The dachshund is a short-legged, long-bodied breed of dog that belongs 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 animals like rabbits. There are essentially six varieties of dachshunds; as well as two sizes, there are three distinct coats: smooth haired, long haired and wire haired.
Dachshunds are very devoted and loyal to their owners, though they can be standoffish towards strangers and may growl or bark at them. Their devotion to their family make them great watchdogs. Dachshunds are playful and brave, but are also known to be stubborn, which can make them a challenge to train.
The Ideal Dachshund Owner
Dachshunds may not be the best pets for small children although if 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.
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.
Training and Socialisation
Training a dachshund can be challenging due to their stubborn nature although they generally respond well to training. In ‘the intelligence of dogs’ they are rated as an average working dog with a persistent ability to follow trained commands 50% of the time or more.
Like most scent hounds, dachshunds have little road sense, so it is recommended that they are kept on a lead when away from home.
Dachshunds do not often enjoy the company of other dogs.
How Much Space and Exercise Does a Dachshund Need?
Dachshunds don’t need a lot of space and make ideal apartment dogs as long as they are not left alone too long.
In the garden, the dachshund’s powerful front paws make them great diggers, so they require secure fencing right to or below ground level. Dachshunds will eat almost anything so care should be taken to eliminate any toxic plants from the garden or house. Their hunting instincts also makes them susceptible to snakes and cane toads in areas where they exist.
Dachshunds thrive on exercise and need a daily walk.
The dachshund’s pendulous ears make them susceptible to ear infections. Their ears should be cleaned weekly.
The hair between the toes of long-haired dachshunds needs to be kept short. Failure to do this may make it difficult for the dog to maintain grip on smooth surfaces, increasing the chance of injury.
Fun facts about Dachshunds
Dachshunds have very powerful jaws so never give them squeaky rubber toys to chew. Dachshunds will devour any soft or squeaky toy in record time.
The first dachshund races were held in Australia in the 1970s.
Special thanks to the National Dachshund Council of Australia for help with our Dachshund breed information.
Special thanks to Maria Arnold from Perfect Pets for allowing us to share this information.
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Potential Health Issues in Dachshunds
The two main health concerns for Dachshunds are Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD), and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).
IVDD is the most significant health issue for Dachshunds, with as many as 1 in 4 suffering from a disc-related problem in their lifetime. Intervertebral discs can degenerate, bulging outward, and can sometimes burst or rupture. When a disc is compromised, the fluid inside can escape into the spinal column, pressing against the spinal cord or nerves, which causes pain, nerve damage, and sometimes paralysis. Problems can occur anywhere from the neck to the back legs.
The incidence of IVDD is increasing as Dachshunds become more popular. Unfortunately, there is no known DNA marker, no test for IVDD, and no cure. Currently the only way to reduce the incidence of IVDD is X-Ray screening and scoring on dachshunds between 2 and 4 years of age. This screening aims to reduce the occurrence of herniations, by encouraging breeding with dogs that have low numbers of calcifications. This will reduce the occurrence of IVDD and assist with ethical breeding programs. Back scoring is common practice in several Scandinavian countries, and encouraged in the UK where it is subsidised by the breed council. The Dachshund Standard has also been modified in the UK to encourage breeders to breed dogs with a shorter back. In Australia, there are advocates for screening and some standard dachshund breeders are back scoring prior to breeding. Results are available online. For more information see Danish screening program against IVDD, Dachshund IVDD UK , Dachshund IVDD Support Australia.
If your dachshund is struggling to walk or paralysed – this is an emergency.
Unfortunately, the first time many dachshund owners hear of IVDD is when their dog is struggling to walk, has a pronounced hunch or is paralysed. This is associated with crippling pain and you must keep your dog as still as possible by restricting all movement. Crate if possible, or use a playpen, bassinet or other small space/restricted area. Use blankets to keep your dog comfortable, and seek attention from your vet immediately. Do not delay or defer to another day or more convenient time. The sooner there is veterinary and surgical intervention the better the outcome. Veterinary attention within the first 24 hours of becoming paralysed gives a higher chance of regaining the ability to walk. Delaying treatment, however, is likely to increase your dog’s chance of a disc rupture and even permanent paralysis.
PRA is a retinal degeneration that occurs in many breeds. The disease causes loss of vision, often leads to blindness, and there is no cure. PRA has been diagnosed in all varieties of Dachshunds but occurs mostly in the miniature dachshunds, and the mini long-haired variety. A DNA test has been developed that identifies three important factors to eliminate this disease.
Affected – dogs that have no clinical symptoms but will likely develop the PRA.
Carriers – dogs that have the mutation of the gene, will never develop the disease, but would pass the gene on to 50% their offspring.
Clear – these dogs do not carry the mutation, will never develop PRA, and will not pass it on.
Thus, breeders now have information to guide their decisions as responsible custodians of the breed.
How does this affect the puppy buyer? Can you safely buy a mini long-hair or mini smooth puppy as a pet? The answer is yes, but ensure that the breeder has carried out appropriate tests and ask for copies of the tests. If necessary, seek help interpreting the tests. It is crucial that pet owners do not breed from a dog that is a PRA Carrier or PRA Affected.
Dogs can carry the gene without showing any evidence of the disease so haphazard breeding without testing is reckless and irresponsible.
Pes Varus, also referred to as Angular Hock Deformity and Bow-Legged Syndrome, is a deformity of the rear leg, or both legs, that gives a dog the appearance of being bowlegged. It occurs when the outside growth plates of the tibia grow at a faster rate than the inside. In a healthy pup that is growing normally the growth plates close between 8 and 12 months of age. In a pup that has Pes Varus one side will begin to close at 4 to 6 months of age. The condition ranges from mild to severe depending on when the growth plates close. The earlier the first growth plate closes the more severe the condition will be.
It is believed that both sire and dam must be carriers of Pes Varus for it to present in the offspring. Unfortunately, there is no genetic test available to determine whether a dog carries the gene. Responsible breeders will follow the progress of puppies at least until they are past the age that Pes Varus might occur.
Pes Varus occurs in Dachshunds worldwide, in all three coat varieties, and in both Miniature and Standard Dachshunds. Cases have been reported in Dachshunds from Japan, Australia, USA, Finland, and the Czech Republic.
Other health conditions that may affect Dachshunds include:
- Lafora’s Disease: an inherited form of epilepsy that affects miniature wire-haired dachshunds in particular. This is now practically eliminated in Australia.Von Willebrand’s Disease (VWD): a mild to moderate bleeding disorder. While many dogs with this disease will never have a severe bleeding episode, they can, and there are reports of fatalities associated with VWD and surgical procedures.
- Cushings Disease: causes increased drinking and urination, increased appetite, panting, high blood pressure, hair loss, pendulous abdomen, thinning of the skin, calcified lumps in the skin, susceptibility to skin infections and diabetes, weakening of the heart and skeletal muscles, and nervous system disease.
- Cushings disease usually affects older dogs, and can occur either naturally, or due to over administration of corticosteroids such as prednisone. The latter is easy to cure – just cut out the medication slowly to allow a return to normal function. Naturally occurring Cushings is more difficult to manage and guidance from a veterinarian is recommended.
- Blindness and deafness: double dapple coloured dachshunds (which have varying amounts of white all over the body as well as the dapple pattern) occur when two dapples are bred together. These dogs can have very significant health issues, including blindness and deafness. Other susceptible colours include pied, tricolour, isabella and blue.
Thanks to Maria from Perfect Pets for allowing us to share this valuable information.
Are there Links Between Colour and Health in Dogs?
The apparently endless variety of dog coat patterns, lengths, textures and colours is genetic. Only 8-14 different genes are responsible for most of these differences. Unfortunately clear genetic links have been found between some colours and health conditions in some breeds of dog. If you’re looking for a white, blue or lilac dog, or a chocolate Labrador, it’s worth asking your breeder some extra questions. Rare coats colours in purebred dogs are usually rare for good reason!
Remember that a reputable dog breeder will be very careful to avoid known colour-related health issues and will be able to advise whether the colour coat you are looking for carries any additional risk.
The double Merle disaster?
Merle (also known as dapple in Dachshunds or harlequin in Great Danes) is a genetic pattern in a dog’s coat which creates mottled patches of colour and can affect all coat colours. Dogs carrying the gene typically have blue or odd-coloured eyes. Double merles which carry two copies of the merle gene often have a white or predominantly white coat and sometimes have pink pigmented paws and nose.
Responsible breeders take care to avoid breeding dogs which both carry the merle gene, because double merle puppies are at significant risk of very serious eye and ear defects including deafness, blindness and eye deformities. For this reason the UK Kennel Club has banned the deliberate breeding of double merles.
There is no clear link between double merle and other health issues such as allergies and dermatitis. However as a double merle dog is likely to be the result of irresponsible or ill-informed breeding, it may have other breeding-related health issues.