Famously described by H. L. Mencken as “a half-dog high and a dog-and-a-half long,” the Dachshund ranks among the most popular dog breeds in America. These short-legged, long-backed dogs are brave, bold and sometimes reckless, willing and ready to take on the badgers they were bred to hunt.
Dachshunds are active, fun-loving dogs, but they can also be hard to housetrain, willful and feisty, which might make them a poor choice for many families, particularly those with children. Dachshunds are also wary of strangers and tend to bark loudly when their suspicions are aroused.
The breed descended from dogs bred to fearlessly follow prey into underground burrows and tunnels – a job a few of them still manage. Those traits make the Dachshund determined to the point of stubbornness, a bit aggressive with other dogs, and an enthusiastic digger.
For those who love the breed, there’s a lot of variety: Dachshunds come in two sizes – the standard, weighing between 16 and 32 pounds, and the miniature, which is 11 pounds and under. They also come in three coat types: smooth, wirehaired and longhaired. All three coats come in a variety of colors and markings, including solid colored, dappled and marked with white.
Dachshunds are good family dogs if they are brought up with kids, but it’s important to supervise play so that children don’t pick up or hold them incorrectly. Their adaptable nature and moderate exercise needs make them appropriate for anyone from young singles or couples to seniors.
While all Dachshunds should be brave and fearless, each type has a distinct personality. The wirehaired Dachshunds are terrier-like in temperament, with a clownish attitude and a propensity for getting into trouble. They are the ones you’ll find taking one end of the roll of toilet paper and running through the house with it.
Longhaired Dachshunds tend to have a softer temperament to match their silky coats. They are quiet and elegant, with a somewhat more biddable personality, but they are just as active as smooth or wirehaired Dachshunds.
The smooth type are moderate and mischievous, for sure — he wouldn’t be a real Dachshund if he weren’t — but not as wild and crazy as the wire and not as quiet as the longhair.
The Dachshund is many things — stubborn, curious, independent — but one thing he should never be is shy. This is a dog who boldly goes out to meet friends and, as needed, battle foes. He is an outstanding watchdog but welcomes guests.
Training him — well, it’s been said that the term “obedient Dachshund” is an oxymoron. Nevertheless, a Dachshund who will work for you instead of against you can become a heck of a competitor in obedience trials, rally and other dog sports. It’s just a matter of finding what motivates him. Usually food works, but Dachshunds have their own way of thinking and no matter how good the treats are, sometimes their desires just won’t coincide with what you’re asking them to do. Training a Dachshund calls for patience, consistency and a great sense of humor.
Badgers and other burrowing beasts are the bane of country folk everywhere and have been for centuries. To rid themselves of the hole-digging pests, foresters and huntsmen developed a long-bodied, short-legged dog with the tenacity and toughness to root out badgers from their dens. First known as the teckel in his home country of Germany, the Dachshund has been around in one form or another for at least 500 years. He was prized for his strong scenting ability, small size, determination to dig, and courage in the face of a formidable foe. Breeds that probably contributed to the development of the Dachshund were the schweisshund, a type of Bloodhound; pointer-type dogs known as dachsbracke; Basset Hounds and Beagles.
The earliest Dachshunds had smooth coats that could be any color. The longhaired Dachshund, which was popular for hunting water-loving prey such as otters, may have been created through crosses with spaniels. The wirehaired Dachshund is the youngest of the varieties, receiving official recognition in 1890. His rough coat protects him from thorny brush as he pursues his prey.
Dachshunds first came to the United States in 1870, imported to hunt rabbits. The American Kennel Club registered its first Dachshund in 1885, and the Dachshund Club of America was formed 10 years later.
Because of its German heritage, the breed’s popularity took a nosedive during World War I. It took a couple of decades for the breed to regain acceptance. Once it did, not even World War II, with the Germans as enemies again, could stop the Dachshund’s rise to his current place as one of America’s favorite dogs. These days, the Dachshund is ranked number eight among the breeds registered by the AKC.
One of the words most associated with the Dachshund is “determined.” The breed standard describes him as clever, lively and courageous to the point of rashness. This is a dog who never gives up. And size makes no matter. A mini Dachshund is no less determined simply because he is smaller. Never insult him by calling him “cute.”
Here’s what else you should know about living with Dachshunds.
Dachshunds dig. That is what they’re born to do, after all. Just because they live in a house with you doesn’t mean they no longer have the digging instinct. If possible, give your Dachshund his own place to dig in your yard. When nothing else is available, you may find him burrowing into the blankets on your on bed.
Dachshunds love to eat. Their appetite can best be described as voracious. If given the opportunity, they will eat until they make themselves sick. Fat Dachshunds are more prone to musculoskeletal problems. To prevent both obesity and a case of garbage gut, measure your Dachshund’s food, give treats judiciously and lead him not into temptation by leaving food or trash out where he can get to it.
Dachshunds need a moderate amount of exercise. He’ll be satisfied with a couple of half-mile walks daily, but he’s capable of three- to four-mile walks over hill and dale. If you are a go-getter, you’ll enjoy walking with the purposeful Dachshund. This is a dog with places to go and things to sniff and pee on. Walks aren’t the only way to exercise a Dachshund. He is a versatile dog who will enjoy tracking rabbits in field trials, taking part in earthdog trials that involve tunneling after (safely-caged) rats, bringing Dachshund delight as a therapy dog in nursing homes and hospitals, and racing through an obstacle course in agility trials.
Dachshunds can be housetrained, but they’re not always 100 percent reliable. If it’s cold or rainy outside, well, they’re not exactly sure why they should have to go out in bad weather when it’s just as easy to pee in the house. Be patient, and if you live in a place with inclement weather, consider teaching your Dachshund to use those puppy pee pads. You’ll both be happier.
Dachshunds like to roll in stinky things. So while they typically don’t need baths more often than every six weeks or so, that rule goes out the window when they find something especially aromatic — to them, anyway. To you, it’s simply eau de bathtime.
Other than that, brush smooth and longhaired Dachshunds weekly to keep them clean and, in the case of the longhair, tangle-free. They shed moderately and regular grooming will help keep loose hair from falling off the dog and onto your clothes and furniture. The wire needs a different kind of grooming. The dead hairs in his coat must be plucked out twice a year, called stripping.
Keep your Dachshund’s droopy ears clean with a solution recommended by your veterinarian. Don’t use cotton swabs inside the ear; they can push gunk further down into it. Wipe out the ear with a cotton ball, never going deeper than the first knuckle of your finger.
Trim his nails regularly, usually every couple of weeks. They should never be so long that you hear them clicking on the floor.
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