Dachshunds, often referred to as “weiner dogs,” are most commonly depicted as pets. The “cute” factor in Dachshund puppies can be somewhat deceptive about the “big dog” lurking underneath. The Dachshund is available as a standard and miniature size in smooth, wire and long haired varieties.
Said to date back to North Africa during the time of the Pharaohs but generally credited with being developed in Germany, the Dachshund has long been beloved by celebrity and ordinary people alike. They are the smallest of the hunting breeds, developed to follow badger “to ground”, with the ability to dig out prey as well as go down inside the burrows. A vicious animal when cornered, the badger needed an equally courageous dog to successfully unearth them. Dachshunds have also taken on fox and otter.
The dog originally cast in the Wizard Of Oz actually was a miniature Dachshund – post-war hostility towards their home country meant that Toto was fired and depicted as a Norwich terrier. The role of the miniature Dachshund in the classic has long been buried. Famous fanciers of the breed include Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Joan Crawford and others. A Dachshund once made an appearance on “Hogan’s Heroes”. Gary Berghoff, who played “Radar” on the MASH series, is said to have kept one wirehaired, two smooths and two long-haired Dachshunds.
William Shakespeare is said to have kept a pack of Dachshunds. William Faulkner and Danielle Steele also kept the breed. From the 14th to the 16th centuries Dachshunds were kept by Catholic popes as “altar-dogs” in Catholic ceremonies. George S. Patton, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Napoleon Bonapart were a few of the higher ranking people who kept the breed. Queen Victoria kept a royal kennel and arranged a bronze statue of one of her dogs at Windsor castle.
The Dachshund name means, literally, “badger dog”. They are a fierce hunting breed, very people orientated and love to cuddle but absolutely retain the instincts of a hunting dog. Originally the dogs worked in packs, leading to the development of a highly social hound that generally gets along with other dogs.
Competing in shows, obedience, agility, field trials and “earth dog” competitions are just some of what the Dachshund can do besides being a beloved pet. For reasons of being a true scenthound, they should not be allowed off leash loose – the scent of something interesting can mean crossing traffic or other hazards that can be fatal.
In the 1930s they were called officially called “badger dogs” to give a verbal distance from their home country of Germany. Here in the US they rose in popularity to be one of the top ten breeds. Often recognized in the popular black and tan or red colors, they can also be several other colors, including chocolate and tan, blue and tan, fawn and tan, chocolate, dappled, fawn, cream, ‘wild boar,’ wheaten and blue or black and cream.
According to the Dachshund Club of America some have also been trained as drug sniffing dogs, a modern day use for that sensitive nose. By their definition the standard is 16-32 pounds while the miniature is 11 pounds and under. Of course, as pet dogs or for working and performance, slightly over or under this is of no real importance. There are of course many who fall between – too big for miniature status and not quite big enough for standard status. What to do with the 14 pound Dachshund – love him!
This makes them ideal size for small yards and apartments but one must also keep in mind their original purpose – as hunting hounds! This can mean for some individuals they are especially eager to “give voice” – irritated neighbors call this “excessive barking!” Said to be ‘stubborn to a fault’ but also very playful and entertaining, they can be reserved with strangers but love “their people.” They can be curious and mischievous.
There may be some temperament differences between the varieties. One breeder with both sizes and all varieties comments the smooth is the original and a bit more “in your face” than the other varieties. With spaniels introduced for the long coat, that variety is said to be more laid back, while a terrier heritage in the wire haired can lead to a boistrous, tough dog attitude befitting that trace of terrier influence.
Intelligent dogs but sometimes difficult to house train, the dachshund normally learn best when properly motivated and a heavy dose of praise is used rather than correction. Keep training fun, regular walks and/or playtime and careful monitoring of food intake leads to a happy, healthy pet.
Health issues are worth noting. The Dachshund, more than many breeds, should be maintained to be fit, not fat. Regulating their food intake helps reduce the chances of back problems that can cripple your dog. Eye problems, epilepsy, IVDD (a spinal disorder), thyroid issues, patella luxations, leggs perthes all can affect this breed – however there are tests that can be done and for breeding dogs should be done as some problems are genetic.
Because of their long back and short rib cage, and a even personal disagreement of genetics over management being the cause, prevention of back injuries is strongly encouraged. Picking up a Dachshund means supporting him front and back, much as carrying a football. This keeps the dog secure, preventing twisting and thrashing which can cause injuries. Excessive stairs and jumping generally isn’t recommended. As with humans, a fit dog is less likely to be injured than one who is overweight or out of shape.
On average litter size is about 3-4 for miniatures, 5-7 for standards. Some breeders report that some lines are prone to needing c-sections for whelping but generally there aren’t a lot of problems with whelping Dachshunds. If you are breeding your dogs this is an important factor to keep in mind however – any emergency surgery it is not cheap but is life-threatening if she doesn’t get help when needed. It is worth noting they can be very territorial about their puppies with other dogs – if you have a multiple dog home with the other dog being larger, this warrants attention for the safety and comfort of the Dachshund.
From a conformation show standpoint, the standard of the Dachshund can be found at http://www.akc.org/breeds/dachshund/ and would be repetitious to include here at length. Further, while this is a guide to the physical standard for showing, dogs competing in earth dog, trials and other competitions, or those kept simply for pets, the perfect conformation is not of as much interest.
From a grooming standpoint the varieties do have some differences also, as expected. The smooths is the “wash and wear” variety. While all varieties need regular toenail trims, ear cleaning and basic care, the occasional bath is sufficient for smooth pets – showing holds the decision of clipping the whiskers.
The wire variety should be clipped twice a year – something that should NOT be done for show dogs. Show dogs should have the coats stripped, by hand or using a small tool. Stripping is essentially pulling individual hairs – this retains the texture of the coat, removing the dead hairs. This is, from a show standpoint, the highest maintenance coat.
The long-hair variety pet dog should have the hair between the pads clipped and thinning the “feathers” – the longer hair that makes this variety so pretty. Show dogs have a flat iron used in addition to trimming. The coat of show dogs takes special care to condition it and keep it from breaking or drying out. Keeping a long-haired show dog takes effort. Of course pets do not need to be maintained as do their showable kin.
As with other hounds, the ears should be checked and kept clean of excess water and debris to reduce irritation.
Being a smaller dog, with proper care living to 12-14 years of age isn’t uncommon, with many dogs still remarkably active. Good care helps any dog, but the Dachshund is a breed that can easily reach the teenage years.
The Dachshund is a wonderful small dog for the right home. Older children and adults who pay attention to their needs, strengths and weaknesses – and who have the patience to get through the early training – will have a loving dog that is small in stature but large in heart and personality.