Dachshunds are scent hound dogs who were bred to hunt badgers and other tunneling animals, rabbits, and foxes. Packs of Dachshunds were even used to trail wild boar.
Today their versatility makes them excellent family companions, show dogs, and small-game hunters.
Don’t let the Dachshund fool you. He might be, as legendary literary critic and humorous journalist H. L. Mencken said, “half a dog high and a dog and a half long,” but this small, drop-eared dog is tough enough to take on a badger. In fact, that’s what he was bred to do and how he got his name (Dachs meaning badger; hund meaning dog).
Dachshunds (pronounced DAKS hund — never dash-hound) come in three varieties: smooth (shorthaired), wirehaired and longhaired. In the United States, Dachshunds are either miniature (5 kg and under as an adult) or standard (usually between 7.2 and 14.5 kg as an adult). If your Dachshund weighs between 5 and 7.2 kg’s, he’s called a tweenie. Other countries have a wider variance in the sizes. For example, in Germany, the official birthplace of the Dachshund breed, Dachshunds are identified as Standard, Miniature, or Kaninchenteckel, based on a chest measurement taken at the age of fifteen months.
No matter what their size, Dachshunds are a delightful addition to any family, which is why they have ranked near the top of most popular dogs lists since the 1950s. Their cute appearance and lively disposition have inspired many affectionate nicknames for the breed, including wiener dog, hot dog, sausage dog, Doxie, Dashie, and (especially in Germany) Teckels, Dachels, or Dachsels
You can’t help but smile when you look at a confident Dachshund, proudly carrying his long, muscular body on short legs, his elongated head held high with a bold, intelligent look in his eyes. Because of their almost comical appearance, Dachshunds have long been a favorite subject of cartoonists and toy makers. But their cute appearance was developed for far more serious and practical reasons. Their short legs enable them to dig and maneuver through tunnels to corner and even fight badgers and other animals, while their large chests give them plenty of “heart” for the fight. Dachshunds are brave, but they can be somewhat stubborn, and have an independent spirit, especially when hunting.
At home, the Dachshund’s playful nature comes out. He loves to be close to you and “help” you do things like tie your shoes. Because of his intelligence, he often has his own ideas about what the rules are when it comes to playtime-and those rules may not be the same as yours or even other breeds of dogs. Dachshunds are known for being lively and enjoy chasing other small animals, birds, and toys. The breed standard — a written description of how the Dachshund should look and act — probably describes their personality best, saying “the Dachshund is clever, lively, and courageous to the point of rashness, persevering in above and below ground work, with all the senses well-developed. Any display of shyness is a serious fault.”
Dachshunds have soulful eyes and complex facial expressions. Their lungs are large for a dog this size and they have a barrel-like chest. Because of these things, Dachshunds have a loud, deep bark that sounds as though it comes from a much larger dog. And they do like to bark, which is something you might consider if you have neighbors who could be annoyed rather than amused by the antics of your brave little Dachshund.
Dachshunds often bond closely with a single person. They may even become jealous of their owner’s attention and can, if not properly trained and socialized, become snappy.
Smooth Dachshunds are the most popular variety in the United States. Their coats are short and shiny and need little grooming. They do, however, need a sweater in the winter if you live in an area with cold weather. Common colors are red, cream, black and tan, black and cream, chocolate and tan, blue and tan, and Isabella (fawn) and tan. Dachshunds also can have patterns in their coats, such as dapple (a mottled coat pattern), brindle, sable, and piebald.
Longhaired Dachshunds have sleek, slightly wavy hair and can be the same colors as the Smooth Dachshund. They should be brushed every day to prevent mats from forming, especially around their elbows and ears. Many believe that the Longhaired Dachshund has a more docile temperament than the Smooth or Wirehair.
Wirehaired Dachshunds have wiry, short, thick, rough coats with bushy eyebrows and a beard. Like Smooth Dachshunds, they often are mischievous. They won’t need a sweater in the winter, but they do need to be brushed regularly to prevent mats from forming. Their coat colors can be the same as the Smooth Dachshund, but the most popular colors in the United States are wild boar (a mixture of black, brown, and gray), black and tan, and various shades of red.
Dachshunds often have been seen as a symbol of Germany. Because of this association, Dachshunds lost popularity in the United States during World War I and World War II. Their appeal was too great for this to resist, however, and they quickly made a comeback in popularity. Because of the association with Germany, a Dachshund named Waldi was chosen to be the first official mascot for the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Dachshunds are a good choice for apartment dwellers and people who don’t have a backyard. They are popular with urban dwellers because of their small size and ease of care. They generally are active indoors and also enjoy going on walks. Just be careful not to let them get too fat or allow them to injure their backs by jumping off furniture. Also, be sure to support their backs when you are holding them. Because of their long backs, they are susceptible to slipped or ruptured (herniated) disks in their backs, which can result in partial or full paralysis.
Although they originally were bred to hunt ferocious badgers and other animals, today’s Dachshunds are ideal family companions. Additionally, many people show them in conformation, obedience, agility, field trials, and earthdog trials. They are also hard-working and well-appreciated therapy dogs. Some people enter their Dachshunds in Dachshund races, such as the Wiener Nationals. Although these races are popular, the Dachshund Club of America opposes “wiener racing” because many Greyhound tracks use the events to draw large crowds and because the DCA worries that such races could injure Dachshunds’ backs.
Because they are such a popular breed, many people breed Dachshunds to make money rather than out of a love for the breed and a desire to breed healthy, even-tempered dogs. Be careful to obtain your Dachshund from a reputable breeder who screens his or her breeding animals for both temperament and health problems.
The Dachshund is a versatile companion. With his variety of sizes, colors, coat types, and personalities, there’s a Dachshund to suit almost anyone.