Dachshunds come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and kaninchen. Although the first two sizes are recognized almost universally, the third size (which means rabbit) is recognized only by non-English speaking clubs like the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Federation) (FCI).
A full-grown standard dachshund averages to , while the miniature variety normally weighs less than . The kaninchen weighs to . According to most kennel club standards, the miniature (and kaninchen, where recognized) variety differs from the full-size only by size and weight, thus offspring from miniature parents must never weigh more than the miniature standard to be considered a miniature as well. While most kennel club size divisions use weight for classification, other kennel club standards determine the difference between the miniature and standard by chest circumference; some kennel clubs even measure chest circumference in addition to height and weight.
H. L. Mencken said that "A dachshund is a half-dog high and a dog-and-a-half long," which is their main claim to fame, although many poems and songs refer to them as "two dogs long." This characteristic has led them to be quite a recognizable breed and featured in many a joke and cartoon, particularly The Far Side by Gary Larson.
Dachshunds exhibit three coat varieties, smooth coat, long hair and wire-hair. Wire hair is least commonly seen coat, and most recent coat to appear in breeding standards. Many people don't recognize wire-hairs as dachshunds and can be mistaken as other kinds of dogs.
Dachshunds have a wide variety of colors and patterns. They can be single colored, single colored with spots (or dappled) and single colored with tan points plus any pattern. The dominant color is red. It is the most common along with black and tan. Two-colored dogs can be black, blue, wild boar, chocolate brown, or fawn with "points", or markings over the eyes, ears, paws, and tail, of tan or cream. A two-colored dachshund would be called by its dominant color first followed by the point color, such as "black and tan" or "chocolate and cream." Other patterns include piebald, in which a white pattern is imposed upon the base color and/or any other pattern, and a lighter "boar" red. The reds range from coppers to deep rusts, with somewhat common black hairs peppered along the back, tail, face, and ear edges, lending much character and an almost burnished appearance; this is often desirable and is referred to among breeders and enthusiasts as a "stag" or an "overlay" and is referred to as "sable" in the AKC dachshund standard. An additional, striking coat marking is the brindle pattern. "Brindle" refers to dark stripes over a solid background usually red; some dachshunds may present with brindle points even.
Solid black and solid chocolate-brown dachshunds occur and, even though dogs with such coloration are often considered handsome, the colors are nonstandard – that is, the dogs are disqualified from conformance competitions in the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, according to the Conformation judges of the DCA (Dachshund Club of America), and the AKC (American Kennel Club) assert the Piebald pattern a nonstandard and has voted to dismiss this pattern from competition.
Light-colored dachshunds can sport amber or green eyes, rather than brown; however kennel club standards state that the darker the eye color, the better. They can also have eyes of two different colors; in rare cases, such as the double-dappled coloration (called merle in other dog breeds), dachshunds can have a blue and brown eye. Blue eyes, partially blue eyes, or a blue eye and a brown eye are called "Wall" coloring. Only the double dapple variety dachshunds can have blue or even partially blue eyes. It is not considered a non-desirable trait in kennel club standards. The standard was changed by the DCA in 2007 to exclude double dapples and changed single dapples to the only dapples. The reason is because the merle gene is linked to blindness and deafness. Wall-eyed is permissible in single dapples. It is impossible for a dachshund to have wall coloring without it being a double dapple. This is because when a dog receives a "dapple gene" from each parent, the genes can cross, washing out coloring within the eye. Without the two dapple genes the crossing of such, blue or partially blue eyes cannot occur.
Dachshunds are playful, fun dogs, known for their propensity to chase small animals, birds and tennis balls with great determination and ferocity. Many dachshunds are strong-headed or stubborn, making them a challenge to train. Dachshunds may dig holes in the garden. They have a particularly loud bark, making dachshunds good watchdogs. Dachshunds are known for their devotion and loyalty to their owners, though they can be standoffish towards strangers. If left alone many dachshunds will whine until they have companionship. Some dachshunds are prone to separation anxiety and may chew objects in the house to relieve stress.
According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standards, "the dachshund is clever, lively and courageous to the point of rashness, persevering in above and below ground work, with all the senses well-developed. The dachshund's current AKC ranking is 6. Any display of shyness is a serious fault. Their temperament and body language give the impression that they do not know or care about their relatively small size. Like many small hunting dogs, they will challenge a larger dog. Indulged dachshunds may become snappy.
The dachshund's temperament may vary greatly from dog to dog. Long Hair dachshund's have a calmer but also intelligent character inherited from the Spaniel dogs' genes. Wired hair doxies have much of the terrier's spunky personality.
Seemingly most dachshunds do not like unfamiliar people, and many will growl or bark in response. Although the dachshund is generally an energetic dog, some are laid back. Due to this dog's behavior, it is not the dog for everyone. A bored dachshund will become destructive. If raised improperly, dachshunds can become aggressive or fearful. They require a caring owner that understands their need to have entertainment and exercise. Some may not be good with children, and they may bite an unfamiliar child. Others are tolerant and loyal to children within their family, but these children should be mindful of the breed's back and not carry them around roughly.
A 2008 University of Pennsylvania study of 6,000 dog owners who were interviewed indicated that smaller breed dogs were more likely to be “genetically predisposed towards aggressive behaviour.” Dachshunds were rated the most aggressive, with 20% having bitten strangers, as well as high rates of attacks on other dogs and their owners. The study noted that attacks by small dogs were unlikely to cause serious injuries and because of this were probably under-reported.
The breed is known to have spinal problems, especially intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), due in part to an extremely long spinal column and short rib cage. The risk of injury can be worsened by obesity, which places greater strain on the vertebrae. In order to prevent injury, it is recommended that dachshunds be discouraged from jumping (something many seem to enjoy doing anyway) and taking stairs, and encouraged to instead take the elevator (though some veterinarians say that slow stair-climbing is unlikely to lead to injury). However, according to the same article above, dachshunds that climb stairs regularly may actually be less problematic probably because the exercise helps to keep them fitter and healthier, and positive correlations were found between physically fit dogs and a lower incidence of IVDD. Hence the importance of keeping the dog at a good body weight. Holding the dog properly is also important, with both front and rear portions level. Under no circumstances should a dachshund be exposed to rough play or handling, as their spines may not tolerate such treatment.
As it has become increasingly apparent that the occurrence and severity of these spinal problems, or intervertebral disk disease, is largely hereditary, responsible breeders are working to eliminate this characteristic in the breed. Treatment consists of various combinations of crate confinement and courses of anti-inflammatory medications (steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like carprofen and meloxicam). Serious cases may require surgery to remove the troublesome disk contents. Others may need the aid of cart to get around if paralysis occurs.
A new minimally-invasive procedure called "percutaneous laser disk ablation" has been developed at the Oklahoma State University Veterinary Hospital. Originally, the procedure was used in clinical trials only on dachshunds that had suffered previous back incidents. Since dachshunds are the poster children of dogs with back issues, the goal is to expand this treatment to dogs in a normal population.
In addition to back problems, the breed is also prone to patellar luxation. Some double dapples have problems with deafness and blindness. Therefore they need an owner who understands a disabled dog's special needs.
Other health problems include hereditary epilepsy, granulomatous meningoencephalitis, dental issues, Cushings disease, thyroid problems, various allergies and atopies, and various eye conditions (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, corneal ulcers, nonucerative corneal disease, sudden acquired retinal degeneration, cherry eye, etc.). It is important to buy from breeders who can guarantee that their stock are free from these genetic problems and whose dogs have been certified for eyes (esp in miniatures).
It is important to follow a good dental health regime, including an annual cleaning if possible.
Some have theorized that the early roots of the dachshund go back to Ancient Egypt, where engravings were made featuring short-legged hunting dogs. Recent discoveries by the American University in Cairo of mummified dachshund-like dogs from ancient Egyptian burial urns may lend credibility to this theory. But in its modern incarnation, the dachshund is a creation of European breeders, and includes elements of German, French, and English hounds and terriers. Dachshunds have been kept by royal courts all over Europe, including that of Queen Victoria, who was particularly enamored of the breed. They were originally bred for hunting badgers by trailing them.
The first verifiable references to the dachshund, originally named the "Dachs Kriecher" (badger crawler) or "Dachs Krieger" (badger warrior), came from books written in the early 1700s. Prior to that, there exist references to "badger dogs" and "hole dogs", but these likely refer to purposes rather than to specific breeds. The original German dachshunds were larger than the modern full-size variety, weighing between 30 and 40 lb. (14 to 18 kg), and originally came in straight-legged and crook-legged varieties (the modern dachshund is descended from the latter). Though the breed is famous for its use in exterminating badgers and badger-baiting, dachshunds were also commonly used for rabbit and fox hunting, for locating wounded deer, and in packs were known to hunt game as large as wild boar and as fierce as the wolverine.
Double-dapple dachshunds are prone to eye disease and therefore are rare. It is generally believed that the breed was introduced to the United States between 1879 and 1885.
The flap-down ears and famous curved tail of the dachshund have deliberately been bred into the dog. In the case of the ears, this is so that grass seeds, dirt and other matter do not enter into the ear canal. The curved tail is dual-purposed: to be seen more easily in long grass and, in the case of burrowing dachshunds, to help haul the dog out if it becomes stuck in a burrow. The Smooth-haired Dachshund is a cross between the German Shorthaired Pinscher, and the Bracke. The Long-haired Dachshund is a cross between all the small dog breeds in the spaniel group, the German Stoberhund, and the Smooth-haired Dachshund. The Wirehaired Dachshund is a cross between the Smooth-haired Dachshund the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, and the German Wirehaired Pinscher.
Dachshunds have traditionally been viewed as a symbol of Germany, despite their pan-European heritage. Political cartoonists commonly used the image of the dachshund to ridicule Germany. During World War I the dachshunds' popularity in the United States plummeted because of this association. The stigma of the association was revived to a lesser extent during World War II, though it was comparatively short-lived. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was known for keeping dachshunds.
Another favorite sport is earthdog trials, in which dachshunds enter tunnels with dead ends and obstacles attempting to locate an artificial bait or live but caged and protected mice. Dachshunds, being true scent hounds, also compete in scent tracking events, with a national championship sponsored every year by the DCA.
In Germany dachshunds are widely named as 'Dackel' (both singular and plural). To be classified as a full Teckel, these dogs must undergo Blood Tracking tests. Classically, any dog of dackel heritage is given an official tattoo upon one ear. After suitable training, the dog must then follow a blood trail that is at least 48 hours old successfully to its conclusion. Once this is completed, another tattoo is marked on the other ear to denote full Teckel rank. As 'Teckel' are bred for hunting purposes, teckels tattooed or not, tend to be visibly larger in their chests than their dackel counterparts, though marginally shorter in length.
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