Dachshunds hail from Germany, where they have existed for at least five centuries, although some breeders believe they can be traced back to ancient Egypt. The place and time of Dachshund’s origin are a matter of some debate, with US and UK Kennel Clubs taking differing positions. Commonly believed to have been bred in Germany in the 15th century for hunting badgers (Dachs means badger in German), Dachshunds are believed to have been developed by cross-breeding terriers and possibly pinschers with blood-hounds. The former provided the short legs, long body, smooth coat and strong nose, while the latter likely gave the breed its stamina and the drive to hunt. The Dachshund is often viewed as a symbol of Germany, and in the 1972 Summer Olympics held in Munich, was chosen as the first official mascot.
Dachshunds have long, muscular bodies and short, stubby legs with large paws. They carry their heads high and have almond-shaped, vivid eyes. Their paddle-shaped paws are suited for efficient digging and their distinct flap-down ears prevent dirt and other foreign bodies from entering the ear canal. The tail is long, allowing for easy detection and rescue of a Dachshund stuck in a burrow.
In Germany Dachshunds are divided into three types based on the size of their chest: standard Dachshunds (chests measuring 35 centimetres), dwarf Dachshunds (chest measuring between 30 and 35 centimetres) and the rabbit Dachshunds (chest measuring less than 30 centimetres). Rabbit Dachshunds are not recognised by some standards. In the US, Dachshunds are found in standard and miniature size, with the former weighing between 7.3 and 14.5 kilograms and the latter weighing less than 5 kilograms. In the UK the breed standard provides that standard Dachshunds should weigh around 9 to 12 kilograms and miniature Dachshunds should ideally weigh 4.5 kilograms but a maximum of 5 kilograms.
All Dachshunds are further classified into three varieties based on their coats: smooth, long and wirehaired. The wirehaired Dachshund was the last to be developed and is still not as commonly seen as the other two varieties. Smooth coats are slick and shiny; the longhaired coat is silky, wavy and feathered along the tail and legs; the wirehaired coat is wiry and coarse, but with a soft undercoat.
The grooming needs of the breed depend on its coat variety, with the smooth coat easiest to groom, requiring a firm brushing once or twice a week. Longhaired coats require more frequent brushing and combing to keep the feathers from getting tangled, while wirehaired coats should be brushed twice a week and stripped a few times a year in order to remove dead hair.
Unlike most other small dogs, Dachshunds require a good amount of daily exercise, especially since they are prone to laziness and weight gain. Morning and evening walks and a play or running session will do them well. Avoid jumping or climbing exercises, as their long backs can get injured.
Dachshunds are very loyal and devoted dogs but can be standoffish to strangers, so it’s important to socialize puppies well. Training this breed can be challenging and requires patience and consistency. Establishing leadership early on is beneficial to making them responsive to instruction and avoiding behavioural problems; early training will also help them curb their impulse to bark. They are good with children but don’t like rough play, and can be aggressive towards smaller pets unless properly supervised and socialized.
Dachshunds are prone to a number of health problems, most prevalent being back problems due to their long spinal columns, patellar luxation (dislodged kneecaps), epilepsy, eye problems, thyroid problems, diabetes, various allergies and heart disease.