The Dachshund is a small scenthound with short legs and a distinctively elongated body. The breed's beginning can be traced to the 1600s, when it was used in Germany to hunt, track and retrieve burrow dwelling animals, mainly the badger. Today it is one of the most popular breeds in the U.S., and can be found in the fields as hunting companions or in homes as a family pet.
The Dachshund dog can move and enter easily through a tunnel or den because of its long, low-slung body. The dog’s unconstrained and smooth gait is enhanced by its powers of stamina, ease of movement, and dexterity. The muscles should be strong without appearing bulky, and the waist tapered slightly. It is the appearance of slender athleticism. Its trim profile, in fact, was used as a symbol for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. The distinctive forward flopping ears protect the Dachshund's ear canals from the entry of foreign objects as it races through brush, and the slightly curled up tail serves to make it visible to trailing hunters.
There are three sizes of Dachshund, each based on the practical purpose of the designated prey. The larger Dachshund dog, weighing in at 30 to 35 pounds, is used for hunting badgers and boars, and the smaller, standard sized dog, weighing from 16 to 22 pounds, is used for hunting badgers, foxes and hares. The smallest size, the miniature, which weighs under 11 pounds, is more commonly kept as a house pet.
In addition, there are three types of coats that are standard for this breed. The silky long coat can be straight or wavy; the smooth coat is short and glossy; and the wiry coat has hard, thick, tight hair with a fine undercoat. All varieties of coats offer protection from extreme weather conditions. The pleasant and intelligent expression of the dog give it a confident demeanor.
The daring, adventurous and curious Dachshund is fond of digging, hunting, chasing game, and tracking by scent. It is a true combination of terrier and hound. Although the dog is playful with children, time spent with them should be attended to by adults, since the Dachshund does not have a wealth of patience for being mishandled -- unintentional though it may be.
This breed does well with strangers, but tends to be reserved and shy, and may sometimes snarl at those it is unfamiliar with. If it recognizes what appears to be an attack on its family members, the Dachshund is unreservedly quick to defend against danger. The wire-haired varieties are bolder than the long-haired ones, which are less terrier-like and quiet. Meanwhile, the miniature varieties are even more timid with strangers. However, this independent little dog enjoys spending time with people and in taking part in family activities.
Also of note, in addition to its attentive and protective nature, the Dachshund's loud voice makes it an ideal watchdog.
Because of its size, the Dachshund can adapt to apartment living or city life. Still, this breed needs daily exercise and opportunities to spend its energy. Physical games in the yard or at the park and daily leash walks will keep the Dachshund in top shape, and will allow it to relax when it is at home. This breed especially relishes a good game of catch.
The long-haired Dachshunds need to be brushed and combed at least once or twice a week, with occasional trimmings, and the wire coat breed should be combed or brushed at least once a week. The least grooming is required for the smooth coated breed, though it is a good idea to trim stray hair and strip dead hair about twice a year.
The Dachshund breed, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, occasionally suffers from diabetes, gastric torsion, deafness, seizures, patellar luxation, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) and Cushing's disease. The major health concern affecting the dog is intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), causing spinal cord problems due to the Dachshund's elongated body. Obesity will increase the risk of spinal injury. Eye tests should be included as part of the regular physical check-up, especially for "double dapples," or Dachshunds with two different colored eyes, which are prone to hearing and visual problems.
First mentioned in 18th-century dog books, the Dachshund breed was referred to as the Badger Dog, Little Burrow Dog, Dacksel or "low crooked legged" breed. The word Dachshund is German, literally meaning "badger hound." This name was given to them because they were used for the extermination of badgers, although they were also very useful for hunting other prey, such as foxes and rabbits, because of their ability to enter burrows to catch them. Used in number, Dachshunds were also used to hunt boar. Their courageous fight to the finish attitude make them worthy opponents, but their apparent lack of self-awareness concerning size can lead them into situations where they are at a distinct disadvantage.
The breed has three sizes (although the larger sizes are combined as one size for breed standard and show purposes). The large, or standard Dachshund is from 16 to 35 pounds, and the smaller, miniature Dachshund is under 11 pounds. The smooth coated Dachshund, specifically, was first developed by crossing the Bracke French pointer and the vermin-killing Pinscher. Meanwhile, the long-haired version is thought to have been the result of crossbreeding between the smooth Dachshund, the German Stoberhund and spaniels. And the wire-coated Dachshunds which were developed in the late 1800s, was a mix of smooth Dachshunds with Dandie Dinmont Terrier and German Wire-haired Pinschers. These three varieties were excellent hunters in their respective climatic conditions and terrain, and were all very strong and powerful dogs that hunted small mammals, foxes, and badgers.
Prior to the 20th century, small Dachshunds, produced by crossing Pinschers and toy terriers, were used for chasing small quarry-like rabbits. However, these miniatures types lacked Dachshund proportion. Strict criteria were taken up for the Dachshund by 1910, and each variety was crossed with various kinds of breeds to get only the best results. Wartime brought some amount of ill repute to the German borne Dachshund, leading to brief declines in popularity, but there have always remained those who have returned the Dachshund's steadfastness and loyalty with the like, and the Dachshund has continued to grow in popularity, standing tall as one of the most popular companion dogs in the U.S.