By Steven Michelson and Andra O’Connell
By Steven Michelson and Andra O’Connell
So, you want to learn about Dachshunds. Who could blame you? They’re such characters, and so comically cute to look at, both in their unique physical proportions, and also in their spirited antics. This FAQ attempts to give you the background and characteristics of this breed, so you can decide if a Dachshund is the right breed for you.
The current Dachshunds (also known as Teckels, Dachels, or Dachsels) originated in Germany. In fact, the name Dachshund is German for “badger dog,” indicating why these dogs were originally bred – to hunt badgers. German foresters, in the 18th and 19th centuries, mixed a variety of breeds together, aiming for a fearless, elongated dog that could dig the earth from a badger burrow, and fight to the death with the vicious badgers who were unlucky enough to inhabit that burrow. Dachshunds have also been used to hunt foxes, and believe it or not, wild boar. Even dachshunds who are abundantly pampered with modern day amenities still maintain this innate hunting instinct. It would not be uncommon to witness a normally friendly pet dachshund suddenly leap off the living room sofa from a sound sleep in the donut position (a favorite position of dachshunds), and, without any hesitation, fiercely attack and capture an unwitting prey – such as a common household bug. So, it’s no wild boar. Thankfully.
The first Dachshunds were brought into the United States in 1887, where they grew in popularity over the next few decades. By 1914, they were among the 10 most popular entries in the Westminster Kennel Club Show. During World War I, there was much disdain over anything considered German and unfortunately the dachshund was a victim of much hostility. In fact, they were sometimes the victims of stonings, and dachshund owners were often called traitors. As a result, the number of dachshunds in the United States and Britain dwindled. After the war, a few U.S. breeders slowly rebuilt the gene pool by importing German stock, and the breed began to increase in popularity again. The advent of World War II did not yield the same effects as World War I, because by then American breeders were well established and dachshunds were very popular.
In the United States, Dachshunds come in two sizes: miniature (11 pounds and under as an adult) and standard (usually between 16 and 32 pounds as an adult). A Dachshund whose weight falls between 11 and 16 pounds are affectionately known as tweenies. In other countries, there’s wider variance in the sizes. In fact, in Germany, the dogs are identified as either Standard, Miniature, or Kaninchenteckel, based on a chest measurement taken at the age of fifteen months.
For each size, there are three coat varieties: smooth, longhair, and wirehair.
Smooth Dachshund: The standard smooth Dachshund is the most popular in the United States. The coat is short, smooth, and shining, with a hair color of red, cream, black and tan, black and cream, chocolate and tan, blue and tan, and isabella (fawn) and tan. Beyond colors, there are also a number of patterns found in dachshunds. These patterns are dapple, double dapple, brindle, sable, and piebald. Please read “What Color or Pattern is that Dachshund???” for more information on colors and patterns.
Longhair Dachshund: There are two theories regarding how the standard longhair dachshund came about. One theory is that smooth Dachshunds would occasionally produce puppies which had slightly longer hair than their parents. By selectively breeding these animals, breeders eventually produced a dog which consistently produced longhair offspring, and the longhair dachshund was born. Another theory is that the standard longhair dachshund was developed by breeding smooth dachshunds with various land and water spaniels. In either case, the result was a beautiful animal, with a coat comparable to that of an Irish Setter and a temperament like a spaniel. In general, longhair Dachshunds tend to be more docile than the other two coats, though, like everything in life, there are always exceptions to this rule. The hair colors are the same as the smooth dachshund.
Wirehair Dachshund: Wirehair dachshunds were developed by breeding smooth Dachshunds with various hard-coated terriers and wire-haired pinschers. They look very smart, with their beards and bushy eyebrows. The coat is wiry, short, thick, and rough. Like their smooth cousins, the wirehair dachshunds tend to be mischievous. Any of the colors above are allowable, but the most popular colors in the United States are wild boar, black and tan, and various shades of red.
Dachshunds are recognized by their long bodies and short legs. Their design is the epitome of form following function. They are low to the ground, which allows them to enter and maneuver through tunnels. Their senses are all well developed. They are very brave, somewhat stubborn, and have an independent tendency, especially when hunting.
Dachshunds like to enter into the spirit of everything you do, which isn’t always the greatest help, especially when you are doing something like tying your shoes. They are playful dogs, but they insist on you following their rules of play, which may or may not coincide with the rules commonly used by their other canine cousins. For example, although they often like to chase balls, they don’t necessarily see the need to bring them back to you. This is an example of a Dachshund rule of play, and is probably related to their curious, but independent nature.
Anyone who meets a Dachshund has no doubt about who’s dog it is. They are often one-person dogs, meaning they bond very closely with their master. A Dachshund’s master is never alone – they have a long, low shadow following them everywhere around the house. This is not to suggest that Dachshunds dislike other humans – quite the contrary, especially if they are well socialized at an early age. But they definitely know which human is theirs.
It is extremely important to keep a Dachshund from getting fat, not only for the usual reasons of general good health, but also because their long back is susceptible to slipped or ruptured (herniated) disks through the additional strain placed on their spinal cord. This can result in partial or full paralysis, but is often treatable through a variety of methods. Fortunately, a full recovery is likely if the problem is dealt with promptly (as soon as there’s any evidence at all that the dog is having neck or back pain). In addition, to reduce the chance of disc problems, it is important to make sure a dachshund does not do things that put additional stress on his back, like jumping off furniture or running down stairs. This is not to suggest that that you can completely avoid such things all the time (after all, dogs will be dogs), but you can take steps to minimize how often they occur. For example, if you allow your dachshund access to the sofa or bed, it would be a good idea to get a ramp and teach him to use it when he is young; using a ramp to get on and off furniture, rather than jumping, reduces the shock on their discs that jumping can cause. Also, you should be careful, when holding a dachshund, to keep his back horizontal. Holding him like a football, with his rear quarters tucked under your arm, and your hands supporting his chest usually keeps the back in the horizontal position, thus reducing stress on the back. Donâ’t interpret this to mean that dachshunds are fragile dogs – they’re not (after all, they were bred for hunting). Itâ’s just that an ounce of prevention goes a long way. And if you accidentally hold one the wrong way, it’s not like he will immediately develop back problems, either. But you might as well take reasonable precautions.
Housebreaking can be difficult with dachshunds. While most dachshunds do eventually get the hang of it, it is not totally uncommon to hear things like “she’s 95% reliable.” Most likely it is their independent nature that makes them a little difficult to housebreak. It’s not that they don’t know any better, or that they maliciously want to be disobedient; it’s just that they don’t always see the necessity of relieving themselves outside (especially in bad weather), and they are willing to accept the consequences. Unless you’re a real ogre, the minute you see one look up at you with his inquisitive, adoring expression, capped off with his brown, almond shaped, soulful eyes, you’ll understand why they often get away with things. Patience goes a long way with housebreaking a dachshund.
Dachshunds are very intelligent dogs. They learn fast, but mostly when it suits their purposes. This is where their stubbornness shows itself most clearly, making some a bit of a challenge to train. Although they absolutely can learn, they definitely have their own agenda, which may or may not coincide with yours. With proper motivation (treats!) they can be trained. They are also very clever in ways you’d never expect. It is not impossible to show a Dachshund in the obedience ring, but it’s definitely not the most common dog for this purpose. Like housebreaking, consistence and patience goes a long way.
Dachshunds can be very good with children, provided they are socialized properly when they are puppies. It is a good idea to let your dachshund meet as many people as possible at an early age, including adults, teenagers, and children. Good experiences with people at an early age will make your dachshund a very good canine citizen, who gets along with almost everybody. Still, no matter how good any animal is with children, you should never leave them unsupervised.
Once they find their voice, they have barks that sound like they come from much bigger dogs, making them good watch dogs – not guard dogs (which will actually attack) but watch dogs, which only make a lot of noise.
One peculiar thing they do is to roll around in smelly things when they encounter them. Rolling on earthworms or dead bugs, for example, is a popular dachshund pastime. This is due to their hunting instinct. While doing this, they are trying to “lose their scent” so that their prey cannot smell them. Another carry-over from their hunting instincts is their love of digging, and if left unsupervised, they can often be found digging for grubs in your lawn. Although this trait is usually seen outdoors, it also follows them into the house, where they like to tunnel through blankets until they get it “just right.”
They are medium shedders, relatively clean, and they have little or no doggy odor. They don’t need to be bathed often (less than once a month, unless, of course, they’ve gotten into something, which they’re known to do).
They require a modest amount of exercise. Two walks of moderate distance (each about 1/2 mile) a day should be pretty good. More if you’re so inclined. They’re a long-lived breed that can live up to 16 years or more with proper care. Because they are such social creatures, they don’t do well as outdoor dogs – they need to be with their humans.
Even though they were originally bred to go to ground to hunt badgers, Dachshunds have evolved to become a very versatile breed, and there are many types of activities you can do with them, that are fun for you and your dog. Besides being wonderful family pets, you can, of course, show them in conformation, do obedience work with them, enter them in field trials (tracking rabbits) or earthdog trials (where they enter tunnels to track rats), use them as pet therapy dogs (where you bring them to hospitals and nursing homes, provided they are properly evaluated for behavior and temperament). Many people have also done agility (think of it as an obstacle course for dogs) with their dachshunds. If you choose to do agility, please be especially careful with the jumps, so as not to injure your dachshund’s back.
The only reason not to spay or neuter your dachshund is if you are going to show her in conformation, and intend to breed her if she does well in the show ring. Otherwise, there are numerous health benefits to spaying or neutering your dachshund, including significantly reducing the risk of certain cancers and other life-threatening ailments later in life, as well as eliminating the chance of an unplanned pregnancy. Spaying or neutering does not alter your dog’s personality, nor does it cause them to gain weight; overeating does that! Many reputable breeders will insist on a spay/neuter agreement when they sell a puppy or dog, and will only allow a limited AKC registration (a puppy with a parent who has a limited AKC registration cannot be registered with the AKC). Don’t be surprised if you are asked to sign such an agreement when you buy a dachshund from a reputable breeder.
If you are going to adopt a puppy, he should be at least 8 weeks old. This ensures that he is properly weaned from his mother, and has had at least one vaccination.
If you decide that a Dachshund is the breed for you, you have several options. If you want to buy a puppy, then you should only buy from a reputable breeder. You should be able to talk to a breeder to learn more about the breed, and meet at least one of the parents of the puppy, which is a good indicator (health-wise, temperament, and appearance) of how the puppy might turn out when it is full grown. You might be able to locate a reputable breeder by contacting the Dachshund Club of America breeder referral person. Don’t rush; take your time to find a good breeder with a puppy available. This may require being placed on a waiting list; good breeders often have waiting lists. But the benefit to buying from a good breeder is to maximize your chance of adopting a healthy, well-socialized puppy with a predictable temperament and physical appearance.
Being such a popular breed, there are breeders who are more interested in making money than breeding well-tempered, healthy dogs. By asking a lot of questions of a potential breeder, you can weed out the bad ones from the good ones.
You may also want to consider adopting a dog from a local dachshund rescue league, or rescuing a dachshund from a local animal shelter. There are many wonderful dogs available through such organizations, and many terrific rescue organizations.
Presumably, the reason you’ve decided to get a dachshund is because you like the look and personality of the breed. So don’t you want to maximize your chances of getting one just like you expect? There are two important reasons why you should purchase puppies from a breeder who has show dogs, even if you only want your dachshund as a pet.
First, ‘show’ dogs are evaluated at conformation shows to determine which ones best meet the breed standard. Dogs that do well in the show ring have proven themselves to physically conform to the breed standard, so their puppies are most likely to conform to the look you have decided you want. With the dachshund, the physical structure of the dog is important to reduce the chance of back problems.
Second, when you adopt a puppy, you probably don’t want one who is too shy, nor one who is too aggressive. In either of these cases, the puppy will present an extra set of challenges to you, as you raise him into adulthood. Dogs who do well in the show ring have proven themselves to be not too timid, nor too aggressive. If they were either of those extremes, they would not likely do well. So puppies born to these dogs are more likely to have a good, balanced temperament not too timid and not too aggressive.
Given that the best predictor of a puppy’s looks and temperament is the look and temperament of the parents, you want a puppy who’s parents have demonstrated themselves to be excellent, both physically and in temperament. Healthy, structurally sound, and well-tempered parents yield healthy, structurally sound, and well-tempered puppies.
So how do you increase your odds of getting a puppy who will grow to be healthy, structurally sound, and friendly? By buying one from a breeder who has ‘show’ dogs who have done well in the show ring, even if you have no intention of showing your dog.
You might be tempted to purchase a puppy from a breeder who does not have show dogs, to save a little money. Or you might be tempted to purchase a puppy from a pet store because it’s convenient. And honestly, you might be very lucky with your choice. But given the fact that you’ve decided you want a dachshund who looks and acts like… well, a dachshund, do you really want to take that chance? The odds are much more in your favor if you adopt one from a breeder who shows her dogs, and who lets you meet at least one parent of the puppy who you are considering adopting.
To someone who has never purchased a puppy from a reputable breeder before, it can be difficult to know if you are dealing with a breeder who is ‘less than reputable.’ But some indications that breeders you are considering dealing with fall into this category are:
They don’t give you an opportunity to meet at least one of the puppy’s parents
They haven’t socialized the puppies with people
They offer to sell a puppy to you without even meeting you, and will ship puppies ‘anywhere’ to people they’ve never met
They will release puppies before they turn 8 weeks old
They always seems to have puppies available, year-round (reputable breeders typically only have a few litters a year, and will only breed their females a few times in their lifetime)
They seem more concerned with getting your money than making sure the puppy will have a good home
With proper care, socialization, and training, dachshunds can be wonderful, faithful companions for many, many years.
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