Weimaraner

Barri J. Morrison, DVM
Written by:
Published: September 29, 2022
Weimaraner

The Weimaraner, or “Gray Ghost,” is a friendly, fearless, and obedient dog. As a member of the sporting group, this breed requires a lot of physical activity and mental stimulation.

The male Weimaraner stands 25-27 inches tall at the shoulder and is 70-90 pounds. Females are a bit shorter at 23-25 inches and slightly smaller at 55-75 pounds.

In the early 1800s, the Grand Duke of Germany held court in the town of Weimar. He was an avid sportsman whose dream was to develop the perfect hunting dog. The Weimaraner was the result of crossbreeding Bloodhounds with various French and German hunting dogs.

The duke and his noblemen used the Weimaraner to hunt big game such as bears, mountain lions, and wolves. As these predators decreased in number, the Weimaraner found new work as a hunter that points and retrieves game birds.

The Weimaraner arrived in America in the late 1920s and later gained popularity as the pets and hunting dogs of President Eisenhower and actress Grace Kelly.

Caring for a Weimaraner

The Weimaraner’s coat is short, sleek, and smooth. It does not require a lot of grooming, but it sheds a moderate amount.

A properly bred Weimaraner is solid colored, either blue-gray or silver-gray, with a small white spot on the chest in some dogs. Their face is framed with long, naturally floppy, and velvety ears and amber or blue-gray eyes.

With their long legs and long, gray-tipped snout, they can easily reach your kitchen countertops to sneak a quick treat.

The Weimaraner is loving and highly trainable, making them an excellent family dog especially suitable for those with children. A Weimaraner generally matures at 1-2 years, although they reach full size at 6-8 months old.

They are a high-energy breed, and they need a lot of interaction with people as well as regular exercise. If properly socialized, they get along well with other dogs. Smaller pets such as cats and small mammals do not make good housemates to Weimaraners, as these dogs are bred to hunt.

Weimaraner Health Issues

As with most large-breed dogs, the Weimaraner’s life expectancy is 10-13 years, but some have lived as long as 15 years.

They are susceptible to a variety of medical conditions, including:

Entropion

Entropion is the most common eyelid abnormality in dogs. It causes a dog’s eyelid to grow inward, so the eyelashes rub the surface of the eye (cornea) causing chronic irritation and secondary conjunctivitis (bacterial infection).

Symptoms of entropion include:

  • Eye discharge (mucus, pus, and brown or black staining)

  • Excessive eye watering (epiphora)

  • Redness in the whites of the eye

  • Squinting or holding the eye closed (signs of eye pain)

Surgery is the only way to correct entropion, and eye medications are administered as part of the recovery process.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a degenerative joint disease that affects the hind limbs. Bone and joint problems are a common cause of pain in large- and giant-breed dogs like the Weimaraner.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia in Weimaraners include:

  • Limping

  • Decreased range of motion

  • Arthritis, especially later in life

Treatment for all degenerative joint diseases and dysplasia includes:

  • Weight loss

  • Reduced activity

  • Joint protection supplements

  • Anti-inflammatory and pain medications

  • Surgery

Testing is available, such as PennHIP, that can predict your dog’s risk of having hip dysplasia during their lifetime. 

Bloat or Gastric-Dilatation Volvulus

Deep-chested and large-dog breeds such as the Weimaraner are prone to this sudden and life-threatening stomach condition. It occurs suddenly when the stomach enlarges with gas (bloat) and then twists on itself (gastric-dilatation volvulus, GDV).

If you notice your dog’s stomach area enlarge quickly, or they are whining with or without touching their belly, stretching with front legs down and back legs up, are reluctant to walk, and are not eating, take them to the vet immediately.

Bloat may sometimes be treated with aggressive medical intervention, but GDV requires emergency corrective surgery to save the dog’s life.

To limit the risk of GDV, do not feed your Weimaraner immediately before or after exercise; allow 30 minutes to an hour.

Another way to prevent GDV is gastropexy, a surgery that is usually performed at the same time the dog is spayed or neutered as a puppy. A gastropexy permanently attaches the stomach to the inside body wall, preventing it from twisting on itself.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a common endocrine disease where the dog’s body functions, including metabolism, slow down due to a lack of thyroid hormones in the blood.

Clinical signs of hypothyroidism in Weimaraners include:

  • Weight gain

  • Lethargy and laziness

  • Heat-seeking behavior

  • Chronic skin and ear infections

  • Dry, brittle hair and thin coat

  • Increased skin pigment

  • Inability to grow hair back after being shaved or clipped

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed with a simple blood test and is treated with daily oral medication to increase the amount of thyroid hormones in your Weimaraner’s blood.

What to Feed a Weimaraner

As a sporting dog, the Weimaraner requires a high-quality, age-appropriate (puppy, adult, or senior) diet to meet their nutritional needs. Dog food labeled for “all life stages” is not usually formulated for older dogs and should only be fed to puppies.

Dog food labeled for large-breed dogs is recommended for a Weimaraner, as it has added nutrients that may help support joint health, such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or glucosamine from meat and poultry ingredients.

It is highly recommended that all dogs eat an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)-approved diet, which ensures that the dog food ingredients meet established standards. Basic vitamins and mineral supplements are not needed if your dog’s food is AAFCO-approved.

Avoid offering table food and animal bones (cooked or uncooked). They may cause stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, or anorexia, and they have a much higher fat content than dog food. High-fat foods can also cause pancreatitis.

How Much Should You Feed a Weimaraner?

In general, puppies should be fed 3-4 times a day, and adult dogs should be fed twice a day. The amount you feed depends on the specific food your Weimaraner eats. You can ask your veterinarian, follow the package instructions, or contact the dog food manufacturer to find out what amount is appropriate. AAFCO-approved diets have veterinary nutritionists who help determine these requirements.

Some theories say that large-breed dogs like the Weimaraner that are fed smaller, more frequent meals have a lower incidence of bloat and stomach problems.

Nutritional Tips for a Weimaraner

Dogs that are fed a well-balanced, AAFCO-approved diet do not need vitamin and mineral supplements to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The following supplements, however, may help improve your Weimaraner’s joint and gut health.

  • Joint supplements: Glucosamine, chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) supplements, such as Dasuquin with MSM, are great for your dog’s joints. MSM has all-natural, anti-inflammatory properties, as do Omega-3 fatty acids (high-quality fish oil) when given at appropriate doses. Reducing inflammation helps control pain associated with osteoarthritis, a common problem in Weimaraners.

  • Probiotics: Probiotics help promote your dog’s gut health. Some probiotics, such as Calming Care, have added ingredients that help ease anxiety; Zesty Paws has fiber.

Behavior and Training Tips for a Weimaraner

Weimaraner Personality and Temperament

Weimaraners are active dogs and require a lot of physical activity. Although they are hunting dogs, they do not make good kennel dogs and prefer being with their families.

They are highly intelligent and need to be occupied with activities to prevent destructive behavior such as chewing and digging. They need a large, fenced-in yard to prevent them from roaming.

Weimaraners are ideal for owners who want a large, active dog for hunting, hiking, and other outdoor activities. They make good watchdogs as well.

Weimaraners can bark excessively or try to escape if left alone for long periods.

Weimaraner Behavior

Weimaraners are good family dogs. They are loyal, obedient, and inquisitive, making them an involved family member. They do great with people of all ages but should be supervised around babies and toddlers. This breed’s large body can accidentally knock down a child when playing or running toward them for a treat.

Weimaraners are excellent travel companions that love to join their family on driving vacations and weekend outdoor adventures.

This breed is not aggressive, but they will experience separation anxiety when you are gone for too long, which might lead to destructive behavior.

Weimaraner Training

Weimaraners are smart. They learn good and bad behavior quickly. To curb bad behavior, your Weimaraner should be properly socialized and trained starting as a puppy.

Consistency and positive training methods such as praise, petting, and treats are important. The breed’s intelligence means that they can also be stubborn and resistant without clear pack leadership.

Some Weimaraners are avid chewers. They need to learn from an early age what is acceptable to chew on. Make sure you provide your dog with safe options for chewing, to save your shoes and minimize accidental swallowing of foreign objects.

Fun Activities for a Weimaraner

Fun activities you can enjoy with your Weimaraner include:

  • Agility (tunnels, teeter-totter, hurdles, cones, ramps)

  • Puzzle toys

  • Tug-of-war

  • Fetch, frisbee

  • Dock diving

Weimaraner Grooming Guide

Skin Care

Bathing your Weimaraner once a month is sufficient to keep their coat and skin healthy and hydrated. If your dog likes to play in mud and roll in dirt, they need to be bathed more often. A soap-free, aloe-, or oatmeal-based shampoo is best for routine bathing.

Coat Care

The Weimaraner has a beautiful soft, short, and flat coat that requires minimal grooming. Although they only shed moderately, brushing with a rubber curry comb once a week helps decrease shedding and keeps their coat shiny.

Eye Care

A Weimaraner’s eyes can be cleaned with a soft cloth or cotton ball monthly during their bath. If you notice any excessive tearing that leads to brown staining of the fur around the eyes, using an eye wipe, such as Angels’ Eyes, can be helpful.  

Ear Care

Having floppy ears means that moisture and debris may get trapped in your Weimaraner’s ear canal causing irritation or infection. Use a vet-approved ear cleanser to clean their ears once a month. Avoid using water and household items such as alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or essential oils. These will not efficiently clean the ear canal and may lead to infection or damage to the ear canal.

Considerations for Pet Parents

The Weimaraner is a beautiful, athletic, and large sporting dog. They are incredibly smart and know how to use their intelligence to get what they want.

Weimaraners have been known to open doors, unlatch gates, and turn on faucets. Owners must stay one step ahead of this smart dog and provide opportunities for both routine physical and mental exertion. If they are properly trained and socialized at a young age, they will make great family dogs.

It may not be ideal for a Weimaraner to live in a small home or apartment. A home with a fenced yard is best to get their energy out. Although they can coexist in a home with cats or other small pets, they have a natural prey drive that can cause them to chase these animals.

Weimaraner FAQs

Is a Weimaraner a good family dog?

Weimaraners are devoted, obedient, and loyal to family members and they do well with children. Due to their size and strength, they need supervision around small kids to ensure everyone’s safety. Weimaraners thrive with an active family, as they are high-energy dogs.

Are Weimaraners smart dogs?

Weimaraners are incredibly smart and know how to use their intelligence to get what they want. They have been known to open doors, unlatch gates, and turn faucets on. Owners must stay one step ahead of this smart dog and provide opportunities for frequent physical and mental exertion.

What are the drawbacks of a Weimaraner?

A Weimaraner’s large stature can be a drawback to those living in small spaces and big cities. As with all large breeds, their propensity to develop bloat or GDV may make them less desirable to some pet parents.

Are Weimaraners cuddly?

Weimaraners are known to be great cuddlers despite their large size. They are affectionate dogs and love to be in the presence of people. They are especially cuddly when you return home, as they do not like to be alone.

Why is a Weimaraner called the ‘Gray Ghost’?

The Weimaraner got their nickname because of their distinctive gray coat and their hunting style, which is as stealthy as that of a cat.

Do Weimaraners get along with other animals?

Although Weimaraners can exist in a home with cats and other small pets, they do have a natural prey drive that can cause them to chase these animals.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Aleksandr Zotov


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