Dachshund staring forward

The Complete Guide to Dachshunds – Everything You Need to Know

My family has been a dog-owning family from the time I learned how to walk, but for a long time, we only had German Shepherds in our family.

Then, when I was in college, my parents were approached by a friend who was finding it difficult to find homes for a litter born to his miniature dachshunds.

One of the pups seemed weak, and the friend knew it would be particularly challenging to get her adopted.

We brought her home, and eventually, she grew to be this bold but affectionate family member whom everyone doted upon, including our ferocious German Shepherd.

We had been converted into a dachshund family.

We have had dogs of other breeds with us since then, but there has always been at least one dachshund to complete the menagerie that is my home.

History

Dachshunds, often called wiener-dogs or sausage dogs because of their distinctive appearance, are a breed from Germany.

In fact, the German translation of the breed’s name—badger dog—gives us a good idea of the original purpose for which this breed was developed.

Originally bred to chase badgers, rabbits, and other burrow-dwelling animals, dachshunds were great hunters, with a sharp sense of smell.

This facility at smelling out interesting stuff and the habit of digging to look for things are common traits even in modern dachshunds. 

There isn’t agreement on the exact history of dachshunds, with some sources claiming that these dogs were being bred in Germany as far back as the 15th century.

There were “badger dogs” even before that, but they were probably just dogs used to hunt badgers rather than actual dachshunds.

What we do know for sure is that dachshunds have been used for hunting for a long time.

And not just small animals, either; there are tales of dachshunds in groups even going against wild boar and wolverines. 

The breed has also been known to be widely loved as a pet for decades, if not centuries.

From Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn to royalty—Queen Victoria was particularly fond of the breed—dachshunds have had a celebrated fan following for a long time.

If you have ever owned one, you will understand why.

Physical Characteristics

The dachshund’s hunting history is responsible for much of its physical characteristics, artificially bred into the dog, as well as its temperament.

The short, stubby legs, recently discovered to be the result of an extra gene, are believed to have helped them in chasing fast-moving small animals through the forest undergrowth.

The floppy ears kept dirt and seeds from entering the ear canal when the dogs were moving so close to the ground.

The long body and tail would have helped pull the dog out when it got stuck in burrows. 

There are three varieties of dachshunds on the basis of the coat.

Shorthaired or smooth coat dachshunds are the most common variety in the US.

Their coats are shiny and smooth, requiring little grooming. Longhaired dachshunds have a silky coat, with short featherings on the legs and ears.

Wirehaired dachshunds are the least common variety in the US but are quite common in Germany.

They have wiry, short, rough coats, with bushy eyebrows and a beard. 

In terms of size, the American Kennel Club recognizes two varieties—standard and miniature.

The standard dachshund grows to an average weight between 16 and 32 pounds.

Miniature dachshunds weigh 11 pounds or under on maturity.

There can be dachshunds in the 11- to 16-pound range, as well; they are known as Tweenies but aren’t an officially recognized variety. 

A fourth variety is the kaninchen (German for “rabbit”), which is not recognized by the American Kennel Club but is considered a type by the World Canine Federation.

Adult dachshunds of this variety weight between 8 and 11 pounds.

The most common colors for dachshund coats are red, cream, black and cream, black and tan, chocolate and tan, blue and tan, and fawn (also known as Isabella) and tan.

Some dogs can also have patterns in their coats, such as brindle, sable, piebald, and dapple (a mottled coat pattern).

We have had three dachshunds now, all of the shorthaired miniature variety.

The one we have right now is a male dachshund, all black in color.

His name’s Bali, which roughly translates to “the strong one” in my native tongue.

The name suits his personality perfectly.

We also have a huge Himalayan sheepdog.

Bali barely reaches up to the chest of the larger dog but doesn’t seem to notice the size difference between the two.

In our house, the dachshund is the boss, and the sheepdog follows him around.

Bali came to us around the time the caretaker of our house had had a child.

Growing up together, Bali was the perfect guardian to the baby, spending mornings looking after her while her mother got done with the chores.

If our sheepdog is being naughty and bullying the child (who is in kindergarten now), Bali is always around to growl and let the other dog know he needs to behave.

Temperament

Temperamentally, dachshunds are devoted to their pack leader—their human master in modern times—and love to stay close to him.

Bred to be fearless hunters, even today, they retain this aggression, which needs to be controlled through early training.

You will often find these small, cute dogs holding their own against dogs of larger breeds two or three times their size.

Since hunting for small animals is in their blood, they can be a tad aggressive toward children.

Because of this, dachshunds may not always be the best companions for kids.

Dachshund sleeping

Having said that, parents of young children should not worry about having dachshunds in their family.

Most dachshunds adjust to people very easily and reflect their human family members’ concern for things.

This includes learning very quickly that kids are to be treated with care.

The kids will need to learn some basic rules—one of the most important being not to disturb the dog when it is eating—and once that’s done, dachshunds can end up being loving companions for kids of all ages. 

If you have other smaller pets, such as a cat or a rabbit, you will need to take care while introducing them to your dachshund.

Dachshunds can learn to live peacefully with other pets, treating them as part of one big family, but this means overcoming their instinct to hunt and chase. 

Dachshunds get along easier with other dogs as compared to other species.

However, there are some logical considerations when choosing another breed for the house or bringing a new dachshund to a house that has another dog already. 

While temperamentally, dachshunds don’t tend to have issues with dogs of any size, a large dog, even if friendly, can be a risk to a dachshund because of the size difference and the latter’s relatively weak spine.

This requires you to be around during the early few days of the dogs’ interaction so that the larger dog learns to be careful around the dachshund.

Keep the larger dog from biting the dachshund or putting pressure on its back.

In many cases, the dachshund itself will also make it clear to the other dog how much friendliness it’s going to tolerate.

Another important aspect to consider, which many humans seem to overlook, is that dachshunds are terribly possessive of one human member of the family, if not the entire family.

Thus, any sign of favoritism toward a new dog can make them depressed.

When a new pup comes into the family, it is likely that family members would give it more attention.

However, you need to ensure that your dachshund doesn’t feel left out or any less loved. 

The other two defining characteristics of dachshunds’ temperament are their obstinate nature and intelligence.

During hunting, these dogs were meant to decide and act on their own, which led to a streak of independence.

Dachshunds often trust their judgment, making them less receptive to instructions. Training them, thus, requires patience and respect.

This background of working independently to chase a crafty quarry is also responsible for a relatively high degree of intelligence in the breed.

Being alert, vocal, and fearless, dachshunds make for excellent guard dogs.

They are naturally suspicious of strangers, which ensures they’ll not be wagging their tail, trying to make friends when they see an unfamiliar person. 

These personality traits are also what make dachshunds such fun companions.

They are your pint-sized friends who couldn’t care less about the substantial size difference between the two of you.

They’ll indulge in all physical activities, especially if it involves searching for or chasing things and then lounge for hours with you, preferably in your lap or right next to you.

Bali has never had any major health issues so far, but his love for food (and a bit of indulgence on our part) has meant he has been slightly overweight for some time now.

Controlling his diet is difficult when every time you are having something interesting, he looks at you with those pleading eyes, even if he has had a full meal minutes earlier.

But it has been necessary because not controlling would have led to more severe problems.

He also loves playing with kids, but an adult has to be around during these playtimes because children have this habit of pressing down on the dog’s back when trying to stand up.

This, we know now, can put too much pressure on a dachshund’s weak spine.

Health

Dachshunds are a generally healthy breed, with an average lifespan of above 12 years.

I know many dachshund owners who have had several pets from the breed without any serious health issues.

However, as is the case with every other breed, there are certain precautions that owners need to take to ensure a long and disease-free life for their pets.

Some of these precautions are explained by the unique physical traits of the breed.

For example, the long spinal column of the breed makes it highly prone to intervertebral disk disease (IVDD).

The main causes of IVDD include mechanical stress and minor injuries, exacerbated by intense exercise, jumping, or obesity.

This is another reason why dachshunds should not be left alone with kids, as the latter are likely to put their body weight on the dog’s slender back while trying to stand up or play.

Treatment of IVDD includes a combination of steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs and restriction in the dog’s movement. Serious cases may require surgery.

The small legs in dachshunds have the potential of developing a condition called patellar luxation, in which the kneecap (or patella) gets dislocated.

This is a condition common to most small-sized dog breeds. It is a congenital defect but can also be caused by blunt trauma.

The latter can be prevented by keeping your dachshund from jumping from a height or climbing too many stairs.

Most cases of patellar luxation require surgery for correction.

Some bloodlines of double-dapple dachshunds tend to have problems with eyes and/or ears.

This could include degrees of vision and hearing loss, reduced or absent eyes, and malformed ears.

However, since double dapples are quite rare, and the bloodlines with these genetic defects are often not allowed to breed, the likelihood of coming across dachshunds with these issues is low.

There are a few other hereditary conditions that breeders have been working to eliminate, which include epilepsy, dental issues, meningoencephalitis, thyroid problems, retinal atrophy, glaucoma, and some allergies. 

One major issue that dachshund owners have to be careful about is weight gain.

Like many animals, dachshunds may eat a lot more than what their body requires, which can lead to quick weight gain in these small-sized dogs.

Overweight or obese dachshunds will find it difficult to move around, and the lack of physical activity will continue to make the weight problem more severe.

The greater issue with being overweight is that it causes stress on the already weak legs of the dog, leading to avoidable health problems.

Shedding

One of the most important criteria for potential dog owners before they decide on bringing home a pet dog is the amount of shedding they will have to deal with.

For many people, this can be the difference between getting to cuddle up with their pets (which dachshunds absolutely love) or years of allergic reactions. 

Dachshund relaxing in bed

Well, dachshunds do shed, even if many owners would swear that their pets don’t shed at all.

The amount of shedding depends on the variety of dog, its health, and its living conditions, including the weather. 

Long-haired dachshunds shed the most, in general.

This is followed by short-haired dachshunds.

Wire-haired dachshunds shed the least and are probably the best for families that have one or more members sensitive to dog hair. 

So, dachshunds are not hypoallergenic dogs.

The reason why owners don’t seem to mind the shedding all that much is that, given the small size of the dog, the mass of shed hair is very small.

It is extremely unlikely that you will find huge balls of hair stuck to your carpet or blocking your house’s drainage system. 

In any case, what actually causes allergic reactions in people is the dander—tiny flecks of old skin—that is shed by dogs every few weeks.

The other source of allergy is dog saliva.

There are steps you can take to ensure the dachshund you are getting does not become a source of allergic reactions.

These have been described in detail in our article dealing especially with allergies caused by dachshunds.

When Bali came to us, he had this strange fishy smell that we couldn’t identify the source of.

We bathed the poor chap more often than he needed to be, hoping it would go away.

Thankfully, our vet informed us that it was probably because of a fungal infection that Bali was carrying from his former home and recommended the right shampoo.

A couple of baths with this shampoo and the smell was gone.

Bali doesn’t exactly smell like a flower, but it’s the normal doggy smell that doesn’t make you cringe every time you go near him.

The Dachshund Smell

Many dachshund owners will talk about this peculiar fishy smell in their pets.

It takes some effort to spend hours close to your pet if it stinks despite regular grooming.

However, you have to remember that dachshunds are not odoriferous, and if your pet continues to emit a foul odor, it has to be due to one or more physical issues that can be corrected.

The most likely reason for foul body odor in dachshunds is a skin condition.

It could be because of canine seborrhea, which is the buildup of oil in parts of the body, particularly the belly, the armpits, and the ears.

It could be a result of allergies, autoimmune disorders, dietary deficiencies, or parasites. In some dogs, it can also be a genetic condition.

In any case, a combination of medication, dietary adjustments, and the right dog shampoo, all under the guidance of a vet, should be able to resolve the problem.

Dachshunds are prone to a yeast infection called Malassezia dermatitis.

Unchecked yeast growth can be because of the dachshund’s body’s response to humid weather or the weakening of the dog’s immune system.

Again, a vet can prescribe some medication and the right shampoo to counter this issue.

All dogs have anal sacs, which are a pair of glands near the anus.

While these sacs are supposed to empty up on their own, in the case of small dogs, it may not happen regularly and can lead to foul odor.

It requires a manual expression of the anal sacs, which can also be done by a vet or a groomer. 

Other possible causes of foul odor can include dental issues, ear mites, and kidney or liver failure.

Each of these requires veterinary guidance and is controllable to the extent that the resultant bad smell can be taken care of, allowing you to provide the physical proximity to your pet that it craves.

We have an entire article dedicated to this particular problem, which will help you understand the causes and solutions better.

Grooming

One of the many factors that make doxies such popular pets is the relatively simple grooming regimen to keep them neat and shiny. 

Smooth-haired dachshunds just need a weekly wipe to keep their coat clean, while long-haired dachshunds need a careful brushing once a week to prevent matting and remove any dirt hiding in the fur.

Regular brushing also helps minimize shedding.

Wirehaired dachshunds also require regular brushing, although less frequently.

They do need to be stripped twice a year, which means plucking out the dead hair from the coat.

Groomers can get this done for you if you aren’t sure how to go about it.

A bath with water is not required for dachshunds very often unless your pet plays in mud or dirt.

Bathing your pet once every two months should be sufficient in most cases unless advised otherwise by your vet to get rid of any skin conditions.

In fact, bathing the dog too often can remove the sebum from its coat, which is responsible for its healthy shine.

You will need some extra care for your dachshund’s ears, as they can trap dirt very easily.

Use a cotton ball soaked in the cleaning solution prescribed by your vet to clean the ears, without going in too deep. 

If your dog’s feet make a clicking noise when walking, its nails might require trimming. Nail clippers for dogs are commonly available and should do the trick.

Bali’s diet is a mix of home-cooked food—a broth with meat and some veggies—and commercial dog food.

He gets the broth after his morning walk, and about half a cup of the dog food in the evening around the time we have our dinner.

This keeps him sated enough to not hover around our dining table when we are eating.

Once in a while, he gets a chewable bone as a treat, which keeps him busy and also keeps his teeth clean and gums healthy.

He loves sweets, but for obvious reasons, they are a strict no-no.

Diet

Your dachshund’s diet depends on its age, physical activity, and weight. If the dog’s diet is suitable, it will be energetic and cheerful.

On the other hand, if there are any dietary issues, they will manifest in the dog’s bad mood, loss or gain of weight, diarrhea, or problems with the skin or fur.

As mentioned earlier, dachshunds tend to gain weight easily.

They love to eat and are not going to stop on their own.

This requires you to be extra careful about what goes into your pet’s body.

While it is easy to set a home-cooked diet for dachshunds, most owners now rely on commercially-available dog food.

Readymade dog food can be a healthy option as long as you buy a standard brand, note the ingredients, and consult with your vet on the right amount and food components. 

Adult dachshunds should weigh around 10 pounds for miniatures and 30-32 pounds for standard-sized dogs.

Maintaining this weight requires a cupful of commercial dog food, either one cup once a day or half a cup twice a day. Puppies require smaller meals 3-4 times a day.

Growing dogs need more food than mature ones, but diet transitions are best made in consultation with a vet unless you are an experienced dog owner.

Having a fixed schedule for feeding is particularly crucial for dachshunds, as it teaches them not to look for food at random throughout the day.

Occasional treats are great, especially when the dog is being trained, but keep count of the calories in the treats and make adjustments in the meals accordingly.

Bali was more difficult to train than our other dachshunds because every single thing around him would distract him.

His love for exploration meant getting him to focus took some patience.

Bribery helped.

But when he did start picking up things, it was surprising how much he retained.

With him, it really is like having another person in the house.

He seems to understand much of our conversations (making his presence felt if we are talking about him), knows not to bark at friends even if they are visiting for the first time, and has even helped our sheepdog figure out the whole house training thing when the latter came to us as a clueless pup some time back.

Training 

The impact of the dachshund’s history of working independently and its resulting willful nature is the most obvious when it comes to training the dog.

Dachshunds can be stubborn and require patience for proper training.

The upside is that this will be rewarded by a well-adjusted pet who loves you and treats you with respect.

dachshund with harness

Training with dachshunds should begin early, ideally by the time the pup is eight weeks old.

While a dog trainer is great, owners can do it themselves, as well.

Begin with simple instructions and show the pup what it is meant to do.

The dog needs to understand the meaning of the instruction before it follows it.

Reward performance with treats. 

Dogs, in general, should not be physically or verbally reprimanded for not following instructions, but this is particularly true for dachshunds.

Doing so will just turn them fearful or make them resent you.

Dachshunds may be independent-minded, but like all dogs, they are happy to be followers if they see you as the pack leader.

Your position as the pack leader is established by how you interact with the dog but also by your behavior in the presence of other dogs or strangers, which the dog observes and learns from.

Patience is also the key when house training or crate training your doxie.

Do not punish the dog for mishaps, which are common with pups in the early days of housetraining. 

This is also where the debate on choosing between a collar and a harness for your dachshund comes in.

As we have discussed in a detailed article on this topic, there is no clear verdict on which option is safer.

Each has its pros and cons, with the safety of your dachshund more dependent on whether it pulls and jerks during walks or walks along calmly.

Our suggestion is to invest in a good quality collar and a harness each.

Exercise

Dachshunds, being small dogs, do not require intensive daily exercise or a lot of space to move around.

This is one of the many factors that makes them great for apartment dwelling.

They do require some physical exercise, though, to keep them energetic and happy, as well as to prevent weight gain. 

Your doxie’s daily exercise needs can be fulfilled by a brisk walk of moderate length once a day and a session of fetch in the garden or even inside the house.

Dachshunds love to search and dig for things, so looking for a hidden toy or fetching a ball can keep them happy for hours (as long as it doesn’t get too physically strenuous).

During your walks, remember to let your pet explore a bit of its environment.

Dachshunds have a particularly sharp sense of smell and interpret their surroundings based on the many different scents continuously entering their nostrils.

This may require some patience from you if you want to wrap up the walk quickly.

Adoption and Puppy Care

The first few weeks of a dachshund puppy in your home set the pattern for much of the dog’s life in your family.

This may be true for most dogs, but this holds particularly for dachshunds because they develop an understanding of the dynamics of their position in their human family quite early and are notoriously difficult to let go of learned habits. 

The good thing is that if you handle the pup with care in these few weeks, you are going to be blessed with an affectionate and well-behaved dog for the rest of its life.

Dachshund puppies are generally weaned completely by seven to eight weeks from their birth.

This is the time when they are ready to be handled by new people in their lives and in a condition to receive early training.

Before you adopt a dog, some background research on its antecedents helps.

It’s not always possible, but if it is, it can give you some idea of what to expect in terms of health issues, temperament, and growth.

Puppy proof your house before bringing the puppy.

This includes removing dirty clothes, cleaning supplies, or any form of trash from the reach of the puppy.

Dachshunds, as mentioned earlier, are born sleuths, and nothing makes them happier than finding their way to the source of a unique scent.

Doggie door gates help you restrict your pup’s movement, which also comes in handy when housetraining it.

Making the house safe for the dog also means inspecting the garden or backyard for any trouble spots if your dog has easy access to it.

Other essential steps in puppy care include a visit to a good vet who can be available at odd hours and fixing a diet for the puppy in consultation with the vet.

This is also the age when habits like where the dog goes to relieve itself, where it sleeps, how much and where it plays, and how it interacts with other humans and dogs are formed.

Each process takes its own time, and we have several tips on these aspects to guide you.

Typically, a dachshund pup reaches adolescence in six months and full maturity between twelve to eighteen months.

As the dog grows, it becomes more independent, and its experiences in its early months, coupled with its genetics, decide the kind of personality it begins to display.

Bali was a clown as a pup, always up to some mischief, and has grown up to be a fun-loving but disciplined family member.

He is weirdly attached to this one red ball that he likes to play fetch with, refusing all other toys, doesn’t go to sleep without his teddy bear and is partial to cuddling up.

Our first dachshund was equally fearless but was less outgoing and wasn’t very fond of long periods of contact.

Our second dachshund loved to befriend other dogs but could never get friendly with humans from outside the family.

He loved water and the outdoors and would be eager to go out for walks at any time of the day.

All three personalities have been distinct, but what has been common to all has been the joy and love they have brought to my family.