Information about the Dachshund

The dachshund is a short-legged, long-bodied dog breed belonging to the hound family. The standard size dachshund was bred to scent, chase, and flush out badgers and other burrow-dwelling animals, while the miniature dachshund was developed to hunt smaller prey such as rabbits. In the American West they have also been used to hunt prairie dogs.

While classified in the hound group or scent hound group in the United States and Great Britain, there are some who consider this classification to be arguable, speculating that it arose from the fact that the word Hund is similar to the English word hound and the word “Dachshund” has even been anglicized as “Dash Hound”. Many dachshunds, especially the wire-haired subtype, may exhibit behavior and appearance that are similar to that of the terrier group of dogs. An argument can be made for the scent (or hound) group classification because the breed was developed to use scent to trail and hunt animals, and probably descended from scent hounds, such as bloodhounds, pointers, Basset Hounds, or even Bruno Jura Hounds; but with the persistent personality and love for digging that probably developed from the terrier, it can also be argued that they could belong in the terrier, or “earth dog”, group. In the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Federation), or FCI, the dachshund is actually in its own group, Group 4, which is the dachshund group. Part of the controversy is because the dachshund is the only certifiable
breed of dog to hunt both above and below ground.

The typical dachshund is long-bodied and muscular, with short, stubby legs. Its paws are unusually large and paddle-shaped, for efficient digging. It has skin that is loose enough not to tear while tunneling in tight burrows to chase prey. The dachshund has a deep chest to allow enough lung capacity to keep going when hunting. Its snout is long with an increased nose area that absorbs odors.

There are three types of dachshund, which can be classified by their coats: short-haired, called “smooth”; long-haired; and wire-haired.

A standard long-haired dachshund (left) and miniature smooth-haired dachshund (right)

Dachshunds come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and kaninchen, German for “little rabbit.” Although the standard and miniature sizes are recognized almost universally, the rabbit size is not recognized by clubs in the United States and the United Kingdom, but is recognized by all of the clubs within the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Federation) (FCI), which contain kennel clubs from 83 countries all over the world. An increasingly common size for family pets falls between the miniature and the standard size, frequently referred to as “tweenies.”

A full-grown standard dachshund averages 15 lb (6.8 kg) to 28 lb (13 kg), while the miniature variety normally weighs less than 11 lb (5.0 kg). The kaninchen weighs 8 lb (3.6 kg) to 10 lb (4.5 kg). According to kennel club standards, the miniature (and kaninchen, where recognized) differs from the full-size only by size and weight, thus offspring from miniature parents must never weigh more than the miniature standard to be considered a miniature as well. While many kennel club size divisions use weight for classification, such as the American Kennel Club, other kennel club standards determine the difference between the miniature and standard by chest circumference; some kennel clubs, such as in Germany, even measure chest circumference in addition to height and weight.

H. L. Mencken said that “A dachshund is a half-dog high and a dog-and-a-half long,” although they have been referred to as “two dogs long”. This characteristic has led them to be quite a recognizable breed, and they are featured in many a joke and cartoon, particularly The Far Side by Gary Larson.

Dachshunds exhibit three coat varieties: smooth coat (short hair), long hair, and wire-hair. Wirehaired is the least commonly seen coat in the US (it is the most common in Germany) and the most recent coat to appear in breeding standards.

Dachshunds have a wide variety of colors and patterns. They can be single-colored, single-colored with spots (“dappled”-called “merle” in other dog breeds), and single-colored with tan points plus any pattern. Dachshunds also come in piebald. The dominant color is red, the most common along with black and tan. Isabella is a silver/gray all over color with light translucent brown points or no distinct points at all. Two-colored dogs can be black, wild boar, chocolate, fawn, with tan “points”, or markings over the eyes, ears, paws, and tail, of tan or cream. A two-colored dachshund would be called by its dominant color first followed by the point color, such as “black and tan” or “chocolate and cream”. Other patterns include piebald, in which a white pattern is imposed upon the base color or any other pattern, and a lighter “boar” red. The reds range from coppers to deep rusts, with or without somewhat common black hairs peppered along the back,face, and ear edges, lending much character and an almost burnished appearance; this is referred to among breeders and enthusiasts as a “stag” or an “overlay” or “sable”. True sable is a dachshund with each single hair banded with three colors: light at the base of the hair, red in the middle, black at the end. An additional striking coat marking is the brindle pattern. “Brindle” refers to dark stripes over a solid background, usually red. If a dachshund is brindled on a dark coat and has tan points, it will have brindling on the tan points only. Even one single, lone stripe of brindle is a brindle. If a dachshund has one single spot of dapple, it is a dapple.

Solid black and solid chocolate dachshunds occur, and even though dogs with such coloration are often considered handsome, the colors are nonstandard, that is, the dogs are frowned upon in the conformation ring in the US and Canada. Chocolate is commonly confused with dilute red. Additionally, according to the conformation judges of the Dachshund Club of America (DCA) and the American Kennel Club (AKC) the piebald pattern is nonstandard. However, the piebald dachshund can still be shown. The only disqualifying fault in Dachshunds is knuckling over. While some judges choose to dismiss a dog of color, many choose to judge them and those who are actually judging the dog will look past the cosmetic color of a dog and judge the conformation of the dog first. There were several piebald dachshunds that became AKC Champions in 2008. All things being equal between the dogs in the ring, the traditional colors which are listed in the Official AKC Standard (governed by DCA) should be visibly listed.

Light-colored dachshunds can sport amber, light brown, or green eyes; however, kennel club standards state that the darker the eye color, the better. They can also have eyes of two different colors; however, this is only found in dapple and double dapple dachshunds. Dachshunds can have a blue and a brown eye. Blue eyes, partially blue eyes, or a blue eye and a brown eye are called “wall” coloring, and are considered a non-desirable trait in kennel club standards. Dappled eyes are also possible.

Dogs that are double-dappled have the merle pattern of a dapple, but with distinct white patches that occur when the dapple gene expresses itself twice in the same are of the coat. The DCA excluded the wording “double-dapple” from the standard in 2007 and now strictly use the wording “dapple” as the double dapple gene is commonly responsible for blindness and deafness. Wall-eye is permissible. Piebald-patterned dachshunds will never have blue in their eyes, unless the dapple pattern is present.

Breeders may also breed a piebald dapple brindle; and although dogs with this coloring are increasingly popular due to their unique markings, they are not considered standard and are not allowed to show.

Dachshunds are playful, but can be stubborn, and are known for their propensity for chasing small animals, birds, and tennis balls with great determination and ferocity. Many dachshunds are stubborn, making them a challenge to train. They are statistically more aggressive to both strangers and other dogs. They are also markedly aggressive towards their owners. Several quotes have been recorded regarding the training of dachshunds; one is from E. B. White:

“Being the owner of dachshunds, to me a book on dog discipline becomes a volume of inspired humor. Every sentence is a riot. Some day, if I ever get a chance, I shall write a book, or warning, on the character and temperament of the dachshund and why he can’t be trained and shouldn’t be. I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club than induce a dachshund to heed my slightest command. When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something he wants to do.”

They can have a loud bark. Some bark quite a lot and may need training in order to stop, while others will not bark much. Dachshunds are known for their devotion and loyalty to their owners, though they can be standoffish towards strangers. If left alone, many dachshunds will whine until they have companionship. Like many dogs if left alone too frequently, some dachshunds are prone to separation anxiety and may chew objects in the house to relieve stress. They rank 49th in Stanley Coren’s Intelligence of Dogs, being of average working and obedience intelligence.

Dachshunds are burrowers by nature and are likely to burrow in blankets and other items around the house, when bored or tired.

Dachshunds can be difficult to housebreak, and patience and consistency is often needed in this endeavor.

According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standards, “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.” Their temperament and body language give the impression that they do not know or care about their relatively small size. Like many small hunting dogs, they will challenge a larger dog. Indulged dachshunds may become snappy or extremely obstinate.

Many dachshunds do not like unfamiliar people, and many will growl or bark at them. Although the dachshund is generally an energetic dog, some are sedate. This dog’s behavior is such that it is not the dog for everyone. A bored, untrained dachshund will become destructive. If raised improperly and not socialized at a young age, dachshunds can become aggressive or fearful. They require a caring owner who understands their need for entertainment and exercise.

Dachshunds may not be the best pets for small children. Like any dog, dachshunds need a proper introduction at a young age. Well trained Dachshunds and well behaved children usually get along fine. Otherwise, they may be aggressive and bite an unfamiliar child, especially one that moves quickly around them or teases them. However, many Dachshunds are very tolerant and loyal to children within their family, but these children should be mindful of the vulnerability of the breed’s back and not carry them around roughly.

A 2008 University of Pennsylvania study of 6,000 dog owners who were interviewed indicated that dogs of smaller breeds were more likely to be “genetically predisposed towards aggressive behaviour”. Dachshunds were rated the most aggressive, with 20% having bitten strangers, as well as high rates of attacks on other dogs and their owners. The study noted that attacks by small dogs were unlikely to cause serious injuries and because of this were probably under-reported.

The breed is known to have spinal problems, especially intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), due in part to an extremely long spinal column and short rib cage. The risk of injury may be worsened by obesity, jumping, rough handling, or intense exercise, which place greater strain on the vertebrae. About 20-25% of Dachshunds will develop IVDD.

Treatment consists of combinations of crate confinement and courses of anti-inflammatory medications (steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like carprofen and meloxicam), or chronic pain medications, like tramadol. Serious cases may require surgery to remove the troublesome disk contents. A dog may need the aid of a cart to get around if paralysis occurs.

A new minimally invasive procedure called “percutaneous laser disk ablation” has been developed at the Oklahoma State University Veterinary Hospital. Originally, the procedure was used in clinical trials only on dachshunds that had suffered previous back incidents. Since dachshunds are prone to back issues, the goal is to expand this treatment to dogs in a normal population.

In addition to back problems, the breed is also prone to patellar luxation which is where the kneecap can become dislodged.

In some double dapples, there are varying degrees of vision and hearing loss, including reduced or absent eyes. Not all double dapples have problems with their eyes and/or ears, which may include degrees of hearing loss, full deafness, malformed ears, congenital eye defects, reduced or absent eyes, partial or full blindness, or varying degrees of both vision and hearing problems; but heightened problems can occur due to the genetic process in which two dapple genes cross, particularly in certain breeding lines. Dapple genes, which are dominant genes, are considered “dilution” genes, meaning whatever color the dog would have originally carried is lightened, or diluted, randomly; two dominant “dilution” genes can cancel each other out, or “cross”, removing all color and producing a white recessive gene, essentially a white mutation. When this happens genetically within the eyes or ears, this white mutation can be lethal to their development, causing hearing or vision problems.

Other dachshund health problems include hereditary epilepsy, granulomatous meningoencephalitis, dental issues, Cushing’s syndrome, thyroid problems,various allergies and atopies, and various eye conditions including cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, corneal ulcers, nonucerative corneal disease, sudden acquired retinal degeneration, and cherry eye. Dachshunds are also 2.5 times more likely than other breeds of dogs to develop patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart defect. Dilute color dogs (Blue, Isabella, and Cream) are very susceptible to Color Dilution Alopecia, a skin disorder that can result in hair loss and extreme sensitivity to sun. Since the occurrence and severity of these health problems is largely hereditary, breeders are working to eliminate these.