When I was growing up, my aunt had a Dachshund. Cindy was the sweetest little thing, so playful and willing to cuddle. I remember her fondly all these years later. So, this time around, the breed of the week is going to be the Dachshund.
Dachshunds a type of hound that was originally bred to hunt foxes, rabbits and badgers. In packs, they were even used for hunting wild boar. Today, they are generally family dogs. The name is pronounced “daks-hund,” with emphasis on the first syllable.
The Dachshund originated in Germany, and is believed to date back as far as the 15th century. Early Dachshunds varied in size considerably more than they do today, and could weigh anywhere from 12 to 35 pounds. Over the years, breeders worked toward developing long, slender dogs that could make their way into badger burrows. The original smooth-coated Dachshunds were created by crossing with the Braque, which was a small French pointer, and the long-coated Dachshunds most likely developed through crossing with various terriers and spaniels.
Today, the Dachshund is the only breed recognized by the AKC that is considered to be suitable for hunting both below- and above-ground.The long tail on the Dachshund, when he is used for hunting, actually serves a purpose – it enables the handler to pull the dog out of a burrow. The Dachshund also has unusually large paws, which are great for digging. Dachshunds are deep-chested, so they have the stamina that is necessary for hunting, and they’re good scent dogs thanks to their long noses. Even the Dachshund’s loud bark serves a purpose – it helps the hunter to find the dog if it goes missing.
Dachshunds are also bred for tenacity. They are known to be fearless and deadly. If you give a Dachshund a squeaky toy, for instance, chances are that he will rip the squeaker out of the toy – in other words, he will kill it.
By the late 19th century, Dachshunds were more bred for companion animals than hunters, particularly in Europe. Queen Victoria is said to have been quite partial to the breed. Because they became more “lap dogs” than hunters, though, Dachshunds became smaller by about 10 pounds. Today, we even have miniature Dachshunds, which will usually weigh no more than 11 pounds.
By the mid-20th century, Dachshunds were among the most popular dogs in America, and they have continued to enjoy that status. In fact, the Dachshund is the sixth most popular breed that is recognized by the AKC, and that is no small achievement given that the AKC recognizes 155 different breeds.
Dachshunds are typically described as lively, clever, and courageous. They can also be stubborn. They love to cuddle. Sometimes, Mini Dachshunds can be shy or nervous, but this is not an acceptable standard for the breed, so if you are considering purchasing a Mini, avoid puppies that seem easily agitated.
Temperament in the Dachshund can be affected by several different factors, including training, socialization, and of course heredity. You should look for puppies that are playful, curious, and enjoy being held. As is the case with most breeds, you should avoid the puppy who is cowering in a corner or bullying his littermates. Ideally, you should meet the parents as well, or at the very least the dam. Sometimes, breeding can occur “off-site” so you might not always be able to view the sire. But if you can’t see the dam, that’s a red flag and you should run in the opposite direction.
All dogs need to be socialized early on, and Dachshunds are no exception. Socialization is what ensures that your puppy grows into a calm, stable adult. So take your Dachshund puppy out for walks where he can meet other people and dogs, and anywhere else that he can socialize.
Virtually every type of purebred dog is going to be vulnerable to one type or another of health issue, and Dachshunds are no different. The following are some of the most common health disorders that could affect your Dachshund.
1. IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease)
Dachshund are particularly susceptible to back problems. Often, this is due to genetics, and it can be aggravated if your dog takes a fall or moves the wrong way. Symptoms of IVDD include paralysis, loss of control of the bladder and/or bowels, and difficulty lifting the hind legs. You can, to some extent, prevent these problems if you make sure to support your dog’s hind legs when you lift and hold him. Treatment for IVDD might include the use of anti-inflammatories, confining the dog to a crate, surgery, or even the use of a doggie wheelchair.
Dachshunds are prone to epilepsy. Usually, it is genetic in origin, but sometimes it can be the result of a blow to the head or a bad fall. If your Dachshund is having seizures, you should take him to a veterinarian to be evaluated. Most of the time, epilepsy in Dachshunds can be controlled using medication.
3. PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)
This is an eye disorder that results from the dog losing photoreceptors. Ultimately, it can result in blindness. It is possible to test for PRA in mini longhaired Dachshund but not in other varieties. Keep in mind, of course, that dogs are very good at using other senses, so a dog with PRA can definitely live a full and happy live.
4. GDV (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)
This condition is also known as torsion or bloat, and usually affects large dogs. However, because Dachshund have deep chests, they are also prone to the disorder. With this condition, air builds up in the dog’s stomach, and the dog is not able to vomit or burp to get rid of it. Then, the blood flow to the heart is compromised and the dog can go into shock. If your dog is salivating a lot, retching without vomiting, or has a distended abdomen, you should consider this an emergency and get him to the vet right away – otherwise, he could die. Other symptoms can include a rapid heart rate, restlessness or depression. Again, don’t take chances. You need to bring your vet in on this.
5. Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)
Common signs of this disorder include excessive drinking and urination. It relates to an imbalance of the hormone, cortisol. This is a very treatable condition, so if your Dachshund displays these symptoms, take him to the vet for evaluation.
As is the case with humans, diabetes typically shows up in dogs that are overweight. Signs might include a ravenous appetite and excessive urination.
This isn’t exactly common to Dachshunds in general, but it does seem to show up more often than one might expect in double dapple Dachshunds. As is the case with blindness, though, deafness does not have to preclude a long and happy life for your dog.
Caring for Your Dachshund
Dachshunds are very high-energy dogs. They love to run, and they love to dig. Usually, a Dachshundwill require a ten-minute walk twice a day.
I’ve mentioned this many times before – no dog should ever be made to live outdoors (see Can Dogs Live Outdoors Full Time), and this is particularly true of Dachshunds. Left outdoors, your Dachshund will become depressed and could even develop serious mental illness, so keep him in the house.
That said, though, keep an eye on your Dachshund to make sure that he doesn’t jump on and off furniture – Dachshunds are very prone to back injuries.
As to training, you will find that your Dachshund will learn very quickly. Keep the training sessions short, though – Dachshunds get bored easily and don’t respond well to repetitive training exercises.
One problem with Dachshunds is that they can be difficult to house train. For some reason, they often simply don’t see eliminating outdoors as being all that important, so you will have to be both consistent and patient. Crate training is advised.
Crate training is also helpful in keeping your Dachshunds out of things that he ought not to be into. They can be destructive, so when you’re out of the house it might be best to crate your Dachshunds. Of course you should never crate any dog for long periods of time – a crate isn’t a jail.
I have mentioned over and over that I free-feed Janice and Leroy, and I am not going to change my position on that. I think that free-feeding might be particularly beneficial for Dachshunds, since they are so prone to weight gain. However, if you wish to feed on a schedule, your Dachshund should receive between half a cup and a cup and a half of good quality dry food, delivered over two meals per day. Of course the amount could vary, depending on your dog’s activity level.
Smooth Dachshunds are marvelously easy to groom. Often, you can just get away with the occasional brushing, and some Dachshunds do just fine with nothing more than the ordinary petting that their owners provide in the run of any given day. Long haired Dachshunds, though, should be brushed or combed at least three times a week.
Generally speaking, Dachshunds are very low-maintenance dogs. They don’t shed much, and you probably won’t even need to bathe them unless they’ve rolled in something nasty.
Wirehaired Dachshunds have to be brushed regularly, and if you want them to look good, you should strip their coats every four months. You can learn how to do this from various online sites – just Google “strip dog coat.” A groomer can also show you how it’s done.
With all Dachshunds, it’s important to pay attention to the ears – they’re the perfect breeding ground for mites, fungus and bacteria. Ear cleaning is easy. Just dampen a cotton ball with an approved ear cleaner, and wipe out the ears. Don’t go deep, though – if you’re in past the first knuckle, you’ve gone too far. Also, never use cotton swabs. They can break and become lodged in the ear.
You should also clip your Dachshund’s nails every couple of weeks, unless he typically walks on hard surfaces that will naturally wear down the nails. Brush his teeth, too – daily is best, but you can get by with a couple of times per week.
While you’re grooming, check for rashes, sores or any inflammation or tenderness in the skin. This type of regular examination can go a long way to helping you identify any health issues before they have a chance to take hold.
Dachshunds are typically good with kids, but sometimes don’t respond well to strangers, so if you’re bringing your kids’ friends in for a play date, make sure to introduce them to your dog, and then supervise. As always, never leave children alone with any dog – not just for the safety of the kids, but for the well-being of the dog. This is especially important with Dachshunds, since they are easily injured. Kids usually mean well and don’t intend to hurt a dog, but given the Dachshund’s propensity to back issues, supervision is very much advised.
Dachshunds will also get along with other animals, particularly if they’re introduced as puppies. In fact, if you’re “blending” your household, you are better off introducing a young Dachshund to older animals rather than bringing an adult Dachshund into the mix.
The Final Word
Dachshunds are remarkable dogs – friendly, loving and fiercely loyal. They can be stubborn, though, so you will have to be firm and patient when it comes to training. A well-trained Dachshund can be an absolute delight in your household, and will typically warm to all your family members and any other pets that you may have.