Your Dachshund puppy has a noble history. Watching him tear into toilet paper and bark at his food bowl may seem a far cry from chasing down caribou and howling on the tundra, but it is a fact nonetheless. Your dog carries the proud blood of the wolf in his veins, even if he is just a little wienerschnitzel. His evolution has been a long and winding road, and along every curve, something was changed to make the Dachshund just a little less of a wolf and a little more of a hunting companion, family pet and, in most cases, the lord of the house.
The first written mention of the breed goes back many years in German history, when the Dachsie was known as the tachs krieger, or “badger catcher.” These days in Germany, the Dachshund is simply known as dackel (or teckel), and he is the national dog. The word “Dachshund,” although of German origin meaning “badger dog,” was devised by the English and isn’t used in Germany. Hunting badgers was the Dachshund’s first job, a job he did so well that German breeders ended up with six varieties, each one adapted for a slightly different purpose in the field.
The six types are:
- miniature smooth
- miniature longhaired
- miniature wirehaired
- standard smooth
- standard longhaired
- standard wirehaired
The European badger, a larger but less ferocious version of its American cousin, was definitely persona non grata among farmers as their setts, or badger holes, were detrimental to agricultural and pasture land. Packs of Dachshunds were also used to chase after wild boar. And it was from this tenacious beginning that the standard for the Dachshund’s personality was developed: “Clever, lively and courageous to the point of rashness,” states the American Kennel Club breed standard, and that says it all. That’s your baby!
For tamer game, so to speak, the smaller Dachshunds (less than 11 pounds) were used to go after rabbits and weasels, while larger sizes (more than 16 pounds) were selected to dig after foxes and even trail wounded deer. Thus, contrary to popular opinion, the miniature varieties appeared quite early, not to be toys or lap dogs, but to dig their way into smaller holes than could be attempted by standard sizes.
Miniature Dachshunds (only nine of them) were first shown at the Dachshund Club of America Specialty show in 1934. They caught on, and the miniature size became a popular size for pets in the United States very soon after World War II, possibly as a result of increasing urbanization and smaller property sizes. Even today, miniature Dachshunds are shown right along with their bigger cousins and are not relegated to the Toy group. In fact, many people say that the only difference between a miniature and his larger relative is that every personality trait in the bigger dog is intensified in the smaller version.
A Royal Reception
In the 15th century, French nobleman Charles the Bold (1433-1477) gave some Dachshunds to his son-in-law and Holy Roman Emperor-to-be, Maximilian (1459-1519), as a wedding present. The breed has been popular with royalty ever since.
Prince Albert brought Dachshunds to England when he married Queen Victoria in 1839, presenting one to his new wife. (It seems as if Dachshunds were de rigueur in the royal wedding gift department.) Her favorite dog was named Deckel, and was buried in the home park at Windsor Castle with the following inscription on his headstone:
Here is buried
The faithful German
Dachshund of Queen Victoria
Who brought him from Coburg
Died August 10, 1859
Aged 15 years
Dachshunds showed up in the first Crufts dog show, England’s premier showing event, in 1886. In fact, there were more Dachshunds than any other hound breed: 47, to be exact, probably attesting to the love the immensely popular Queen Victoria had for the breed. They were popular in the United States as well, with the exception of the period during World War I, when the breed fell victim to anti-German sentiment. By 1923, only 23 Dachshunds were registered in the country.
The breed began to rebound around 1930 and hasn’t stopped since. Americans had learned a thing or two by World War II and decided their favorite little wiener dogs were not Nazis.
Despite his honorable past, the Dachshund today is known by a variety of humorous terms, most of which relate to picnic food: wiener dog, sausage dog, hot dog, frankfurter. Despite being compared to a food item for the past couple of hundred years, the Dachsie takes it all in stride. He knows that coiled deep within his genes is the heart of a wolf, from whom he has inherited a powerful prey drive, a strong sense of pack loyalty and dauntless courage. His sense of humor was acquired later — after living with humans for hundreds of years.
Today’s Dachshund is not one dog but six, a loyal heart packaged in two basic sizes and three coat types. As an adult he might weigh less than 10 pounds or more than 30. His coat may be sleek and smooth, long and silky, or wiry and rough. He comes in a kaleidoscope of colors and may be solid, dappled, brindled or piebald. Some Dachsies are solemn, some clownish, some regal. All varieties are totally fearless. Each of the six types has its own history, personality and devoted fan base.
The Smooth: The Warrior Pup
Let’s start with the standard smooth Dachshund, the earliest of the six types, who was created from a bunch of French and German hounds, one of which was known as the “braque” or “crazy” hound, to give you an idea. The first Dachsies were larger than the ones we know today but were soon bred down to a more manageable size. This dog does indeed “set the standard.” Your standard smooth Dachshund is probably the bravest and proudest of a brave, proud breed.
To this day, the smooth remains the most houndlike of all the Dachshund varieties. This is a dog “without complexes” who is aloof to everyone except those he loves, and to them he gives his whole heart and devotion. Many are one-person dogs but learn to accommodate the rest of the family on sufferance.
Independent, self-assured, bossy and stubborn, smooth Dachsies have a happy, carefree attitude that may hide the fact that they are running your household. Make no mistake, your warrior dog will attempt to take control of every facet of family life and will persist in this effort throughout his life. The most successful standard smooth owners know and love this trait in their dogs, but for the sake of domestic bliss, they don’t let them get away with it.
Your standard smooth puppy is also probably the greediest of all the varieties, so you’ll have to start watching his waistline early on. A fat Dachshund is a walking — or waddling — health hazard. While this variety has a reputation for being less adapted to children than the others, they can learn to get along with them with proper socialization.
The miniature smooth is incredibly tough and hardy, considering his small size, and just as determined as the standard variety, albeit a little easier to manage. Miniature smooths, because of their smaller size, probably do best with older children.
The Longhaired: The Aristocrat
The standard longhaired is royalty personified, but it’s a natural nobility that comes not from a weird haircut or a rhinestone collar, but from the depths of his being. As with all true aristocrats, the longhaired Dachshund, even as a puppy, is more laid back and easygoing than the other varieties. After all, he has nothing to prove; he is what he is.
The longhaired variety was first bred in 1820 but didn’t appear in conformation shows until 1882. With his glamorous coat and elegant bearing, it may be difficult to remember that the long coat was developed not to please the eye — although it does — but to give added protection in cold weather.
The longhaired variety of Dachshund owes his elegant coat to spaniel genes, which may also account for the generally calmer and softer personality of this variety. The exact breed involved may have been the old German gundog known as the Stöberhund, whose name means “poking around,” which is pretty typical of Dachsies, too!
A minority opinion holds that the longer coat was a spontaneous development. Still others suggest the Papillon, especially for the miniature size. We may never know for sure, although DNA testing is teaching us more and more about breed ancestry every day.
While longhaireds can excel in the field, they are generally friendlier with cats and small pets than other types of Dachshunds are. It is generally agreed that this variety is the best with children. The miniature is very much like his standard counterpart, although on account of his smaller size, he is better with older children only.
The Wirehaired: The Clown
While the longhaired Dachshunds proved superior to the shorthaired in dense cover, when the going got really brambly, they began catching their hair in the stickers. For many dedicated hunters, the answer was to import some terrier genes. This happened rather early in the development of the breed, perhaps as long ago as 1812.
For this purpose, it appears that schnauzers were first used to achieve the correct coat and perhaps improve hunting ability. However, the resulting dogs had overly long legs. The offspring were then recrossed with short-legged terriers. Of these, the most successful proved to be the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, which has the most “houndlike” temperament of all the terriers. Some say that wirehaired pinschers also may be lurking in the wirehaired Dachsie’s ancestry.
Many people maintain that the wirehaired is the most emotionally sensitive of the three varieties; it is also generally acknowledged that he is the silliest. He has the terrier desire to show off and doesn’t mind making an apparent fool of himself while doing it. It usually turns out, however, that the owners are the ones being made fools of. They generally start laughing so hard at their puppy’s antics that they fail to notice the bad things the dog has done.
The wirehaired is probably the least reliable around cats and smaller pets, so if you intend to keep cats, be sure to get your puppy acclimated to them early. Standard wirehaired Dachsies are generally good with children.
The miniature wirehaired may have been in existence even before the standard type; at any rate, records go back a long way. They are just like the standard wirehaired — only more so. Because of their smaller size, they are best with older children.
There are a few traits that all Dachshunds share, regardless of their coat type or size. No matter what type of puppy you have, expect the following:
<>He will be relentlessly curious. This will lead him to test out everything he finds. For Dachsie, that means chewing on everything. Well, perhaps not everything. They actually prefer new things, dangerous things and priceless things! Clever Dachsie owners satisfy their pups’ need to learn and the need to chew by providing them with a variety of interactive and interesting chew toys, and by keeping other tempting object out of reach. For a Dachshund, tempting objects may even include garbage!
He is a born digger. Dachsies are always on the lookout for badgers. Expect that your pup will make an attempt to dig holes in your yard or your sofa. You can help avert destructive behavior by providing him with his own “badger den” in the form of a sandbox filled with soft, inviting earth. You may also wish to explore the wonderful world of Earthdog trials, where his penchant for digging and exploration will be honored.
He is a hunter and a hound. This trait means that he will want to explore the world, with or without you! Don’t underestimate the ability of even a small puppy to dig his way under fences and take off. Dachshunds are very low dogs, and can get under anything. They require supervision and, in many cases, a fence that goes underground.
He was not made for jumping. While your Dachshund puppy is totally fearless, it’s a bad idea to let him leap off the couch and other high objects. Dachshunds are prone to back problems, and in order to protect him, you will need to keep him off high furniture.
He will be passionate about you. Every Dachshund has a tremendous loyalty to his special person or family; it is bred into him. Wise owners honor that trait by including their Dachshunds in everyday activities. Dachsies who are ignored or left alone can be prone to separation anxiety.
He has a mind of his own. A Dachshund puppy can be a challenge to housetrain — not because he is stupid, but because it’s up to you to convince him that housetraining is a worthwhile skill. Prepare to be patient, especially with miniatures, as their tiny bladders can’t “hold it” for long.
He is a born watchdog. Even the smallest Dachsie has a loud and intimidating bark!
The six “official” varieties of Dachshund are only the beginning! Add more than 150 recognized colors and dogs with mixed coat types, and you have an entire universe of Dachshunds! And that’s just how Dachshund owners like it.
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