Out of all the dog breeds alive today, the dachshund is probably the one affectionally made fun of the most. Their cute oddly-shaped bodies make them the subject of countless cartoons and novelties and at one point, even became the unwilling symbol of an entire country. Despite their comical appearance and reputation, dachshunds are protective and playful pets for homes of all sizes, apartment to mansion.

Breed History

Dachshunds are known by many names, including wiener dog, sausage dog, hot dog, and, during World War II, “freedom pups”. The name Dachshund (pronounced “daks-hund”) means “badger dog” in German but that name is not actually used in Germany. In Germany, the dachshund is known as the Dackel or Teckel. Although the modern dachshund is believed to have come from crosses between European hounds and terriers, similar hunting dogs are seen in 1,000-year-old hieroglyphics inside Egyptian tombs. The dogs in these paintings have the same long body and short legs as the modern breed and may be an ancient ancestor of today's “doxies”.

The dachshund's recognizable long body can be almost twice as long as the dog is tall, giving them a distinct body shape, but how many people really know why? As we've already mentioned, their very name means “badger dog”, but aside from having fur and four legs they certainly look nothing like a badger. Dachshunds were once used to hunt badgers and other burrowing animals and would follow them into their hole. Once they've trailed the badger this far, they'd either pull the badger out themselves for their owner or their owner would reach into the hole, grab the dachshund by its long skinny tail, and pull hunter and prey out together. Its low, narrow body allows it to fit into these smaller spaces and make its paws good at pulling it along the hole. In true hound and terrier fashion, dachshunds are likely to chase anything small and furry that comes across their path in tribute to this hunter heritage (including the family cat, rabbit, or hamster, making this a far less-than-ideal choice if you already have these animals at home).

Physical Description and Temperament

What the dachshund lacks in size, he makes up for in personality. They are a protective breed that will notify their owners of intruders in their home very vocally and will stand up to people and animals much bigger than themselves. Dachshunds travel well and are very playful with older children who can respect their slightly temperamental nature. The breed can be jealous or irritable if they have too much or too little attention and are stubborn enough to train their owners long before their owners are able to train them. Their heritage also makes them excellent diggers and loud barkers. The type of dachshund – short-hair, long-hair, or wire-hair - can determine some of their temperament since each of these types is crossed with other breeds to get the distinctive coats and carry some of these traits as well. Long-haired dachshunds, created from a cross with mild-mannered spaniels, tend to be calmer and more dignified dogs while wire-haired dachshunds tend to be more playful and outgoing from their schnauzer parentage.

Along with different dispositions, the three coat types also present different grooming challenges. The basic short-haired dogs often only need occasional brushing with a damp washcloth to keep their skin clean and healthy. Long-haired dogs need regular brushing to keep their coats tangle-free and wire-haired dogs need professional grooming a few times a year to keep their coats healthy. All three can have a slight musky odor even when perfectly groomed and healthy. In addition to the three coat types, dachshunds are classified into three general size categories. Miniature dachshunds are classified as under 11 pounds while standard dachshunds are 16 to 32 pounds. The medium size is all dogs in between these weights.

Health and Care Considerations

Dachshunds have their own unique set of health risks. While some are found in many different dogs – heart disease, urinary tract problems, ear infections, dysplasia, tear stains – dachshunds are especially vulnerable to spinal disc problems caused by their unique body shape. The long spine and small rib cage put extra stress on the spine. To make this problem worse, dachshunds gain weight easily and quickly, putting even more strain on their backs. Monitor your dachshund’s weight carefully and avoid letting him jump while exercising to avoid an injury.

Dachshunds have become a very popular choice for smaller houses and apartments. If you want a dog other than the run-of-the-mill Labrador or retriever, a dachshund may be right for you. Check your local rescues for a dachshund waiting just for you!