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rec.pets.dogs: Dachshund Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/dachshunds
Last-modified: 2 Oct 1999

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   Steven Michelson

   Thanks to Dena Delgado for reviewing this FAQ, to Marivonne Rodriguez
   for providing breed rescue and other supporting information, to Bill
   Sweeney, to Jessica Lindsay Young, and most of all, to Chillie (a.k.a. 
   Chillie-dog), for showing me first-hand what terrific dogs Dachshunds 
   can be.

   Copyright (c) 1997 by Steven Michelson. This document may be 
   distributed freely, provided you keep this copyright intact. This
   document may not be sold for profit nor incorporated into commercial
   documents without the express written permission of the author. This
   document is provided "as is".
Table of Contents

     * Introduction
     * Development of the Dachshund
     * Physical Characteristics and Temperament
     * General Care
     * Frequently Asked Questions
          + Are they easy to housebreak?
          + I want to train my Dachshund to start my car on really cold
            days. Will this be possible?
          + How are they with children?
          + Do they bark a lot? What do they sound like?
          + Do they have any funny habits?
          + Tell me, do they shed, are they clean, and do they smell?
          + How much exercise do they need?
          + They sound adorable. What do they look like?
          + It sounds like a Dachshund is the dog for me. Where can I get
     * Resources
          + Clubs
          + References

   So, you want to learn about Dachshunds. Who could blame you? They're
   such characters, and so comically cute to look at, both in their
   unique physical proportions, and also in their spirited antics. No
   wonder they're so popular. In 1996 they ranked seventh in popularity
   for AKC breeds, and they've long been in the top ten. This FAQ attempts 
   to give you the background and characteristics of this breed, through 
   a mixture of facts gathered from numerous sources (referenced below), 
   from first hand experience with my Dachshund, Chillie, and 
   conversations with other Dachshund owners.
Development of the Dachshund

   The current Dachshunds (also known as Teckels, Dachels, or Dachsels)
   originated in Germany. In fact, the name Dachshund is German for
   "badger dog," indicating why these dogs were originally bred - to hunt
   badgers. German foresters, in the 18th and 19th centuries, mixed a
   variety of breeds together, aiming for a fearless, elongated dog that
   could dig the earth from a badger burrow, and fight to the death with
   the vicious badgers who were unlucky enough to inhabit that burrow.
   Dachshunds have also been used to hunt foxes, and believe it or not,
   wild boar. Even though Chillie is heavily domesticated and abundantly
   pampered, she still maintains and nurtures this innate hunting
   instinct. She's been known to suddenly leap off the living room sofa
   from a sound sleep in the donut position (a favorite position of
   Dachshunds), and, without any hesitation, fiercely attack and capture
   her unwitting prey - a common household bug. So, it's no wild boar.
   Thank God.
   The first Dachshunds were brought into the United States in 1887,
   where they grew in popularity over the next few decades. By 1914, they
   were among the 10 most popular entries in the Westminster Kennel Club
   Show. During World War I, there was much disdain over anything
   considered German and unfortunately the Dachshund was a victim of much
   hostility. In fact, they were sometimes the victims of stonings, and
   Dachshund owners were often called traitors. As a result, the number
   of Dachshunds in the United States and Britain dwindled. After the
   war, a few U.S. breeders slowly rebuilt the gene pool by importing
   German stock, and the breed began to increase in popularity again. The
   advent of World War II did not yield the same effects as World War I,
   because by then American breeders were well established and Dachshunds
   were very popular.
   In the United States, there are, in total, six types of Dachshund.
   They come in two sizes: miniature (less than 10-11 pounds) and
   standard (all the rest, but usually above 18-20 pounds). In other
   countries, there's wider variance in the sizes. In fact, in Germany,
   the dogs are identified as either Standard, Miniature, or
   Kaninchenteckel, based on a chest measurement taken at the age of
   fifteen months. For each size, there are three coats: smoothcoated,
   longhaired, and wirehaired. The standard smoothcoated Dachshund is the
   most popular in the United States. The coat is short, smooth, and
   shining. There are two theories regarding how the standard longhaired
   Dachshund came about. One theory is that smoothcoated Dachshunds would
   occasionally produce puppies which had slightly longer hair than their
   parents. By selectively breeding these animals, breeders eventually
   produced a dog which consistently produced longhaired offspring, and
   the longhaired Dachshund was born. Another theory is that the standard
   longhaired Dachshund was developed by breeding smooth Dachshunds with
   various land and water spaniels. In either case, the result was a
   beautiful animal (admittedly I'm a little biased), with a coat
   comparable to that of an Irish Setter and a temperament like a
   spaniel. In general, longhaired Dachshunds tend to be more docile than
   the other two coats, though I'm sure there are exceptions to this
   rule. I consider myself very lucky, because Chillie is a standard
   longhaired Dachshund with just such a temperament, especially indoors
   when there are people around. Wirehaired Dachshunds were developed by
   breeding smooth Dachshunds with various hard-coated terriers and
   wire-haired pinschers. They look very wise, most notably due to their
   beards and bushy eyebrows. The coat is wiry, short, thick, and rough.
   Like their smoothcoated cousins, the wirehaired tend to be
   mischievous. They come in red, black, or even dappled. Chillie has
   both red and black hair. Interestingly, the red hair is softer and
   finer than the black, at least in longhaired Dachshunds.
Physical Characteristics and Temperament

   Dachshunds are recognized by their long bodies and short legs. Their
   design is the epitome of form following function. They are low to the
   ground, which allows them to enter and maneuver through tunnels. Their
   senses are all well developed. They are very brave. And they are very
   independent. Being the smallest breed used for hunting, they need to
   be independent to do their job. Remember this. Their independence, in
   my opinion, has a lot to do with some other characteristics, which
   I'll mention a little later. (By the way, if you're into low-riding,
   comical looking dogs, you might also consider the Basset Hound. In
   fact, in French, bas-set means simply low-set, and at one point, the
   French name for the Dachshund was Bassets de Race Allemande. According
   to literature from the Dachshund Club of America, it is even likely
   that Dachshunds are descended from Basset Hounds.)
   Dachshunds like to enter into the spirit of everything you do, which
   isn't always the greatest help. When Chillie sees me putting on my
   shoes to take her o-u-t for a w-a-l-k, she often tries to expedite the
   process by helping me tie my laces. Needless to say, as
   well-intentioned as she is when she presses her nose against my
   shoelaces, this has never, in the four years we've been together,
   sped up the process. This is akin to a three year old "helping" you
   bake a cake, and insisting that (s)he break the eggs. They are playful
   animals, but they insist on you following their rules of play, which
   may or may not coincide with the rules commonly used by their other
   canine cousins. I know a Champion standard wire-haired named Matthew
   who I'm convinced has retriever in his bloodline somewhere - he lives
   to chase and retrieve balls. This is very unusual for a Dachshund. The
   retrieving part, that is. Although they often like to chase balls,
   they don't necessarily see the need to bring them back to you. This is
   an example of a Dachshund rule of play.
   Anyone who meets a Dachshund has no doubt about who's dog it is. They
   are often one-person dogs, meaning they bond very closely with their
   master. A Dachshund's master is never alone in the house - they have a
   long, low shadow following them everywhere around the house. This is
   not to suggest that Dachshunds dislike other humans - quite the
   contrary. But they definitely know which human is theirs.
General Care

   It is extremely important to keep a Dachshund from getting fat, not
   only for the usual reasons of general good health, but also because
   their long back is susceptible to slipped or ruptured disks through
   the additional strain placed on their spinal chord. This can result in
   partial or full paralysis. Fortunately, it is often treatable, and a
   full recovery is likely if the problem is dealt with promptly (as soon
   as there's any evidence at all that the dog is having back pain.) In
   addition, to reduce the chance of disk problems, it is also important
   to make sure a Dachshund does not do things that put additional stress
   on his back, such as sitting up and begging. Also, you should be
   careful, when holding a Dachshund, to keep his back horizontal.
   Holding him like a football, with his rear quarters tucked under your
   arm, and your hands supporting his chest usually keeps the back in the
   horizontal position, thus reducing stress on the back. I don't wish to
   convey the impression that Dachshunds are fragile dogs - they're not
   (after all, they were bred for hunting). I just think that an ounce of
   prevention goes a long way. And if you accidentally hold one the wrong
   way, it's not like he will immediately develop back problems, either.
   But you might as well take reasonable precautions.
Frequently Asked Questions

     Housebreaking can be difficult with Dachshunds. I've spoken with
     numerous people who have Dachshunds, and I've found it's not
     uncommon to hear things like "she's 95% reliable." Personally, I
     think it's their independent nature that makes them difficult to
     housebreak. It's not that they don't know any better, or that they
     maliciously want to be disobedient; it's just that they don't always
     see the necessity of relieving themselves outside (especially in bad
     weather), and they are willing to accept the consequences. Unless
     you're a real ogre, the minute you see one look up at you with his
     inquisitive, adoring expression, capped off with his brown, almond
     shaped, soulful eyes, you'll understand why they often get away with
     Probably not, but it would not be due to lack of trying. Simply put,
     their short legs give them a severe handicap when it comes to
     reaching the gas pedal. That, and the lack of an opposable thumb
     would make this task unlikely . However, Dachshunds are very
     intelligent dogs. Let me qualify that. They learn fast, but only
     when it suits their purposes. Remember that independence trait?
     Well, that tends to make them stubborn, which makes them a challenge
     to train. Although they can learn, they definitely have their own
     agenda, which may or may not coincide with yours. They can (and
     should) be trained with proper motivation, but figuring out what
     motivates your Dachshund might be a challenge. (A hint: one common
     motivational factor among Dachshunds seems to be treats. Being
     hounds, they love to eat.) But they are also very clever in ways
     you'd never expect. It's not impossible to show a Dachshund in the
     obedience ring, but it's definitely not the most common dog for this
     purpose. Although I don't compete in obedience trials, I did take
     Chillie to obedience class, and continued with the training even
     after the class was finished. She now has a nice repertoire of
     obedience commands and other assorted tricks, but it took a great
     deal of consistent and patient training to motivate her.
     Dachshunds can be very good with children, provided they are
     socialized properly when they are puppies. I often let mine play
     with the children in the neighborhood, including babies, when I
     first got her (I still do), and I believe, at least in part, this
     made her very good and tolerant of children of all ages. Still, no
     matter how good any animal is with children, you should never leave
     them unsupervised.
     Once they find their voice (at about 18 months), they have barks th
     at sound like they come from much bigger dogs, making them good
     watch dogs - not guard dogs (which will actually attack) but watch
     dogs, which only make a lot of noise.
     One peculiar thing they do is to roll around in smelly things when
     they encounter them. This is due to their hunting instinct. While
     doing this, they are trying to "lose their scent" so that their prey
     cannot smell them. Chillie tries to do this, but I'm usually pretty
     quick to detect when she's about to do it, and I put an end to it
     rather quickly. (Whenever she gets too interested in something, I
     know there's potential trouble!) Another carry-over from their
     hunting days is that they love to dig. Although this trait is
     usually seen outdoors, it also follows them into the house, where
     they like to tunnel through blankets until they get it "just right."
     They are medium shedders, relatively clean, and they have little or
     no doggy odor. They don't need to be bathed often (less than once a
     month, unless, of course, they've gotten into something, which
     they're known to do).
     They require a modest amount of exercise. Two walks of moderate
     distance (each about 1/2 mile) a day should be pretty good. More if
     you're so inclined. They're a long-lived breed, which can live up to
     16 years or more with proper care. Because they are such social
     creatures, they don't do well as outdoor dogs - they need to be with
     their humans.
     You can retrieve a picture of Chillie via anonymous FTP from under /pub/pictures/chillie.jpg (size is about
     If you decide that a Dachshund is the breed for you, I'd highly
     recommend going to a reputable breeder, where you can talk to the
     breeder, and meet the parents of the puppies. Being such a popular
     breed, I'm sure there are breeders who are more interested in making
     money than breeding well-tempered, healthy dogs. Or, if you want to
     save a dog, consider a Dachshund rescue league, or rescuing a
     Dachshund from a local animal shelter. With proper care,
     socialization, and training, they can be wonderful companions for
     many, many years.

   For more information (including the location of Dachshund clubs and
   breeders in your area), write to:
   Dachshund Club of America
   Carl Holder, Secretary
   1130 Redoak Dr.
   Lumberton, TX  77657
   (409) 755-6569

   Dachshund Club of America
   Jan Oswald, Information Officer
   P.O. Box 670
   Cabazon, CA 92230
   If you would like to find out about Dachshund Breed Rescue
   Organizations, write to the national contact at:
   Dachshund Club of America
   Emma Jean Stephenson 
   3040 Old Darlington Rd.
   Road, Beaver Falls, PA  15010

   To receive a pamphlet on Canine Intervebral Disk Disease, please contact:

   Carl Holder
   Health and Welfare Chairperson
   Dachshund Club of America
   1130 Redoak Drive
   Lumberton, TX  77657
   (409) 755-6569

   Fiedelmeier, Leni, Dachshunds, A Complete Pete Owner's Manual,
   Everything about Care, Training, and Health, Barron's Educational
   Series, Inc., New York, 1985.
   Heesom, Elizabeth, Dachshunds: An Owner's Companion, Macmillan
   Publishing Company, New York, 1991.
   Katherine Nicholas, Anna and Foy, Marcia, The Dachshund, New Jersey,
   TFH, 1987.
   Lawson, Deborah, The Indomitable Dachshund, DogFancy Magazine, Fancy
   Publications, Inc., December, 1993.

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