Raise a Weimaraner

Edited by Kathy McGraw

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The Weimaraner is nicknamed the gray ghost because of his silvery gray coat, light eyes, and slim muscular build. He is a striking animal to behold and his willingness to please, as well as his affectionate nature make him the ideal companion dog

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The History of the Breed

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Grand Duke Karl August bred the first Weimaraners in the late 1700's, and the breed took its name from Weimar, the region of Germany in which the Grand Duke lived. Breed historians believe that the Weimaraner's progenitor is the St. Hubertus Brachen, a large gray dog with a remarkably similar appearance to the current breed standard for Weimaraners. Until the late 1800's, Weimaraners remained fairly unknown because the Grand Duke's family remained very selective about who could own one of their prized dogs. In 1897, the Weimaraner Club of Germany was created with the express purpose of further refining and developing the breed. Because large game had declined in Germany by the late 19th Century, the Weimaraner was further refined to become a skilled hunter of birds and other small game. As a result, it became a versatile breed that is equally at home in the woods or town.

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The Breed Standard

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A breed standard is a list of characteristics that define a dog breed. For instance, Weimaraners should be medium-sized dogs with lobular ears, light eyes, and a gray, short-haired coat. Breed standards can vary slightly from country to country. In North America, the breed standards for Weimaraners are governed by the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs:

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Before You Purchase your Weimaraner Puppy

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    Know what you plan to do with your dog
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    Do you plan to show your Weim? Hunt with him? Or do you just want a companion dog? Puppy personalities vary from litter to litter, just as the personalities of human babies do. For this reason, you should be aware of your plans for the newest member of your family and communicate your desires to the breeder. He or she will guide you to the pups that will be most likely to grow into the type of dog you want.
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  2. 2
    Choose your breeder carefully
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    Dog breeding is a labor of love; a good breeder breeds Weimaraners for a love of the breed rather than the desire to make money. Dog breeding, done right, is an expensive endeavor, and good breeders often break even rather than profit from the litters they sell. At the minimum, the breeder's place should be cleanly, and mother and pups should look well-cared for. My preference would be for a breeder who keeps her dogs in her home, but breeders who have kennels are acceptable, too, as long as they have a good reason for raising their dogs that way.
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    Ask the breeder questions their breeding program
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    Every breeder should have a goal for what they are trying to accomplish with each successive litter.
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Your First Few Days with Your Weimaraner Puppy

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    Puppy-proof your house
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    Make sure that he can't get into anything harmful, and this includes in your yard. Put away gardening implements and make sure that plant food and other poisonous gardening chemicals are stowed out of his reach. In the house, hide power cords so that he won't be tempted to gnaw on them, and make sure that there are no sharp corners on which he may cut himself.
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    Make an area in your house for him to live in during his first few days
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    It should be in an area near where you and your family spend a lot of time, such as the kitchen. Do not confine him in the yard or the basement! Like all dogs, he thrives on the company of his new family
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    Don't leave your Weimaraner puppy alone during his first few days
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    Your puppy has just been separated from his mother and littermates and has been introduced to a new home. He needs time to acclimate to his new environment and his new family. Arrange to spend as much time with your new family member as possible. If you need to, arrange some time off work, or arrange with the breeder to pick your pup up on a Friday so that you have the weekend to spend with him before you have to go back to work on Monday.
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Your Puppy's Vaccinations

A good breeder will have given him his first set of vaccinations already and should provide you with a certificate that you can bring to your veterinarian so that he or she knows what's already been given. Based on this information, your veterinarian will work out a vaccination schedule for your puppy with you. In general, the American Animal Hospital Association recommends that puppies get vaccinated every three to four weeks until they reach 16 weeks of age.

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House Training Your Weimaraner

One of the first lessons you'll want to give your Weimaraner puppy is teaching him where he should do his business. There are two ways to house train your dog, and you can use one or both of them, depending on your situation; however, most people will want to do both.

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Paper Training

You may want to start by teaching your puppy to go to the bathroom on newspapers or special plastic-lined papers that you can buy from the pet store.

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    Set down some newspapers or puppy pads down where you want your puppy to do his business.
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    Pick him up and put him down on the papers after he wakes up and after he eats since these are the times he will most likely need to go.
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    Praise him lavishly after he does his business where you want him to.
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Outdoor Housebreaking

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    After he eats and upon waking, take your puppy outside and set him on the ground.
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    When he does what he needs to do, give him plenty of praise.
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Weimaraners are very smart dogs, and it won't take long before your pup knows where he's supposed to go. Of course, his muscles are still developing as he grows, and he might not have enough control of them to prevent accidents altogether. When they occur, do not scold him. Ignore him instead, and when next he uses the bathroom in the appropriate place, praise him extra lavishly.

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Obedience Training

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Weimaraners are well suited to obedience training as they are an intelligent breed that learns quickly. However, that intelligence also means that they are easily bored, so keep your lessons short. Start off with sessions no longer than five minutes, and gradually increase the time to 10 minutes. Do not go for longer than 10 minutes, and if your dog seems easily distracted, then make the sessions shorter.

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Essential Commands

If you teach your dog nothing else, he must learn these core commands, not only to be a good companion dog but also for his safety.

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    No
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    Say"no" in a loud voice and stamp your foot when you catch your puppy misbehaving. It is important only to do this when you catch him in the act because otherwise, your dog will not understand why you are scolding him. He will eventually get the point; however, Weims are mischievous and will test you from time to time.
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    Drop it or Leave it
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    When you catch your puppy holding something he shouldn't in his mouth, say "drop it" or "leave it" and take the object from him, even if you have to pry it out of his mouth. Be consistent: if you choose "drop it" one day, don't use "leave it" on another day. This will only confuse your dog!
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    Come
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    You can do this one throughout the day. Just call your dog to you, and when he comes, tell him what a good dog he is, and if you like, give him a treat. Also, never call your dog over to scold him; it's counterproductive because it negatively reinforces coming to you.
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Feeding Your Weimaraner

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When puppies are under 16 weeks old, they should be fed up to four times a day, with the heaviest meal being in the middle of the day. A feeding schedule like this helps with house training and ensures that the growing dog has the proper amount of calories. After 16 weeks, you can reduce the number of feedings to twice daily, and at one-year-old, your dog can be fed once a day. Your breeder will tell you what they've been feeding your puppy; they may even give you a small amount of the brand they've been giving him. It is best to continue feeding him the same food he has been eating to avoid stomach issues. If you're going to change your dog's diet, do it by mixing portions of the old food and new food together. In the beginning, give him mostly the old food with a little of the new food mixed in, and gradually increase the ratio of new food to old until he is eating only the new food.

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Self-Feeding

I've had some success with self-feeding, in which place a large bowl of food down and allow your dog to eat when he is hungry. This works best with one or two dogs and not so well with three or more. With three or more dogs, it gets hard to make sure that all of the pups are getting enough food. Trust me, I tried this with four dogs, and it was a mess!

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Spaying and Neutering

If you don't plan to breed your dog, you should sterilize him or her at six months of age. It's what responsible pet owners do. Here are some reasons why you should spay or neuter your Weimaraner:

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    It prevents animal overcrowding
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    Animal shelters all over the U.S. and Canada are filled with unwanted puppies, most of which are unfortunately put down.
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    Spayed and neutered dogs live longer, healthier lives
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    Spayed and neutered dogs make better companions because they are often calmer than intact animals.
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Bloat/Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV)

Like other deep-chested breeds, Weimaraners are susceptible to bloat, or Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV) which is a life-threatening emergency. Bloat occurs when there is a build-up of gas in the stomach, and when this happens, the stomach is likely to twist around and block itself. If twisting occurs (torsion) the dog may go into shock and die very quickly, often within minutes. Unfortunately, veterinarians don't know why bloat occurs. There are some theories about stress being a factor or feeding a single large meal, but it appears that the largest factor is having a deep chest. If your dog shows symptoms of bloat, call your veterinarian right away and take your dog in.

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Things you can do to prevent bloat include:

  • Feeding two or three smaller meals during the day
  • Avoid mixing dry food with water
  • Don't allow your dog to drink too much water at once
  • Allow your dog to digest his food after feeding before taking him for a walk or other physical activities
  • Invest in a bowl that encourages your dog to eat slowly or put a big rock inside a regular food bowl

Symptoms of bloat include:

  • Dry-heaving or unproductive vomiting
  • Apparent discomfort
  • A distended abdomen, which may or may not be visible.
  • Drooling and excessive salivation
  • Panting
  • Dog's stomach feels taut like a drum
  • Pacing
  • Repeated turning to look at flank or stomach
  • Owner feeling that something isn't right

Visit Kifka.com for information on how to administer first aid for bloat and for information on the items every bloat first aid kit should have. If you think that it will take you longer than five minutes to get to the animal hospital, a bloat first aid kit could save your dog's life.

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Separation Anxiety

Weimaraners grow very attached to the humans in their lives, and while their loving nature makes them exceptional family pets, it also makes them prone to separation anxiety. I can tell you about a Weim's separation anxiety first hand, because I dealt with it on a regular basis with my Weim, Ares. He was so attached to my husband and me that we couldn't leave him alone for more than an hour without coming home to find something torn to pieces. Now, Ares was a rescue, and his separation anxiety was extreme, but just about every Weim will have it to some degree.

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Crate-Training to Deal with Separation Anxiety

Start by putting your puppy in his crate and leaving him alone for a few minutes. Be sure to give him toys to play with inside his crate to let him know that going into his crate is a positive thing. Gradually extend the time that he's in his crate until he can remain there for the length of time that you'll be at work. Important! Don't only use his crate when you'll be leaving him alone. Encourage him to go there during the day to play with his toys or have a nap. This is so he doesn't come to associate his crate with your leaving the house.

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Read Keep a Dog from Separation Anxiety for more ways to deal with this irksome issue.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please post in the comments section below.

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