President Eisenhower and Heidi the Weimaraner

Heidi was a Weimaraner, and was President Eisenhower's First Dog while he was in
office. She was given to the President as a gift by Postmaster General Summerfield.
At the time of Eisenhower's presidency, Weimaraners were not a common breed.

The President is reported to have adored his "grey ghost," saying in a letter to
Summerfield "Heidi is definitely an asset to life in the White House... she is beautiful
and well behaved. And she is extremely affectionate. I am constantly indebted to
you both for giving her to me." It's hard to say whether Eisenhower's wife Mamie felt
the same. Heidi would often get in the way when Mrs Eisenhower was being
photographed.

Perhaps the dog was protecting the First Lady, or perhaps she just liked to be in the picture. Heidi is reported to have loved running in the gardens of the White House; as an athletic breed she would have loved the open spaces. Unfortunately she didn't stay in the mansion for long. She urinated on the carpet in the White House's Diplomatic Reception Room, where the President entertained his guests or met with other politicians.

This didn't make her very popular and she was eventually sent to live on the President's farm in Gettysburg. One could argue that if she had an accident on the carpet there, it was less likely to cause distress. Weimaraners were originally bred in Germany as hunting dogs, and were used by royalty to hunt large animals such as deer and even bear. This means that they require huge amounts of exercise to stay in good condition.

President Eisenhower loved hunting and being outside (his hobbies also included golf and fishing) so a Weimaraner would have been a perfect companion for these activities. A fit and strong dog such as this is perfect for a President, where a dignified appearance of strength and endurance is desirable. Eisenhower didn't choose the dog himself, but the Weimaraner certainly embodies these qualities.

At times, it can seem almost impossible to tire a Weimaraner - they just seem to keep going. It's not clear who was in charge of the daily exercise for Heidi but whoever it was had a challenging job! The breed is also very intelligent, which means they need regular training if they are going to be good family companions. This intelligence can make them appear stubborn. Weimaraners, however, are good with children (as long as the child is big enough not to get knocked over) and if trained correctly become extremely bonded to their owner.

Eisenhower had two children so owning a breed that was suitable for the whole family would have been important. Separation anxiety can be an issue with Weimaraners. If left alone, the dogs can become destructive and have been known to injure themselves. This may not have been an issue with Heidi, because the White House was usually a hive of activity and she would have had plenty of company during her time as the First Dog.