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Through words and images, we are on a mission to share our passion for pointing dogs, upland hunting and sporting dog photography. 

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Pointing Dog Blog

The world of pointing dogs in words and images, moving and still.

Breed of the Week: The French Spaniel

Craig Koshyk




I am a “form follows function” kind of guy. I'll take ability over looks any day. So when I want to photograph a breed of gundog, I look for individuals that have proved their talents in the field. As long as they are fairly representative of their breed type, I don’t really care how many blue ribbons they’ve won in the show ring. 

On the other hand, I am not immune to a dog’s good looks. I’ve photographed a few that were quite beautiful, and on one occasion, Lisa and I were absolutely stunned when a half dozen of the prettiest dogs we had ever seen came to greet us on the front lawn of their owner’s home. We were there to photograph them in action, but before we could even get to the field, their beauty stopped us in our tracks. We actually stood around for a few moments admiring their elegant form and complimenting their breeder, Pierre Vanier, on his drop-dead gorgeous French Spaniels.

HISTORY: By the middle of the 19th century long-haired pointing dogs could be found across much of western Europe. In France, they came in a wide variety of sizes and coat colors: brown and white, orange and white, black and white and even tricolored. Unlike the Braques, which began to form definite regional identities well before 1800, the long-haired descendants of the chiens d’oysel mentioned by Gaston Phébus were lumped into a single group: les épagneuls de France (the spaniels of France). But with a growing interest in breeding, breed clubs and written standards in the late 1800s came a movement to classify the different varieties into independent breeds. One of the first to be established was the French Spaniel. Its standard was written in 1891. 

Jean Castaing wrote that: Since it was found in every region, it could claim no regional identity, and since everyone had always known it to be brown and white with an ancient reputation for a calm and friendly nature, it was considered one of the oldest dogs of France. With the exception of the Braque Français, and probably for the same reasons, it inherited the national patronym, and if its varieties in their separatism claimed colors that probably belonged to it before, we would not contest the fact that under its more narrow flag it remained the French Spaniel par excellence.

Dividing the spaniels of France into separate, regional breeds sounded like a good idea at the time, but doing so nearly wiped them all out. Instead of forming a united front to face the challenge presented by growing numbers of Pointers and Setters imported from the British Isles, the French breeds ended up in small, localized populations barely able to fend for themselves. In addition, crossbreeding was rampant in all the breeds as hunters tried to “modernize” them. Adolphe de
 la Rue wrote that the épagneuls had been crossed with so many other breeds that finding one “of pure breeding” was extremely difficult.

James de Coninck also wrote about the issue. The spaniel was, in effect, the quintessential bird dog...white with brown patches and ticking on the legs...the wide forehead magnificently framed by long ears covered with wavy hair, the body is big, the legs a little short, the hair is wavy but not curly. That dog of 1592 is the same dog we had at the beginning of the (19th) century and even 20 years ago. I knew several of that type which, unfortunately I’m afraid, is more or less lost. There is no breed, in fact, that has been subjected to as many crosses.

Fortunately, in 1906 a French priest by the name of Abbé Fournier decided to dedicate much of the rest of his life to the revival of the classic French Spaniel. He gathered all the more or less pure individuals he could find and established a breeding program that would eventually save the breed from extinction. In 1921, a club was formed with Abbé Fournier as president and, with stricter breeding practices in place, progress was made, at least for a while. Unfortunately, like all French breeds, two world wars had a devastating effect on the French Spaniel, reducing its numbers to very low levels.

After the Second World War, efforts were renewed to revive the breed by using the few dogs that had survived. By the 1960s, the population had grown and French Spaniels were once again being presented in shows and in field trials. In 1975 hunters in Québec, who had begun to breed French Spaniels from imported stock, formed the Club de l’Épagneul Français, and in 1985 obtained recognition for the breed from the Canadian Kennel Club. Since then, the French Spaniel has become a fairly popular breed in Québec with over a dozen breeders producing, on average, about 100 pups per year. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s the breed continued to grow and improve in France, and in the ’90s a number of French Spaniels began to make their mark on the field trial circuit. Today, the French Spaniel is one of the most popular native pointing breeds in France and is gaining the admiration of hunters in other countries.

MY VIEW: I am not sure what it is about the French Spaniel, but every time I try to capture that “special something” about the way they look and the way they move, I feel that I come up short. I can’t honestly say that I have a single image that really reflects the uniquely kind look in the eyes of a French Spaniel. I am not even sure how to describe it in writing. The only appropriate term seems to be “elegant”. French Spaniels just have a certain elegance in the way they are put together and in the way they move.

Of course all the good looks in the world count for nothing if a dog cannot perform in the field. Happily, all of the French Spaniels I’ve seen in action have convinced me that the vast majority of the breed is quite capable of putting in a good day’s work. I have also seen the two tendencies among breeders of French Spaniels. Some are focused on producing dogs that display a traditional style of search. Their dogs tend to work methodically, within shotgun range. Other breeders have opted to select for a more dynamic, galloping search that reaches out to cover more ground.

The dogs I photographed in field trials in France certainly ran with a great deal of passion at a strong gallop. The biggest running among them ranged out to well over 150 meters on either side. Other dogs, particularly those I saw in Québec, tended to work somewhat closer at a more moderate pace. No matter where I saw them though, I noted a certain feline quality to their movements.

If my admiration for the breed has not be obvious enough in other sections of this chapter, let me just come right out and say it here: I like French Spaniels, and I have a great deal of admiration for the breeders and breed clubs entrusted with the safe keeping of the ancient Espaignolz from France.

UPDATE: In recent years I've developed a classic case of middle-aged eyes. The deer grey Weimaraners I currently hunt with are getting harder to see at a distance. So there is a distinct possibility that I add a dog with an easy-to-see-at-a-distance white coat to the herd. And since I am working on Volume Two of my book, photographing lots of great Pointers and Setters I will probably end up saying "yes" to a "Britannic" pup at some point. But then again, I keep coming back to the photos I've taken of French Spaniels and the memories I have of their great looks, affectionate character and outstanding gundog qualities ... hmmmm decisions, decisions


Click here to see more photos of French Spaniels. 




Volume TWO?

Craig Koshyk


One of the most common questions I get about my book is not actually about the book itself. It is about the follow-up to it. Everyone wants to know what Volume Two will be about.

Well, it is actually pretty simple. You see, the FCI, that huge (nearly) world-wide canine organization divides the various dog breeds into groups. All pointing dogs are in Group 7. But Group 7 is subdivided into Continental Pointing Dogs and British Pointing Dogs. So Volume One is about the Continentals, and Volume Two will be about the British pointing breeds, ie: Setters and Pointers. And I am happy to say that I have already started Volume Two and have even done some photo shoots for it.


So to give you a sneak peak at some of them, here is a gallery of photos taken at the training camp of Colvin and Maizie Davis and in France at the training camp of Yannick Molès.



Breed of the Week: The Weimaraner Part 3

Craig Koshyk


SELECTION AND BREEDING


Approximately 550 Weimaraner pups are whelped in Germany each year, almost all of them bred by and for hunters. There are probably close to twenty thousand Weim pups born every year in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, 90% of them are from non-hunting lines.

Field-oriented breeders in North America tend to put more emphasis on speed, range and point than their German counterparts. Retrieving and water work are also very important for North Americans, but blood tracking and predator sharpness are generally not given much consideration. US and Canadian “field-bred” Weimaraners are often slightly smaller, faster and may be wider ranging than their relatives from Germany. In terms of appearance, they usually lack the extreme angulation of Weimaraners from show lines.

Aline Curran, an American Weimaraner breeder with US-bred and German-bred dogs, describes the differences between them:
My German dogs have more drive, more focus. They are bolder, more hard-headed, WAY more intelligent, and did I mention DRIVE? My American dogs from field lines have more style. They are faster and wider ranging, more eager to please, softer, more hyper, and did I mention STYLE? I find the German dogs easier to train, but harder to keep trained. They are very strong-willed and scary-smart. If you don’t stay on top of them, they will find very creative ways of getting away with murder. The Americans, on the other hand, are very eager to please, but don’t catch on as quickly. They are soft, so you can’t rush their training or you will lose the style, which is their best asset. Once they are trained, they stay trained with only gentle reminders. 

While it is reasonable to assume that over the last 100 years the Weimaraner has been bred to fairly high levels of purity, rumors persist that crosses to other breeds have occurred. Only one story can be confirmed. During the 1960s, there was a short-lived, and rather divisive program in Germany where a few Weimaraners did in fact receive “outside blood”.

According to a former president of the Weimaraner club, Dr. Werner Petri, a small group of breeders crossed English Pointers and Weimaraners in the early ’60s in an effort to establish a new breed called the Deutsch Halbblut. But the program never really got off the ground, and no dogs from it entered established Weimaraner lines. 

Several years later, a member of the German Weimaraner club bred one of his Weimaraners to a well-known Pointer bitch. He then bred the offspring to each other. All this was done without the knowledge or permission of the club. When word finally reached the board of directors, they decided, reluctantly, to allow the program to continue under the guise of research into the phenomenon of hybrid vigor. If the offspring were capable of passing all the required tests, then further steps would be taken to blend the crossbred dogs into established Weimaraner lines. In the end, the experiment was declared a failure. The Pointer bitch threw pups with extremely bad bites. That was enough justification for the breed warden to terminate the program. When I asked club members in Germany about those years, one of them said, “That is a chapter in the history of the Weimaraner that is now closed, thank goodness!”

Elsewhere, rumors of crossbreeding continue to make the rounds. In the US, claims and denials of crosses to Pointers and GSPs have been around for years. In France, knowing winks are exchanged in some circles. The French are rumored to have crossed everything from Pointers to GSPs to Salukis into some lines. However, nothing in either country has ever been proven
or publicly declared. What we do know is that in both the US and in France there are still very few Weimaraners capable of winning all-breed field trials. If crosses have been made, they have not had 
a huge effect overall. Perhaps they were done so long ago that they don’t really matter anymore, or they were not done widely or often enough to change the breed to the same degree as the GSP or Vizsla have been changed.

Clubs
The parent club for the breed in Germany is the Weimaraner Klub. There are also clubs in over 20 other countries. Among the largest are the Weimaraner Club of America and the Weimaraner Club 
of Great Britain.

Tests and Trials
The Weimaraner club of Germany follows a testing and breeding program similar to other JGHV-affiliated clubs. It sanctions VJP, HZP and VGP events, as well as various tracking tests. In Germany, Weimaraners must pass at least the first two levels of tests (VJP, HZP), as well as a coat, conformation and character examination, in order to be certified for breeding. The Austrian and the Czech clubs run similar tests, although they use a slightly different scoring system.

In the US, there is a fairly active AKC field trial scene for the breed. The Weimaraner Club of America and its affiliates organize 20 to
 30 trials every year, including a National Championship held near Ardmore, Oklahoma. Several kennels have been very successful in the field trial arena, and have done an outstanding job of keeping the hunt in their lines, while working toward developing class bird dogs for all-breed competition. The WCA also holds field-oriented ratings tests. Dogs can earn titles for upland bird work and/or retrieving. There is a small but growing number of Weimaraners participating in the NAVHDA testing system, with several kennels now using it to select their breeding stock (see a video of some of them here, starting at about 12:50 mark).

In the UK, France, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, Weimaraners can occasionally be seen in field trials and hunt tests. Like their American counterparts, European Weimaraner enthusiasts outside of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic tend to place more emphasis on the breed’s upland bird hunting abilities than on big game hunting or blood trailing.

Health: In addition to the health issues faced by other breeds, the Weimaraner seems to be at a somewhat higher risk for autoimmune reactions to certain vaccination protocols. As a precautionary measure, the Weimaraner Club of America recommends that Weimaraner pups receive parvo and distemper shots separately, about two weeks apart. Weimaraners are also reported to be at a higher than average risk for a severe form of hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), an inflammatory condition of the bones and other organs that can be fatal. Other issues of concern are bloat (gastric torsion) and von Willebrand’s disease.


FORM

The unique look of the Weimaraner is a double-edged sword. Having a hunting dog with a unique color and chiseled good looks is great. I've had Weimaraners for over 12 years, and I am still flattered when my hunting buddies tell me my dogs are handsome. But, on the other hand, the look of the breed has captured the attention of huge numbers of non-hunters who now make up the largest market for it. As a result, many breeders select almost exclusively for looks, and ignore the most important feature of the breed: its hunting instincts.

Size: Weimaraners can be substantial dogs, among the biggest of the Continental breeds. North American field-bred Weimaraners tend to be smaller than their show-bred compatriots.
Males: 59 – 70 cm
Females: 57 – 65 cm

Coat: Most Weimaraners have a short silver-grey coat and cropped tail. Long-haired Weimaraners are identical to the short-haired variety except for having a long, soft topcoat, with or without an undercoat. The long hair lies flat and measures 3 to 5 cm in length. It is somewhat longer on the ears and backs of the legs, and slightly shorter on the head. The tail develops a “plume” of long hair when the dog nears maturity. The tail of the long-haired Weimaraner is usually not cropped.

Long-haired Weimaraners were known to exist for many years before they were officially accepted in 1935, but have always been less common than the short-haired variety. Even today they only represent about 30% of the breed’s population in Germany and Austria; less in other countries. Curiously, the Weimaraner Club of America is the only Weimaraner club in the world to list the long-haired coat as a disqualifying fault. But the disqualification only applies to the show ring, so long-haired Weimaraners may participate in any other event open to pointing dogs.

Another type of coat known as stockhaar is quite rare, and only occurs in dogs that carry both the short-hair and long-hair genes. It is a double coat with a medium-length, flat-lying topcoat, and thick undercoat with a slight amount of feathering sometimes seen on the backs of the legs. Mating a short-haired Weimaraner to a long-haired Weimaraner may produce a stockhaar coat, but it is not a sure bet. The same holds true for two short-haired Weimaraners that carry the recessive long-hair gene. There is only a slight chance that they could produce a stockhaar coat.

Color
The breed’s silver-grey color has always been its most distinctive feature. But a grey coat is not unique to Weimaraners. Pups with grey coats have cropped up from time to time in other breeds. Writing in Weimaraner Heute, Dr. Werner Petri describes seeing grey pups in a litter produced by two black Middle Pinschers, and that prior to the Second World War, grey pups appeared in several litters out of solid brown German Longhaired Pointers. I’ve been told by breeders of GSPs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia that grey pups occasionally occur in their breed and are suspected of being throwbacks to a time when Weimaraners were crossed into GSP lines. A former president of the Cesky Fousek Club, Dr. Jaromir Dostal, has also confirmed that grey pups can also occur in Cesky Fousek litters.

What is unique to the Weimaraner, at least among the pointing breeds, is that breeders specifically select for the silver-grey coat color. According to the breed standard, it is silver, deer or mouse grey, as well as shades of these colors. Genetically, silver-grey is actually a shade of brown that has been altered by a recessive dilution gene. If a Weimaraner is bred to a dog of another breed with a non-diluted coat color, the resulting pups are never grey. They are usually liver or black.

While silver-grey is the only officially recognized color of the Weimaraner, another coat color can occur. The so-called blue Weimaraner has a distinctly blue-grey coat color similar to that of blue Great Danes, Dobermans or Italian Greyhounds. The color is actually a dilution of black. Blue Weimaraners have black noses and lips, and may have black mottling on the skin inside the mouth. Physically, other than the coat, blues look just like the silver-greys. They have a small but devoted following in the US, and have recently gained some ground in the UK, France and even in Germany, where breeders not affiliated with the parent breed club are now trying to cash in on the “rare” variety. 

Unfortunately, blue fanciers are like the grey fanciers—most of them do not hunt! Blues are bred, almost exclusively, as companion animals. Since a blue coat is listed as a disqualification in the show ring, they are not even bred for blue ribbons. Of course, that is not to say that there aren’t any good blues out there; there certainly are. I am aware of several breeders of blues that test their dogs with NAVHDA and have earned respectable scores. Nevertheless, for hunters and field trial enthusiasts, finding a first-rate hunting dog among the blue Weimaraner population usually presents an even greater challenge than finding one among the silver-greys.

“Blues” remain a hot-button issue in Weimaraner circles but space does not permit an analysis of the issues involved. However, a resolution may be on the horizon. In 2009, a club was formed in the US with the goal of establishing the Blue as a separate and independent breed. If you want to read my take on the Blue issue, here is a link to a mini rant I wrote a while back.

UPDATE: I recently wrote about another coat type/color in Weims: White. 

FUNCTION

Field Search: I have seen Weimaraners that were ultra- close workers, hunting at a fairly methodical pace. I have also seen one or two that ran for the horizon like bats out of hell. However, most Weimaraners have a close to medium range and hunt at a medium gallop. Judy Balog, a leading American Weimaraner breeder, says: Good Weims can search a field as well as any other versatile breed. But even the widest-ranging Weimaraners are not run-offs. They keep a sharp eye on their owners and willingly hunt for the gun while handling kindly.


Pointing
The pointing instinct can be slow to develop in some Weimaraners. Once they mature, however, they are generally strong pointers. Those selected for field trials in the US and Europe tend to have a very strong pointing instinct that develops earlier. Americans, in particular, place more emphasis on style of point, and look for dogs that display a higher head and tail. Like most other Continental breeds, natural backing is occasionally seen, but it is not particularly common.

Retrieving
Most Weimaraners are natural-born re- trievers that show a strong desire to fetch anything and everything at a very early age. The retrieving instinct may, in fact, be one of the most deeply seated traits of the breed. Even in lines where the run and point have almost been completely bred out, the desire to retrieve often remains quite strong.

Tracking
Perhaps because of its Leithund heritage, the Weimaraner has always been known for a “deep nose”. In Germany, a lot of emphasis is placed on selecting and testing for tracking ability. A lower head is greatly valued. So is giving voice on track, a behavior called spurlaut. In America, many breeders prefer a higher head, but do not ignore tracking ability completely as it is an important aspect of upland game hunting and NAVHDA testing. However, there is very little emphasis placed on big game tracking among Weimaraner fanciers outside of Germany and Eastern Europe. Nor is there any attempt to select for traits such as spurlaut.

Water Work
Weimaraners can be excellent water workers. Some may need more encouragement than others when first being introduced to water, but once they have learned to swim, they can be top-notch performers. The short-haired version of the breed may not be the best choice for the late-season waterfowler. Even the long-haired variety, which is better able to work in cooler temperatures, may not be well suited to breaking ice in deep waters. 

Judy Balog says that: The young Weim may need a little more early encouragement, but once they mature I think they’re hard to beat and most make top-notch water retrievers. 


CHARACTER
With such a huge population and so many different lines of Weimaraners out there, it is difficult to describe a “typical” weimaraner. There is a wide range of personalities in the breed, running the gamut from eager-to-please gundogs to hyperactive basket cases. But if we limit the discussion to dogs with a well-balanced character we can say that, in general, Weimaraners are friendly, extremely intelligent, high-energy dogs. They are not well suited to living in a kennel, and not really the kind of dog that can be left to their own devices around the house. They are often slow to mature, both physically and mentally.

Me and the Amazing Maisey
Training
The breed is particularly well known for forming a very strong attachment to its owner/handler. This can be a double-edged sword when it comes to training. The fierce loyalty and tremendous desire to please are great assets but, if not handled properly, they can sometimes lead to dogs that show very little independence. Again, it really depends on what lines they come from and how they are raised. Generally speaking, training a Weimaraner from good, proven stock is fairly straightforward.

Protection
For over a century, Weimaraner breeders in Germany have sought to breed courageous dogs with a strong protection instinct. Weimaraners are the only pointing breed in Germany required to pass tests designed to evaluate these traits. Tanja Breu-Knaup, a leading breeder of long- haired Weimaraners in Germany, explains that the breed’s reputation of being mannscharf (literally “man-sharp”) is slowly fading.
In the 1980s, when I first showed up to a training session with my dogs, everyone thought that they would be aggressive. But I proved to them that my dogs are NOT aggressive. Thankfully, things have changed since then. 
Instrumental in the public’s change in attitude has been the decision by the parent club to modify the testing procedure. Steve Graham, an American who has imported Weimaraners from Germany, explains:
The man-sharpness test (Mannscharfprüfung) was replaced by the new Wesenstest in 2001. In the older test, the handler holds the dog on a lead, and the judge, armed with a stick, makes threatening moves toward the handler. The dog is expected to show courage and willingness to defend its handler.In the newer test, the dog must also prove that it is not fearful or aggressive. A group of a about a dozen people forms a large circle around the handler and dog. Slowly, the people move toward the center. When the circle is more or less closed, the handler must let go of the leash and exit the circle leaving the dog behind. Once outside of the circle, the handler calls the dog. The dog should then go to the handler. When this is done, the handler and dog re-enter the circle. Judges look for any hint of fear or aggression. If they detect the slightest amount of either, the dog is prohibited from breeding. 


Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
http://www.dogwilling.ca/index.cfm

Amazing Maisey

Craig Koshyk

I've held off writing about some behind-the-scenes drama happening with one of my dogs this summer since I did not know how things would turn out. It was touch and go there for a while. But I can now say that I have a happy ending to write about. So here it is, the story of our Amazing Maisey. 


4 months ago, I sent a female longhaired Weimaraner named Maisey to Germany to train for the VGP test. My nephew personally delivered her to a breeder, trainer and full time super-hero named Tanja Breu Knaup whose vom Fenriswolf kennel has produced of the most celebrated LH lines in Germany.

At first, everything went very well. Maisey is a heck of a good dog and even though the only field training she had received until then was from me - a mediocre trainer on a good day - Tanja would soon see that Maisey had what it takes to pass the toughest test of all, the Master Hunting Test known as the VGP. 

Then, about 6 weeks into training, disaster struck. While running at full speed in the woods, Maisey injured her eye. A thorn pierced the cornea. After an emergency examination, the vet gave us the bad news. Maisey could end up losing the eye. 

At that point, we figured there was no way she would ever run the VGP, let alone pass it. All efforts had to go into just saving the eye. So for about a month Tanja focused on nursing an injured dog back to health. And it was not just a matter of letting the eye heal itself. At first, special drops had to be administered every 2 hours 'round the clock! And by the end of the first week, the eye looked really, really bad. 

But slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, the eye began to show signs of recovery. After about a month, a specialist examined it and told us that it was indeed healing nicely and would probably not need to be removed. With a huge sigh of relief, I though, "OK, she may not run the VGP, but at least she will have two good eyes".

Then Tanja said that it was time to get back to training! 

I was stunned. I thought there was no way in heck for a dog who has not even run the VJP or HZP or any NAVHDA test in her life to be trained in such a short period of time for the toughest test of all, the VGP. But knowing Tanja and the fierce determination that has made her one of the top Weim breeders in the world, I along with Maisey's co-owner (and world's best veterinarian) Colleen Skavinsky figured, what the heck, we've come this far, why not double down?

So Tanja and Maisey headed back to the field, forest and water for what must have been the world's shortest and most intense VGP training program ever.

This weekend they ran the test. I got the results by email about an hour ago. Not only did Maisey run the test, not only did she pass the test, she scored 300 points for a prize 1!! She also earned a rating of "excellent" for coat and conformation and passed her character/protection test to boot!

I am in awe of that dog and of her super-hero trainer. Just last month I was bursting with pride and admiration for another super-duo of trainer and dog. My soul-sister Judy Balog ran my dog Henri to a prize 1 in his NAVHDA Utility Test. And today is another great day thanks to another wonderful dog and trainer.

Thank you Tanja and Maisey, 
Thank you Judy and Henri, 

And to anyone out there who thinks that Weims can't get it done or that women can't breed and train great gundogs, I say watch out, here comes a couple of great grey dogs and their female handlers/trainer/breeders to kick your skinny ass!!



Breed of the Week: The Weimaraner Part 2

Craig Koshyk


Members of the Austrian Weimaraner Club circa 1946

In the early days, the Weimaraner struggled for survival, coming close to extinction several times. But by the mid-1920s the situation had improved, largely due to the efforts of Major Herber, who first hunted with Weimaraners in 1915 and wrote extensively about them for many years afterwards. He was elected club president in 1922 and ultimately became known as the father of the Weimaraner for his untiring efforts to promote the breed.

Major Robert Herber and his wife
The interest generated by Major Herber and others eventually reached across the Atlantic to America, where New England sportsman Howard Knight first heard about the breed in the 1920s. In 1929, Knight became the first non-German to be accepted into the Weimaraner club. He even managed to convince its German members to sell him breeding stock, thus becoming the first person to import Weimaraners to the US. By 1941, he was the president of the newly formed Weimaraner Club of America. Meanwhile, in Germany, Weimaraner breeders suffered the terrible effects of the Second World War. Prior to the conflict, an average of 100 Weimaraner pups were whelped in Germany annually. By 1945, that number had fallen to an all-time low. Club records indicate that in the final year of the war, only ten pups were whelped.

After the war, the few Weimaraner breeders that survived found a willing market for their pups among the hundreds of thousands of foreign servicemen and women occupying their country. Thus, a steady stream of exports began in 1948 and continued throughout much of the 1950s. Eventually, alarmed by the declining quality of the breed and the exodus of good stock to the US and elsewhere, the German club passed a resolution forbidding its members from selling more than half a litter for export. These new regulations, along with a reestablished testing system, soon helped to stabilize the situation in Germany. However, the breed continued to grow rapidly outside the country. The demand for Weimaraners proved to be strongest in the US, thanks mainly to the efforts of publicist Jack Denton Scott, hired by the Weimaraner Club of America to stimulate the market for the “Grey Ghost”.

James Spencer, in his excellent book POINT! Training the All Seasons Birddog wrote that: 

Mr. Scott and his numerous imitators created the “Wonder Dog” myth, which first lifted the breed to great heights of popularity and then plunged it almost into oblivion in America. Soon after WWII, fast-buck breeders were crawling out of their holes everywhere to hawk Weimaraners. Many made fortunes from the breed. But, of course, the dogs couldn’t perform up to their Wonder Dog billing. What breed could? Gullible Americans realized they had been had. Demand (and prices) fell to near zero. The party was over. The breed was in shambles. To the few serious Weimaraner fanciers, it must have looked like the party site on the morning after a world-class New Year’s Eve bash. First, they had to get the drunks (fast-buck operators) up and out. ...Then they had to clean up the mess these “guests” had left.

The few serious fanciers managed to clean up some of the mess of the early days and by the 1960s some of the damage had been repaired. For hunters, however, the recovery was not without a price. By the 1970s, the Weimaraner was quickly becoming yet another breed of gundog transformed from hunter of game to hunter of blue ribbons. If it were not for a small, dedicated group of field trialers and hunters, Weimaraners could have faded completely from the field, forest and waters of North America.


Then, in the 1990s, the breed was dealt another blow as a new generation of fast-buck operators rediscovered the lucrative market for grey dogs. And once again it was largely due to one man—this time, a photographer named William Wegman—that the breed captured the imagination of the general public. But instead of touting it as a wonder dog for hunters, Wegman’s work portrays Weimaraners as cute dress-up dolls. The artist made a fortune flogging all manner of kitsch featuring photos of his Weimaraners dressed in humiliating costumes, and the market for the Grey Ghost became red-hot again as tens of thousands of Weimaraner pups were bred and sold. Inevitably, many were dumped into rescue shelters (or worse) as new owners realized that a rapidly growing adolescent Weimaraner is anything but a cuddly dress-up doll. 

For Wegman and the eager breeders riding his coattails, it was a gold rush. For the Grey Ghost, it was yet another disaster.
Current Situation: First, the bad news: most Weimaraner breeders do not hunt. Most Weimaraner breeders do not participate in field trials or prove their dogs’ ability in hunt tests. Most Weimaraner breeders focus their efforts on servicing a massive and growing market of non-hunters seeking sleek grey dogs for companionship or showmanship. As a result, for every decent, hard-hunting Weimaraner in the world today, there are at least 100 others that range from mediocre to completely useless in the field. As a lover of the breed, it pains me to admit such things and I expect to receive some hate mail for doing so, but I would be less than honest if I did not point out the fact that most Weimaraners being bred today are not really hunting dogs. They may be great pets, beautiful blue ribbon champions and loving members of the family, but the hunting heritage of most lines has been neglected for so many generations that dogs from them no longer have enough natural ability to do a decent day’s work in the field.

Now, the good news: A great hunting Weimaraner is not that hard to find! The comparatively small number of breeders that continue to hunt and test or trial their Weims produce dogs that can hold their own against any other breed of Continental pointing dog in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the Weimaraners born in Germany, for example, are from proven, tested stock. Outside of Germany, the largest group of field-oriented breeders is in the US were dedicated individuals have made tremendous progress in 
the last 30 years. They produce top-notch hunting dogs, even a few that are competitive in all-breed field trials. There has also been a significant increase in the number of Weimaraners being tested in NAVHDA and, while only a few of them have earned the title of Versatile Champion, that number will surely increase as a new generation of NAVHDA-oriented breeders develops more lines based on fully tested dogs. Other areas showing progress in producing good hunting stock are France, Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

Of course, the Weimaraner is not the only breed dominated by non-hunting breeders and owners. And, to be fair, some Weimaraner breeders do select for “dual” dogs capable of winning in the field and the show ring. But the fact remains: the majority of Weimaraners in the world today are not bred to hunt. Anyone seeking one as a hunting partner needs to keep this in mind. If you deal only with breeders who actually hunt and/or prove their dogs in tests and trials, you stand a good chance of getting a great Weim. 

If you don’t, then all bets are off.

PART THREE HERE



Read more about the breed, and all the other pointing breeds from Continental Europe, in my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
http://www.dogwilling.ca/index.cfm

Breed of the Week: The Weimaraner Part 2

Craig Koshyk


Members of the Austrian Weimaraner Club circa 1946

In the early days, the Weimaraner struggled for survival, coming close to extinction several times. But by the mid-1920s the situation had improved, largely due to the efforts of Major Herber, who first hunted with Weimaraners in 1915 and wrote extensively about them for many years afterwards. He was elected club president in 1922 and ultimately became known as the father of the Weimaraner for his untiring efforts to promote the breed.

Major Robert Herber and his wife
The interest generated by Major Herber and others eventually reached across the Atlantic to America, where New England sportsman Howard Knight first heard about the breed in the 1920s. In 1929, Knight became the first non-German to be accepted into the Weimaraner club. He even managed to convince its German members to sell him breeding stock, thus becoming the first person to import Weimaraners to the US. By 1941, he was the president of the newly formed Weimaraner Club of America. Meanwhile, in Germany, Weimaraner breeders suffered the terrible effects of the Second World War. Prior to the conflict, an average of 100 Weimaraner pups were whelped in Germany annually. By 1945, that number had fallen to an all-time low. Club records indicate that in the final year of the war, only ten pups were whelped.

After the war, the few Weimaraner breeders that survived found a willing market for their pups among the hundreds of thousands of foreign servicemen and women occupying their country. Thus, a steady stream of exports began in 1948 and continued throughout much of the 1950s. Eventually, alarmed by the declining quality of the breed and the exodus of good stock to the US and elsewhere, the German club passed a resolution forbidding its members from selling more than half a litter for export. These new regulations, along with a reestablished testing system, soon helped to stabilize the situation in Germany. However, the breed continued to grow rapidly outside the country. The demand for Weimaraners proved to be strongest in the US, thanks mainly to the efforts of publicist Jack Denton Scott, hired by the Weimaraner Club of America to stimulate the market for the “Grey Ghost”.

James Spencer, in his excellent book POINT! Training the All Seasons Birddog wrote that: 

Mr. Scott and his numerous imitators created the “Wonder Dog” myth, which first lifted the breed to great heights of popularity and then plunged it almost into oblivion in America. Soon after WWII, fast-buck breeders were crawling out of their holes everywhere to hawk Weimaraners. Many made fortunes from the breed. But, of course, the dogs couldn’t perform up to their Wonder Dog billing. What breed could? Gullible Americans realized they had been had. Demand (and prices) fell to near zero. The party was over. The breed was in shambles. To the few serious Weimaraner fanciers, it must have looked like the party site on the morning after a world-class New Year’s Eve bash. First, they had to get the drunks (fast-buck operators) up and out. ...Then they had to clean up the mess these “guests” had left.

The few serious fanciers managed to clean up some of the mess of the early days and by the 1960s some of the damage had been repaired. For hunters, however, the recovery was not without a price. By the 1970s, the Weimaraner was quickly becoming yet another breed of gundog transformed from hunter of game to hunter of blue ribbons. If it were not for a small, dedicated group of field trialers and hunters, Weimaraners could have faded completely from the field, forest and waters of North America.


Then, in the 1990s, the breed was dealt another blow as a new generation of fast-buck operators rediscovered the lucrative market for grey dogs. And once again it was largely due to one man—this time, a photographer named William Wegman—that the breed captured the imagination of the general public. But instead of touting it as a wonder dog for hunters, Wegman’s work portrays Weimaraners as cute dress-up dolls. The artist made a fortune flogging all manner of kitsch featuring photos of his Weimaraners dressed in humiliating costumes, and the market for the Grey Ghost became red-hot again as tens of thousands of Weimaraner pups were bred and sold. Inevitably, many were dumped into rescue shelters (or worse) as new owners realized that a rapidly growing adolescent Weimaraner is anything but a cuddly dress-up doll. 

For Wegman and the eager breeders riding his coattails, it was a gold rush. For the Grey Ghost, it was yet another disaster.
Current Situation: First, the bad news: most Weimaraner breeders do not hunt. Most Weimaraner breeders do not participate in field trials or prove their dogs’ ability in hunt tests. Most Weimaraner breeders focus their efforts on servicing a massive and growing market of non-hunters seeking sleek grey dogs for companionship or showmanship. As a result, for every decent, hard-hunting Weimaraner in the world today, there are at least 100 others that range from mediocre to completely useless in the field. As a lover of the breed, it pains me to admit such things and I expect to receive some hate mail for doing so, but I would be less than honest if I did not point out the fact that most Weimaraners being bred today are not really hunting dogs. They may be great pets, beautiful blue ribbon champions and loving members of the family, but the hunting heritage of most lines has been neglected for so many generations that dogs from them no longer have enough natural ability to do a decent day’s work in the field.

Now, the good news: A great hunting Weimaraner is not that hard to find! The comparatively small number of breeders that continue to hunt and test or trial their Weims produce dogs that can hold their own against any other breed of Continental pointing dog in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the Weimaraners born in Germany, for example, are from proven, tested stock. Outside of Germany, the largest group of field-oriented breeders is in the US were dedicated individuals have made tremendous progress in 
the last 30 years. They produce top-notch hunting dogs, even a few that are competitive in all-breed field trials. There has also been a significant increase in the number of Weimaraners being tested in NAVHDA and, while only a few of them have earned the title of Versatile Champion, that number will surely increase as a new generation of NAVHDA-oriented breeders develops more lines based on fully tested dogs. Other areas showing progress in producing good hunting stock are France, Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

Of course, the Weimaraner is not the only breed dominated by non-hunting breeders and owners. And, to be fair, some Weimaraner breeders do select for “dual” dogs capable of winning in the field and the show ring. But the fact remains: the majority of Weimaraners in the world today are not bred to hunt. Anyone seeking one as a hunting partner needs to keep this in mind. If you deal only with breeders who actually hunt and/or prove their dogs in tests and trials, you stand a good chance of getting a great Weim. 

If you don’t, then all bets are off.

PART THREE HERE