There is a scenario repeated regularly on Weimaraner forums and e-mail lists. It goes like this: Someone announces that they will soon be entering a Weim in a trial or test or training class. A round of encouragement from others on the board follows, everyone wishing the handler and dog well. A few weeks go by and then a long winded post appears that details just what "went wrong". All the usual excuses are trotted out: "poor judging", "difficult conditions" "bad luck" etc. etc. However the one that sticks in my craw is the old saw about how Weimaraners are sooooo different from the other breeds and soooo misunderstood by judges and trainers. "Oh, they are so very different from all other breeds and should not be judged in the same way", "they work in a completely different way" "They are quirky".
Are Weimaraners really that different? And if the answer is yes, then why?
Let's remember that the majority of weim breeders outside of Germany and Austria do not base their selection on performance. Rather, they breed dogs mainly for the show ring or companion animal market. If they do any field work at all with their dogs the goal is usually a dog that can perform just well enough to get through a low level hunt test. Furthermore, most Weimaraner owners are not hunters and do not really know what a hunting dog should be able to do. Is it any wonder that weims are "different" from other breeds bred to actually hunt?
The "other breeds run further and faster" line is often used to explain why Weims do not win trials. I have also seen people state that "Weimaraners hunt in a completely different way than German Shorthairs etc."
I believe that there is very little justification for these attitudes. Range and speed are important factors in trials but they are not the only factors. Just because a dog runs far and fast does not automatically guarantee a win. It is my opinion that there are very few Weimaraners in the winner's circle because most Weimaraners are mediocre hunters at best. It is not that they hunt or run differently, it is because they do not hunt or run very well.
A good working weimaraner may not be quite as fast or far ranging as some other breeds, but the difference should be rather small. If a GSP runs at a full sprint out to 150 metres then a Weimaraner should run nearly as fast and almost as far ( I know some that run just as fast and far). The difference at most would be in the 10 -20% range.
What usually happens though is that most dogs in a trial are out there really hunting hard, with passion, drive and intensity at whatever the normal range for that type of trial is.
And then a Weimaraner is presented. A good one will look a lot like the other dogs, RUNNING hard with the same determination and drive as the others. Maybe it will cover (a little) less ground in each cast, and maybe the head will be somewhat lower while running, but there should be no mistake that this dog is out to find game and NEEDS to find it NOW.
More often than not however, a Weim is presented and what we see is a pale reflection of what should be happening. The dog trots here and there, pausing occasionally to piss on a plant or sniff at a mouse hole. If it stumbles across game, it may or may not point and if it does, there is little intensity. Range is never more than 20 or 30 yards despite the handler's urging the dog on. I hate to admit it ( I am after all a weim lover) but some of the worst dogs I have ever seen in the field were Weimaraners. Watching them "hunt" was painful. They were absolutely terrible. Yet in their owner's eyes, they were hunting in the "Weimaraner style" which is sooooo different and challenging.
Bullshit! They were hunting no better than my sister's tea-cup poodle. In fact, they were not hunting, they were out for a stroll wondering when they were going home so they could get back to that nap they were having.
It is no wonder that these types of dogs do not win trials. It is not because "weims don't run as far". The good ones certainly do. It is not because the weim is a "slower worker". Again, the good ones work with speed and drive...maybe not as quickly as a brittany or gsp but certainly at an intense gallop....not a lazy trot.
Maybe it is hard for the owner of such a dog to see just how poorly the dog does compared to other dogs. Maybe justifying the performance on the old "Weims are different" attitude helps the unease. But to an experienced hunter or field trial judge there is no illusion. The dog is crap (excuse my French) and should not be considered for the winners' circle. On the other hand, a good dog is a good dog no matter what colour it is. So if a grey dog enters a trial and runs with speed and style and points with intensity and stays steady etc. etc. then it deserves the top prize.
Most Weimaraners do not win trials because they are competing against dogs that have been selected for athletic performance in keeping with the original purpose of the breed. Those dogs have been selected by hunters and field trialers for just this purpose. Weims on the other hand are typically selected for their appearance by people that do not hunt and do not realize what a hunting dog should be able to do. The few Wemaraners that are selected for performance can compete with any other breed. They run and hunt and point and swim and retrieve very well. But they are the exception.
I am sorry what I have written sounds harsh. I believe that we should be honest. If the Weimaraner is ever to improve as a hunting breed we need to move beyond the attitude of "weims are so different" and get to work on selecting dogs that can compete honestly with the best of the best. We do not need to lose those endearing traits of the breed that we love so much, nor should we lose all traces of the weimaraner style. But we need to realize that a hunting dog, no matter what the breed, is like a high performance sports car ....not a minivan with bald tires and an empty gas tank.
Of course, that is just my opinion....I could be drunk.