a pen), excessive drooling, loud vocalisation, and an anxious, stressed demeanor (clinginess, crying, jumpiness). A lonely, anxious dog may also urinate inappropriately (this has nothing to do with toilet training and is NOT something you should ever scold your Weimaraner about).
- These dogs are alert, protective, and make fearless guardians of family and home, which is certainly a useful trait for any dog to possess. However, without proper socialization, these dogs can take things too far and become undiscriminatingly aggressive and dominant towards any newcomer, dog or human - and at 50-90 pounds, an aggressive Weimaraner is not to be sneezed at.
- It bears repeating that these dogs were first and foremost bred for hunting. They retain a strong prey drive to this day, and will catch and sometimes kill most small animals which venture into their territory (not excluding cats). Most Weimaraners will do OK with the family cat, provided that they were introduced to it as a puppy; but neighborhood cats and other garden animals (squirrels, pet rabbits, guinea pigs) will be mercilessly pursued by this formidable hunter.
- Weimaraners are sensitive, even highly-strung dogs: they're extremely energetic, highly perceptive of your mood, and easily influenced by the demeanor and behavior of others around them. This excitability can translate to neurotic behavior, and means it's not generally a good idea to bring a Weimaraner into a house with children under 6 years old: younger dogs in particular can romp and jump with excessive vigor, and people and furniture can go flying as a result. The raking paws of a jumping Weimaraner puppy can gouge deep scratches in human skin; their athleticism enables the dogs to leap high in the air and knock ornaments and crockery off shelves (although adults are graceful enough to avoid most accidents). Some adult Weimaraners that weren't introduced to children during their socialization period will regard them with suspicion, which can result in dominant behavior or fear-biting.
How to Cope
Despite some potential pitfalls, Weimaraners are incredibly rewarding dogs to share your life with. The real trick to owning a happy, well-behaved Weimaraner is to understand that, in the right hands, they can be trained to do almost anything; the one thing they cannot do is nothing at all. The dogs pick up training with extreme rapidity, and as soon as they understand what's expected of them the dogs will take great pleasure in living up to those expectations - something that allows them to excel in obedience, agility, and field trials.
Here's how to ensure that your Weimaraner is an aristocratic, gentlemanly pleasure to have around:
- Socialize thoroughly and from a young age. This breed's sensitivity and innate suspicion means that the socialization period of 10 to 16 weeks must be taken full advantage of. Take your Weimaraner to puppy school and see that he meets lots of new people (children and the elderly alike) and different breeds and ages of dog . This will help to prevent unwanted aggression at a later date.
- Exercise THOROUGHLY, and on a daily basis. These are energetic hunting dogs; no walk is too far, and any additional games and play will help to prevent hyperactivity. Sufficient exercise is a key component of your Weimaraner's ability to conform with your needs: these dogs are very active, muscular and athletic, and have LOTS of energy to burn off. Take your dog hiking, running alongside a bicycle, jogging, or involve him in agility competitions (which have the added benefit of stimulating your dog's mind at the same time).
- This is not a good breed choice for you if you work long hours. Bear in mind the tendency towards separation anxiety, and condition your dog towards it from a young age by leaving him alone for SHORT periods of time at first and gradually working up from there. For severe anxiety, your vet may prescribe tranquilisers like Clomicalm. If you feel your dog needs medication, speak to your vet - NEVER self-medicate, even if a friend's Weimaraner took very well to the medication. Self-prescribing can be fatal to your dog. Happily, most anxiety can be effectively counteracted with plenty of exercise and lots of interaction with you and the family, as well as regular bouts of tussling and playing.
- Obedience training to at least the intermediate level is something that you'll probably both enjoy. Your Weimaraner will enjoy the mental challenge, while you'll enjoy the opportunity to really bond with your dog. Obedience training is a great way to strengthen trust between owner and dog, and in addition, you'll end up with a highly trained, obedient dog. You may even want to compete - Weimaraners typically take top honours in obedience classes due to their perceptive, willing-to-please natures and high intelligence.
- Weimaraners are playful, intelligent dogs, and will enjoy life that much more if they're able to play interactively with you. Consider investing in a tennis-ball thrower: this is a great way of playing with your dog, as well as chalking up the necessary miles (without you having to expend an unnatural amount of energy doing so!). Weimaraners love to play fetch and will retrieve tirelessly for as long as you can throw the ball.
Weimaraners in a Nutshell
During puppyhood and adolescence (the first two or three years), Weimaraners can be high-maintenance dogs in terms of training requirements. Bear in mind that this is NOT a passive 'house-pet' type animal: no Weimaraner can sit quietly in the corner until you decide to administer some attention, and they are certainly not 'outdoors dogs' that you can keep in a kennel. They need to be involved in family life and to accompany you on your day to day errands and chores. For the right owner (one who leads an active life, is prepared to welcome the dog into the heart of the family, and is alert to his dog's needs), a Weimaraner is the perfect companion animal: intelligent, gutsy, playful, and an excellent guard dog.
For indepth information on dog training (beginners to advanced level), as well as a real goldmine of valuable information on preventing and dealing with typical Weimaraner behavioral problems like separation anxiety, aggression, destructive behavior, and more, have a look at Secrets to Dog Training. It's written by a professional dog-trainer and comes very highly recommended.
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