Ever walk into an ice cream shop only to be amazed (and a little overwhelmed) by all the available flavors? There are just so many choices. Where are you going to start? Well, owning the versatile Weimaraner is similar. There are so many things you can do with this dog; the possibilities seem endless: Hunting, Agility, Tracking, Scent Work, Obedience, Dock Diving… the list goes on and on. The limitations are not so much his, but rather, what you chose to pursue.
The Weimaraner comes by its inherent versatility honestly. From the very start, the Weimaraner was designed to be a versatile breed. Developed by the German aristocracy in the early nineteenth century, the goal was to have the ultimate, multi-talented hunting partner. Were there “designer dogs” in the early 1800s? The answer is “yes” if you’re talking about the Weimaraner.
While there are many theories on the various European breeds that were used to develop the Weimaraner, there’s no denying that an all-purpose sporting dog was the desired end result. Most theories of the Weimaraner’s origins lean toward the crossing of pointing-type dogs to the existing German hunting dogs. The result combined strong hunting instincts with the ability to point, retrieve, and track. The Court of Weimar was very successful in developing such versatility. They kept ownership of these prized dogs strictly to themselves and made sure that only a relatively small number were bred. This was their blueprint for versatility, and they were not inclined to share.
As the nineteenth century progressed, hunting with firearms took a firm hold with the German aristocracy. As large game became less prevalent in their territories, there was a need for a different type of hunting companion. The hunting of birds and small game required skills very different from the old days of boar, bear, and deer hunting. Versatility enabled the Weimaraner to make a transition as hunting changed.
For the balance of the nineteen century and into the early twentieth, the existence of the Weimaraner was kept “close to the vest” by its German developers. They prized their newly designed breed, bred it to strict standards, and restricted who could own one. Weimaraners were a rare commodity and its developers endeavored to keep it that way. It was not until the late 1920s that two specimens were brought to the US. This importation took Herculean efforts by the American sporting enthusiast Howard Knight. Unbeknownst to Mr. Knight, this first pair of imported Weimaraners had been sterilized in Germany before they were released to his ownership. It took almost ten years of persistence before he was finally able to obtain initial breeding stock and bring them to the US.
The Weimaraner made its debut in the late 1930s amid public relations hype that would have made P. T. Barnum blush. The versatility of the breed was pumped up from the time a few were first brought to the US. The breed pushed celebrities off the covers of magazines and was credited with super hunting prowess, uncanny intelligence, and trainability. The Weimaraner arrived as a novelty, was ballyhooed as the new wonder dog, and became the
As with many over-blown exaggerations, reality sets in with the passage of time. Tall tales fade away and what is left, in this case, is the reality of a marvelous, multi-talented Sporting breed. The Weimaraner received AKC recognition in December of 1942 and the public first got to see them make a splash at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in Madison Square Garden in 1943.
It was not until the post-World War II years that any substantial number of Weimaraners entered the US. In the 1950s and ‘60s, Weimaraners racked up impressive wins in bench, field, and obedience competitions. The Weimaraner was embraced by its enthusiasts, and its abilities were developed, honed, and celebrated.
The Weimaraner Club of America (WCA), in recognition of the multi-faceted abilities of the breed, established the new parent club titles of Versatile and Versatile Excellent in 1972. To earn these designations of “V” and “VX”, a dog had to have a combination of accomplishments in field, bench, and obedience. Recognition was given for American Kennel Club (AKC) titles and WCA field ratings by assigning point values. The more difficult the accomplishment, the higher number of points were assigned. For example, an AKC bench championship was awarded more points than those for a dog that had won some championship points but had not attained the title of Champion. The Versatile Excellent title (VX) required more points than the Versatile (V) title.
As the number of dog sports continued to expand, the WCA’s Versatility titles were revised to include Tracking and Agility. Weimaraners more than rose to the occasion and demonstrated abilities that were only limited by the training ability, degree of interest, and available resources and time of their owners. There are so many possible activities, and owning the versatile Weimaraner puts no limits on which competitive activities can be pursued.
Earning Versatility titles takes a great deal of training and effort on the part of the owners. It requires not only versatility on the part of the dog, but also by the owners. You would think that there are few people willing and able to undertake the pursuit of versatility titles. Looking at the WCA’s awarded Versatility titles over the past ten years, on average, 56 are bestowed each year. Considering the multiple talents that are required for a Versatility title, only a breed with a wide variety of inherent aptitudes could accomplish this.
Just how much is Versatility valued by the Weimaraner Club of America and its members? It is so important that it is featured as a special event at the National Specialty where a “Most Versatile Weimaraner” award is given. Entrants get to compete at the National in up to eight possible venues; Agility, Conformation, Obedience, Rally, Tracking, Shooting Ratings, Retrieving Ratings, and Hunting Tests. To be eligible for the Versatility Award, a dog must successfully compete in at least three of the activities. (Think of it as the Weimaraner triathlon.) A schedule of points is applied to each dog’s performance and the dog with the highest score is awarded the coveted “Most Versatile
While Weimaraners excel in competitive activities, their innate versatility goes even deeper into our lives. Above all, Weimaraners are our companions. They can take on many roles, like being the guardian of your property, visiting hospitals as Therapy Dogs, being trained for search and rescue, and constantly amusing you with their antics. Need an over-the-top greeting every time you come home? Yes, that’s in their repertoire too. Their personality and intelligence guarantee that Weimaraners are happiest when you include them in your daily activities and they can be your constant partner.
Without a doubt, the Weimaraner is a versatile breed. Owners have given so many roles to Weimaraners, and they constantly rise to the occasion. They are loyal hunting partners, athletic Agility competitors, dazzling show dogs, gentle Therapy Dogs, and loyal companions. The versatility of the Weimaraner and their need for activity to expend their physical and mental energy is a hallmark of the breed.