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Dachshund

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When you see your first Dachshund - an animal that writer H. L. Mencken described as acritter that is half a dog high and a dog and a half long-you may mainly notice how small it is. Then it opens its mouth, and out comes a deep, bellowing bark worthy of a dog five times its size. That's the first of the surprises you will experience as you get to know this "wiener dog."

Here is the Dachshund at a Glance
Name Dachshund
Other Names None
Nicknames Wiener Dog
Origin Germany
Average size Small
Average weight 8-9 inches at the shoulder
Average height 16-32 pounds
Life span 12-15 years
Coat type Long or short, smooth or wiry
Hypoallergenic No, but little shedding
Color Various-black, tan, cream, red
Popularity High
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Okay
Tolerance to cold Poor
Shedding Little shedding
Drooling Not a drooler
Obesity Can get fat
Grooming/brushing Wiry variety needs some brushing
Barking A barker
Exercise needs Average
Trainability Takes some time and effort
Friendliness Reasonably friendly
Good first dog Yes
Good family pet Yes
Good with children Not so great
Good with other dogs Okay
Good with other pets Okay
Good with strangers Not so great
Good apartment dog Yes
Handles alone time well Okay
Health issues Intervertebral disk disorder, epilepsy, gastric, Cushing's disease, ear infections
Medical expenses $305 average annual
Food expenses $120 average annual
Miscellaneous expenses $70 average annual
Average annual expense Shorthair $495, longhair $815
Cost to purchase $400-$600
Rescue organizations Almost Home Dachshund Rescue Society, Dachshund Adoption Rescue & Education (DARE)
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The Dachshund's Beginnings

Compared to truly ancient dogs-some of whose roots can stretch back one or two thousand years-the Dachshund is a relative newcomer. It first appeared as a recognizable breed in about the fifteenth century, a scent hound bred in Germany to hunt and kill badgers and other burrowing animals such as weasels and rabbits. They also hunted deer, and were bred not just to track, but to kill. Their long, lean bodies allowed them to follow their prey into holes and burrows, and their strong, paddle-shaped paws helped them did the animals out. That love of chasing small critters and digging is still very much a part of their makeup. While in the United States the Dachshund is seen pretty strictly as a companion pet, it still sees hunting duties in other parts of the world, especially in Germany and France.

Even in Europe the Dachshund became popular early on as a pet. Napoleon had Dachshunds, and so did Queen Victoria of Great Britain. The Dachshund was also extremely popular in the United States, and quickly spread to households all over the country. That changed, however, early in the twentieth century.

New Lease on Life

World War I represented a low point for Dachshunds in the U.S. The war saw the initiation of an anti-German frenzy across the country. Germans were seen as aggressors, as anti-American, and as dangerous, and that bias extended to the little Wiener Dog. Dachshund owners in the U.S were called traitors and insulted, sometimes assaulted, and so were their dogs. At war's end things turned around for a while, but the anti-German and anti-Wiener Dog bias returned at the beginning of World War II, although not as strongly, and by the nineteen fifties the Dachshund was high on the charts again. It has never dropped off since then. John Wayne had Dachshunds. William Randolph Hearst had one called Helen that he adored. He had ramp installed on one of the big fountains at Hearst Castle in San Simeon so that Helen could reach it and use it as her personal, private swimming pool.

Dachshunds reached the heights in another way, too. A Dachshund became the first official Olympic mascot in 1972, for the Summer Olympics in Munich. It was named Waldi, and was modeled after a real Dachshund named Cherie von Birkenhof.

The Dog You See Today

The contemporary Dachshund falls into two varieties by size-miniature and standard-and weighs from 15 to 30 plus pounds. It stands eight or nine inches at the shoulder. Beyond size, Dachshunds also can have distinctively different coats. Some have long, smooth coats; some have short, smooth coats; and some have short, wiry coats. The color varies. Black and tan, charcoal and tan, and charcoal and cream are common. Other Dachshunds have solid black, tan, cream or charcoal coats.

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The body is very long for the height and size overall, and in fact if you decide to pick a Dachshund up it is important to support the middle of the body to keep the dog from hurting its back. But otherwise, the body is generally very strong and solidly built, with a barrel chest, and heavy bones for such a small dog. A Dachshund's head is long and narrow, with a pointed nose, all of which lets it slip into holes and burrows to do the job it was bred to do-chase, trap and kill smaller burrowing animals. The tail is long and straight. The ears are very long, soft and floppy.

Although the legs are short, they are very strong and great at digging. The chest is also very large, and the dog has big lungs that hold a lot of air, so that its wind is excellent and allows it to spend long periods of time digging and rooting.

Dachshunds do not, by the way, deal well with cold weather. You frequently see them wearing sweaters in the winter; this is not just for looks, they need the extra protection to keep from getting hypothermia.

The Inner Dachshund

Temperament

Dachshunds are smart, playful, and mischievous. They are very alert, and never miss a thing that is going on around them.

Dachshunds are also stubborn, tenacious, bull headed and will encourage you to spoil them.

Dachshunds are still hunters. They are prey dogs, and will go after other animals, especially smaller ones, although when they are properly socialized and trained they will be okay with substituting stuffed animals for live ones.

Lastly, Dachshunds are fearless. They have often been described as courageous to the point of rashness. That and their awareness of everything going on around them makes them great watchdogs.

Living with a Dachshund

Dachshunds make very good apartment dwellers. They are small, so they don't take up a lot of space. They tend naturally to bond tightly to a single person, so they are especially good living as a doggie-person couple. The down side of that can be that they are not crazy about competition for their attention, so they are less desirable for large families.

Training a Dachshund

Although, or maybe even because, they are intelligent, they can be difficult to train, as they are always looking for a way to have their way. They need early training, or they may develop bad habits that will be very difficult to break down the road. They much prefer being the boss, and don't give up easily. Their vaunted tenacity applies whether you are a human being or a badger.

Obedience training for a Dachshund is important, and not always easy, because Dachshunds are stubborn and strong willed. They will test your patience, will complain in their fashion, and will typically test you out when you try to set limits or get them to do something just to see if you really mean it. And they will probably do the testing more than once.

How active are they?

Dachshunds have a fair amount of energy. They love to run around. But because of their small size and their long bodies, they are vulnerable to injury. But they are also good on a leash, as long as they can keep moving and investigating interesting sights, sounds and smells. They need a reasonable amount of exercise and activity, but are happy to lie around quietly between romps. They also love to eat, and can easily get fat. Paying attention to dietary issues is important.

Remember that Dachshunds are diggers. That, again, is part of their genetic heritage; that is how they earned their keep back in the middle ages, and in this case their inclination is still medieval. If you leave them alone in a yard, don't be surprised to find holes when you return; and there's not much you can do in the way of training to change that.

Caring for the Dachshund

Grooming needs

There are three kinds of coats for the Dachshund and that will affect the kind of grooming it will require. Longhaired Dachshunds will needs more regular brushing to keep the coat tangle free and will need regular trimming. Smooth Dachshunds probably have the lowest needs when it comes to maintenance, their coats are easy to maintain and brush and it can be done less often. The Wirehaired Dachshunds will need to be taken for regular clipping. All three types shed though the wirehaired is the least of them. Expect moderate shedding for the other two. Bathe any of them just as it is needed to maintain the oils in its skin otherwise there can be skin problems.

Teeth will need to be brushed at least twice a week to maintain good oral hygiene. Its nails should be clipped if they get too long, taking care not to nick or cut through the quick of the nail which will hurt the dog and cause bleeding.

Finally, pay attention to your dog's ears. Because Dachshunds have long, soft, floppy ears, the ear canals are obstructed a lot, and that can lead to infections. Keeping the ears cleaned and wiped out on a regular basis can prevent this.

Feeding time

The Dachshund likes to eat so measuring out the food is a good way to avoid problems with obesity and bloat. It will likely eat between 1 1/2 to 2 cups of high quality dry dog food a day, split into two meals. How active the dog is, its health, age and size can all affect how much it needs to eat so you may have to make some adjustments.

Getting on with children and other animals

They are not, in fact, absolutely the greatest in households with children. If you are going to bring a Dachshund into a family with children, it is important to socialize early, to discipline firmly, and to avoid situations where the child and the dog are competing for attention or goodies. If you already have a Dachshund and are about to bring a new baby into the home, this is even more true. The best thing in that case is to keep them apart during the early months. Remember that they are genetically disposed to see small critters as prey. And it is important for children in the family to understand that the Dachshund can be snappy, and not to tease it, roughhouse with it, grab its food bowl, or other things of that nature.

Dachshunds are not unfriendly, but can be wary around strangers, and don't warm up to new people that easily. Once again, early socialization is important-taking your Wiener Dog on frequent walks in areas where there will be other dogs and people from the time it is a puppy is a good thing to do. This will help reduce the tendency to barking and snapping, both of which are part of the Dachshund's heritage.

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What Might Go Wrong

Health Concerns

For such a little dog, a Dachshund can have a lot of medical and health issues over the course of its life. Here are some of the most common problems. Your dog won't necessarily suffer from any of them during its long life, but these are the things that Dachshunds are knownfor:

Intervertebral disk disorder. In human beings this is commonly referred to as a slipped disk. This can occur with any dog, but Dachshunds appear to be especially prone to it, probably because they have such long backs they have to support. Either from injury or chronic physical stress, the spongy layer that cushions the vertebrae slips out of place and puts pressure on the spinal cord. The result can be anything from gimpyness to pain to paralysis. This problem may or may not require surgery, depending on how severe it is.

Epilepsy. This once again appears to be genetic; but injury can also be a factor. In the latter case keeping your dog on a leash when it is outdoors will help.

Gastric dilation-volvulus. What happens here is that the stomach becomes twisted around so that gas can't escape as it normally does. This leads to bloating and pain, and can cause serious injury, even death. A dog with this going on needs to see a veterinarian right away.

Cushing's Disease. This is a problem caused by too much cortisol, and once again, Dachshunds appear to be genetically predisposed to it. The symptoms are obviously excessive water drinking and urination. A veterinarian can treat this problem successfully in most cases.

Biting Statistics

When looking at data that covers 34 years of recorded dog attacks on people the Dachshund can be found to be involved in 6 attacks, 3 victims were children and 3 were adults. All 6 attacks were maimings, where the injuries were so severe there was loss of limb, disfigurement or permanent scarring. One maiming of an elderly woman resulted in her death two weeks later as the result of both a Dachshund and Lab attack. This puts the Dachshund in the top 30% of dog attacks though over a period of 34 years this is just 1 attack for every roughly 6 years.

The Dachshund is therefore not a dog considered to be dangerous or more aggressive than others and is unlikely to cause injuries or deaths. But any dog given the right stresser, being mistreated, not trained and not socialized can become aggressive. Make sure you know what the dog needs, that you can supply those needs, that you are committed to the importance of training and socialization.

Your Pup's Price Tag

A Dachshund puppy purchased from a registered breeder will cost in the neighborhood of $400 to $600. If you can find one at a shelter it will of course cost less, maybe $200 or $250. There are also rescue organizations that specialize in locating and finding homes for Dachshunds. Two of these are the Almost Home Dachshund Rescue Society and Dachshund Adoption Rescue and Education.

Once you have your puppy home, the next step is to have it neutered or spayed, depending on its gender. Expect that to cost in the neighborhood of $120. The pup will also need shots, worming, and other initial medical services that will run around $70.

Obedience training comes next, which can add up to about another $120.

There will be ongoing expenses after that, of course. Food for a Dachshund, if you buy quality stuff, will cost about $120 a year. Grooming is not an issue with shorthair Dachshunds, but you may find it desirable for a longhair dog, to the tune of about $320 a year. You can also expect occasional medical expenses, which in the case of the Dachshund can add up to another $305 a year.

Overall, the average annual cost for a Dachshund comes to around $495 for a shorthair variety, and $815 for the longhair.

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  • An awful lot of people love Dachshunds. They don't shed a lot and don't take up much space. They are good in apartments. They are cute, smart, and affectionate. They are also stubborn, determined and sometimes sneaky. They like their own way about things and are not the easiest dogs to train. They probably are not the best breed for a family with children. On the other hand, they are intensely loyal to the people they bond with, and very protective of them. If you can deal positively with their feistiness, they are hard to beat.

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