Breed of the Week: Dachshund

This week our featured breed is the Dachshund, also known as the wiener dog.  Why?  Well, because my Pixie-girl is half Dachshund.

Pixie in the yard (2)

Note the long body, semi-floppy ears, barrel chest, and shorter legs.  Those are traits from her Dachshund half.

Dachshunds are scent hounds and were originally bred to hunt badgers, which I did not know.  Their name actually means badger dog.  Dachs – badger.  Hund – dog.  They do, however, have many nicknames such as Doxie, Dashie, wiener dog, sausage dog, hot dog, and (in Germany most especially) Teckels, Dachels, and Dachsels.

The Dachshund comes in three varieties.  These are smooth (shorthaired), wirehaired, and longhaired.  The most popular in the USA is the smooth coated Dachshund.

Dachshund - smooth
Smooth Dachshund
Dachshund - longhaired
Longhaired Dachshund
Dachshund - wirehaired
Wirehaired Dachshund

Their cute and often comical appearance have made them the subject of many cartoonists and toy makers.  Yet they were bred for more practical purposes.  Their long body and short legs allow them to maneuver in tunnels made by badgers and other burrowing critters.  They are bold and brave with plenty of heart for the fight once they’ve cornered their prey.  This boldness and independence of nature can cause them to get into trouble as they dig and burrow after small animals in their owners’ backyard.  Indoors they are playful and active, engaging willingly in whatever game they best enjoy, although their idea of the game may be quite different from that of their playmate 😉

As long as neighbors are willing to put up with the Dachshunds often constant barking, they are ideal for apartments and dwellings without a backyard.  Given their barrel chest and large lungs, the Dachshund sounds like a bigger dog than it is, which can give quite a scare to new visitors, strangers, and would-be intruders.

Dachshunds bond closely with one person and may, if not properly trained and socialized, become possessive of their owners’ attention.  This can result in snapping, charging, and fighting with other dogs and pets seeking attention.

Often bred more for looks than temperament by some breeders (especially backyard breeders and puppy mills), if you are interested in purchasing a Dachshund be sure to find a reputable breeder.  My Pixie-girl came from the local shelter and showed many of the traits I was looking for in a companion.  She’s quieter than most Dachshunds and mostly prefers to lie beside me in my recliner, though she can get super excited and energetic when let outside to run in the sunshine.

Pixie bounding at park

I know she’s really excited and having a lot of fun when both of her ears stick straight up, as shown below.

Pixie excited

Today’s Dachshund is an ideal family companion.  Many Dachshund owners show them in conformation, obedience, agility, field trials, and earthdog trials.  Some also enter them in Dachshund races such as the Wiener Nationals, but this is not recommended as there are concerns that racing as such might cause injury to their backs.

Due to their long backs and short legs, one should be very careful about managing their weight.  Many Dachshunds are prone to putting on weight very easily, which can be extremely detrimental to their overall health and can result in severe injury to their spine.  Dachshunds are susceptible to slipped or ruptured discs in their backs that can, and often does, result in partial or full paralysis.

This is where I’m going to touch on an issue that really concerns me.  Over the past century or so, Dachshunds have been bred to have longer necks and backs, a jutting chest, and legs short enough their belly almost drags on the ground.  This troubles me.  Originally, they looked fairly different.  They had short but more functional legs, a less obtrusive chest, and a somewhat shorter back more able to support their spine.

Dachshund evolution

The breeding of Dachshunds for these highly disproportionate bodies makes them far more prone to arthritis at a younger age, injuries to their backs simply from jumping off furniture or falling wrong, and partial or full paralysis.  Dogs are extremely adaptable and can certainly do well in these situations, however, why are we deliberately putting them in those situations where they need to adapt like that?  Simply because we like the look of that long back and short legs?  For aesthetics?  What happened to breeding dogs that would live full happy and healthy lives?  Don’t we, as pet lovers, want what’s best for our dogs?  Why does that change when we’re breeding them?  It is my belief that we should breed them to look more like their ancestors.  Breed less for the shorter and shorter legs and longer and longer neck and back and more for their benefit.  Breed them for more functional, longer legs, a less elongated neck, a less protruding chest, and a shorter back more able to support them and less susceptible to slipped and/or ruptured discs.

You can find an article on this issue by Dr. Karen Becker, here:

I manage Pixie’s weight very carefully due to her long back and somewhat short legs.  I know if she becomes obese it will put a lot of strain on her back and joints and can result in a lot of pain and even paralysis.  Why would I want to put her through that?  I don’t.  It would be cruel knowing what I know of her Dachshund half.  So, the answer?  Manage her weight carefully and keep her on the slim side.

If you want to purchase or adopt a Dachshund, please do your research.  They are, in general, a good breed for first-time owners with their ease of care and the way they bond deeply with their person.  They can, however, be independent-minded and obstinate, so start training and socializing them early on and continue training and socializing them throughout their life.

Fun Fact:  Originally a Dachshund named Otto was cast and filmed in the Wizard of Oz, however, due to a strong anti-German sentiment during WWII he was fired and replaced with Toto.

Do you or have you owned a Dachshund?  Please tell us about him/her in the comments below!  I’d love to hear about your experiences with the breed.

Have suggestions?  Comment below!

Have a breed you’d like to see featured in our next Breed of the Week?  Leave your suggestion in the comments below!

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