|Thomas W. Lyon|
39552 Roman Rd., R.R. #1, Brucefield, Ontario, Canada, N0M 1J0
This section is included not so much to focus on the hunting nature of the breed, but to provide the prospective owner with an understanding of the development of the Weimaraner's unique temperament and personality and how this impacts on training and "place in the household". The information shared has come from experience, reading and various internet sources over many years. While I cannot be sure, I think some comes from the wonderful writings of Virginia Alexander and Jackie Isabell.
The term "Bird dog" means different things
to different people, and satisfaction with a dog's performance in the field is
determined by how well it fulfills their expectations. The key to satisfaction
with a Weimaraner lies in understanding the breed's special aptitudes and
knowing what to expect of the typical Weimaraner at home, at play or at work in
Origins and Hunting Style
The Weimaraner was developed in the mid 19th century to meet the needs of the German forester. This meant that the dog had to be incredibly versatile as it had to:
1. Search for and retrieve birds and small, furred game in field and forest on land and in water
2. Work at steady, tireless pace, neither fast nor wide
3. Manner of hunting characterized by thoroughness of search rather than speed
4. Keen nose and natural tracking ability to find wounded furred and feathered game
5. Protective but never vicious
6. Easy trainability with an open-ended intelligence and problem-solving aptitude
7. Water love and ability to swim tirelessly while searching dense cover with fierce determination
Beginning with a hound-like fur-hunting, tracking breed that was aggressive toward predators, the early German breeders added the functions of bird-hunting and retrieving needed by the professional forester.
The dog that performed these many functions shared every part of its master's life, and the Forester's Dog developed a strong bond with humans and a need for human companionship. Because of the varied game sought and tasks performed, the Weimaraner worked in close partnership with the forester. It looked to its handler for leadership and responded willingly to directions.
The Weimaraner's temperament was a unique blend of tough aggressiveness in the face of danger and softness or sensitivity in training situations. Sporting writers of the 1880's commented that it was an accepted rule to treat the Weimaraner lovingly and to speak softly as often as possible, never beating the dog for failure.
By the early 20th century, the desired qualities had been so well-established in the breed that they are still typical of North American Weimaraners even after generations of nonselective breeding. The best evidence of this is that in the late 1980's several Weimaraners from so-called show lines qualified for the most advanced performance titles in Germany.
A Versatile Hunting Breed
The "Versatile" hunting dog is defined as "dog that is bred and trained to dependably hunt and point game, to retrieve on both land and water, and to track wounded game on both land and water. The Weimaraner is not the only versatile hunting breed developed on the European continent, and in Germany, all are tested by standards established by the German Versatile Hunting Dog Association. The following versatile breeds are recognized: Brittany, German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Vizsla, Weimaraner, and Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.
Breed development followed a different pattern on the British Isles, where breeds were expected to excel in only one specific function: the Pointer as well as the Irish, English, and Gordon Setters pointed feathered game; the Golden, Labrador, Flat Coated, and Curly Coated Retrievers retrieved feathered game; a variety of hounds filled the needs for large and small furred-game hunting and blood tracking.
When the versatile breeds arrived in North America they were all classified as pointers instead of establishing a new type of trial to evaluate their unique and very different talents.
Competing in pointing-breed trials placed the newcomers at a disadvantage, though there have been a few Weimaraners over the years that competed successfully in all-breed competition. Through selective breeding to enhance speed, range, and pointing style, the performance of some versatile breeds such as the Vizsla and German Shorthaired Pointer has been altered for greater competitive success in AKC pointing-breed trials. In general, however, this has been achieved at the expense of their retrieving, tracking, scenting aptitude, trainability, and interest in furred game.
For the hunter, the most important difference between the Weimaraner and the other versatile hunting breeds is that the Forester's Dog cannot be kept in a backyard kennel between hunting seasons. It requires human companionship because hunting is only one facet of its total partnership with humans. The Pointer hunts because birds are the most important thing in its life; the Weimaraner hunts because hunting is the most wonderful activity that can be shared with the people it loves.
Owners who lack the time and skill to train their Weimaraners, especially if they hope the dog has competitive potential, must send them to the few professional trainers who understand the Weimaraner's temperament. Field trainers who are accustomed to the hard-headed Pointer often lack the soft touch and the partnership bond required for success with a Weimaraner. Fortunately, the very quality that frustrates so many professional trainers -- the need to treat a Weimaraner gently and lovingly -- makes the breed uniquely suitable for a committed amateur. Some trainers admit that the breed's intelligence and instinctive aptitude are so strong that the best way to train a Weimaraner is merely to provide an opportunity for the dog to hunt and to observe other dogs. This is, in fact, the approach used by German trainers -- to provide guided experience that allows instinctive behaviour patters to unfold. The dog's instinct provides the motivation, and its intelligence helps it discover the best way to do it. Moreover, when Weimaraners work with an older, well-trained dog, the breed's copycat trait accelerates and reinforces learning.
The Weimaraner is an excellent breed for sportsmen who want a gundog that does not range too far for hunting on foot, covers the terrain with painstaking thoroughness, retrieves birds on land and in water, is easily trained by a novice, and is a delightful companion when not hunting. It thrives on human companionship and must be part of the family; this bonding with humans is linked with its versatile working traits, and if isolated from household activities, the Weimaraner's hunting aptitude rarely develops properly. Those who desire these traits consider the Weimaraner the finest of all bird dogs.
With this insight into the breed, the prospective owner must reflect and answer the question "Is this the breed for me?" Remember, the Weimaraner is not a breed that will sleep all day, get up and wag its tail and lick your face when you get home from work then go back to sleep.Tom Lyon
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