Allyson Tohme writes about her experiences with her first Weimaraner. The article appeared in Weimaraner News Summer 2005, published by the Weimaraner Club of Great Britain

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My first Weimaraner was bought after researching the breed via books and magazines, visiting a well known breeder or two and then phoning around to see what was available. Like most new owners I wanted one now and was pointed in the direction of a 4 month old pup hundreds of miles away who turned out to be a week short of 6 months old with whom I fell immediately in love.

I lived in Somerset at the time and had easy access to good walking which I enjoyed whilst admiring my dog’s prowess at hunting, catching and killing various forms of wildlife. Basically, this consisted of anything with fur or feather and I often had to dispose of the bodies which included rabbits, hares, pheasant and cats. By the time I realised that this was perhaps not such a good idea after all, it was, of course, too late as he had become an accomplished exterminating machine that made the Daleks look like amateurs. Nothing was too daunting for him to tackle; swans, foxes and on one memorable occasion a badger (the only time he came back the worse for wear).

Being deep in farming country I made sure that he did not threaten sheep or cows, however those who kept them tended to have dogs that lacked basic social skills and were equally hell bent on removing other canines that appeared on their horizon. Sadly for them, Smokey was up for the challenge which, to the day he died, he never lost.

When I joined my local dog club I was met with the immortal words “You will never do much with one of those” which was of course a red rag to a bull. It was here that I realised the truth; that Smokey would not let anything with 2 or 4 legs get between him and me, confirmed when he rather violently objected to the obedience trainer taking him off me.

I had heard about Working Trials and decided to check out the club nearest to me. Smokey took to it like a duck to water, however there was the small matter of control to sort out. We had none. Members would roll their eyes and disappear when we arrived on the scene especially after Smokey had informed all and sundry that he was NOT into small talk. We trained and did extremely well apart from the down stay, which became such an issue that I withdrew him from competition for 15 months. After some expert help we conquered this problem and he went on to win or be placed in every stake bar ticket. However, I had to be very careful where I exercised him and to always put him next to a bitch in the stays.

Smokey mellowed a little after being castrated at 3 but was still a serious predator and I spent our time together constantly scanning the horizon for loose dogs. Less than total concentration by me resulted in a few near death experiences (for others) and I have to say he nearly went on a one way trip to the vets several times.

Why was my dog the way he was?

It would be easy to say he was “a difficult dog”, which in truth he was; he feared nothing and no-one and was supremely confident. He was a dream to live with in the house and I could go out in the middle of the night knowing that no-one would get anywhere near me. But the price I paid for my negligence when he was a puppy was high.

A major reason behind his behaviour was me. I failed to recognise the potential problems in allowing my dog to go “self employed” in the field. I failed to expose him adequately to other dogs so that he would tolerate, if not actively like them. I failed to adequately control him so that he did not interfere with other people and/or their dogs. I failed to extend to others the courtesy I now expect for myself. He taught me some extremely valuable lessons which I have passed on to my subsequent dogs. His behaviour also led me to people who helped me more or less keep him in check.

So why have I written this article?

Because if I cannot be a good example, perhaps I can be a horrible warning. Because I would like others to avoid the mistakes I made and to recognize and take good advice when it is offered in the spirit with which it is intended. Because success does not happen “overnight”, it is a product of consistent, relentless training during which many setbacks will be encountered and overcome if you want it badly enough.

None of my dogs popped out of the womb “ready trained” and there were times when I could have thrown in the towel but I guess I am one of those people who has a will to match that of our grey ghosts. I certainly needed it at times.

Smokey is still remembered, not always fondly by fellow competitors and in many ways he was my dog of a lifetime, but not necessarily for all the right reasons. To be honest although I loved him to bits it was a bit of a relief when he finally popped his clogs as I never had to worry about other dogs or people again.

Sad but true

Allyson Tohme