Easily recognized by its long body and stubby legs, the small and spunky dachshund (pronounced dahks-hund) has long been a family favorite. Though they may not look it, dachshunds were bred as ferocious hunters, employed on the trail to crawl into badger and rabbit holes to flush out their prey. Still sometimes used as hunting dogs, most modern dachshunds are just as happy with plenty of daily play followed by lazing around the home with their humans. Their size and low-maintenance requirements make them adaptable to nearly any living situation, but beware: These little hounds can make some mighty noises. Keep reading to learn all about the dachshund.
Beloved the world over for its short and stout form, the dachshund (known colloquially as a doxie or, affectionately, as a sausage dog or weiner dog) is a small hunting hound with a big personality. Bred in Germany to burrow into the dens of prey, the dachshund stands much longer than it does tall. The breed comes in three coat types: smooth, longhair, and wirehair, and two sizes: standard and mini.
According to the breed club’s standards, smooth dachshunds have a short, shiny coat that comes in a variety of colors and patterns, including solid red or cream; black and tan; dappled (also known as merle), with evenly distributed light and dark colors; brindle, with dark stripes against a lighter base; and sable. The color of smooth dachshunds’ eyes vary based on coat color and pattern. Solid- and bicolor-coated smooth dachshunds typically have dark eyes while dapple dachshunds tend to have partially or wholly blue eyes.
Wirehaired dachshunds have a soft undercoat overlayed by a short, thick, and hard top coat with a wiry texture. These dachshunds also have a prominent beard and eyebrows. Wirehairs come in the same array of colors and patterns as the smooths, but they’re most typically seen in wild boar (brown with blonde highlights), black and tan, and various shades of red.
Longhaired dachshunds have sleek, shiny, often wavy hair that’s longer on the ears and under the neck, body, and behind the legs. These doxies come in all the same colors as the smooths.
With their adorable appearance and goofy personalities, it may come as a surprise that dachshunds were originally bred as ferocious hunters. That’s right—that small, sausage-shaped dog used to burrow into dens and either flush out its prey or fight to the death. Though modern dachshunds are more lap dog than Lancelot, the breed has retained its braveness and spunk.
“They were bred to hunt badgers—this is not a timid little dog,” says Brian Kilcommons, founder of The Great Pets Resort, a training facility in Connecticut. “They’re very vocal and highly predatory but cute as a button.”
Energetic and alert with a loud, deep howl, dachshunds will be sure to sound the alarm at the sight of guests, but they’re not, for obvious reasons, suited to guard dog work. Dachshunds can be very playful and will need a decent amount of social attention every day. They also tend to be diggers and burrowers—it’s not uncommon to find them digging holes in the backyard or burrowing into blankets in bed.
Despite a reputation as being stubborn and mischievous, dachshunds can take to obedience training quite well. As with most hounds, patience and consistency are key. As with any breed, it’s important to properly socialize your dachshund from a young age. Though not considered outright aggressive with humans, dachshunds can be irritable and reactive. “Mini dachshunds, which is what most people have, can be great with kids, depending on how well the kids behave,” Kilcommons says. “But if the dog is uncomfortable or irritated, it can get snappy.” It’s important to teach children how to properly interact with dogs and always supervise them when playing with any dog.
The dachshund is an adaptable breed and can make a great pet in nearly any home (just beware of too many stairs!). Though energetic, the dachshund is completely content hanging out inside, so long as her owner is near and she receives plenty of play. This breed tends to be lazy, so owners need to encourage daily exercise (obesity is a big problem for this small-framed pup). Twice-daily walks up to half a mile each should be sufficient. Dachshunds don’t do well in cold weather, and she will need to wear a coat when going outside for extended periods of time when temps are low.
Though their small size makes them great for apartment dwellers and the elderly, there are a few very important items to consider before bringing a dachshund into your life. For starters, dachshunds may require special accommodations for getting around the house, such as steps or a ramp up to furniture (if allowed) to mitigate jumping. Too much jumping can seriously injure a dachshund’s hips and back, and the dog may need to be lifted frequently (another reason to keep its weight healthy!).
Dachshunds are also a loud breed, especially when left alone for too long. “Barking is a homing device for dogs that go to ground,” Kilcommons says. “If they’re going into a den that’s 20 feet down into the earth, the only way to know how to dig them out—because they’re not backing out, they’re fighting with or killing something—is by them barking. Dachshunds were bred to bark, and they’re loud. Their bark can be piercing.”
True to her past, the dachshund loves to trail scents and dig. If you’re bringing a dachshund to a home with a yard, ensure the yard is fully fenced-in and reinforced along the base. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your dachshund while outside, both for her safety and for the sake of your landscaping.
Dachshunds are also notoriously slow to housetrain, and may take up to a year to understand the concept. “A lot of times, as with many hounds, house breaking them is difficult and slow,” Kilcommons says. Even then, they may just find going outside inconvenient. It’s recommended to teach your dachshund to use a piddle pad indoors, for those times it’s too cold or your pet is feeling too lazy to go outside.
Dachshunds tend to have independent personalities, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like to join in on family fun. This small breed can be good with children in the family, but may need extra training and socialization to be calm around those she doesn’t know. A dachshund is a great fit for a single adult, a family, and the elderly alike, so long as her owner is patient, forgiving, and has a sense of humor to match this pup’s spunky attitude. It’s important to consider your lifestyle before committing to any dog. Talk to a dachshund breeder or rescue group about expectations to see if a dachshund is a good fit for you.
The dachshund coat varieties have slightly different grooming needs. All three varieties are low-shedding, low odor, and remain fairly clean despite time spent outdoors (though their paws may need attention after a vigorous digging session). They are not, however, considered a hypoallergenic breed. All dachshunds should be bathed sparingly, no more than once a month—any more and their sensitive skin can dry out.
Smooth-coated dachshunds are very low maintenance, requiring little more than a wipe-down with a towel or a quick brushing once a week. Longhaired doxies will need more frequent brushing, paying special attention to possible matting. Wirehaired dachshunds are the highest-maintenance of the three, requiring weekly brushing and, often, frequent trimming of the beard and eyebrows (though this is based more on preferred appearance than necessity). This guide gives great tips and resources for grooming your longhaired dachshund.
Regular brushing is a good time to check for things like coat sheen (dull hair can mean a lack of nutrients in her diet), nail length, and ear and dental health. Dachshunds will require extra weekly care to their ears, as their floppy shape can prevent proper air circulation and lead to infections. It’s important to talk to your vet about the proper way to check and clean your dachshund’s ears.
Dachshunds were bred to be focused and independent-minded on the hunt, but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to train. In fact, this breed can be eager to learn most obedience training—just remember to keep things positive and fun. As with most hounds, food can be a great motivator, but Kilcommons recommends playing to a different instinct. “This breed can take to obedience training great, but it’s how you approach it,” Kilcommons says. It’s all about leaning into the dog’s strengths and hardwiring. “With dachshunds, they’re predators. Get a toy out for training, and use that as a reward.”
The dachshund is considered a generally healthy breed with a lifespan of 12–16 years. Like all breeds, the dachshund is prone to certain diseases, and if not properly fed and exercised, the breed’s long body can lead to serious health issues. The Dachshund Club of America, the official breed club, strongly recommends breeders complete thorough cardiac, patella, and eye exams. Of course not all dachshunds will encounter serious health issues, but it’s important to be aware of these common concerns when considering this breed. It’s important to purchase all dogs from reputable breeders who will introduce you to the dog’s parents and siblings. If adopting, ask the rescue for all available health history.
Dachshunds are prone to obesity, which can lead to serious back problems in this long breed. It’s important to stick to a strict diet and ensure proper daily exercise. It’s also important to never allow your dachshund to jump on or off furniture or in or out of cars, which is a common cause of slipped discs in this breed. Their floppy ears are also prone to infection. Follow your vet’s guidelines for proper and frequent ear evaluations.
Don’t be fooled by this friendly face and little frame: The dachshund has long been a ferocious hunter. This hunting hound first appeared some 600 years ago in Germany, according to the American Kennel Club. The breed’s long, slender body coupled with a clever and courageous personality made her a formidable opponent for badgers, foxes, and hares. According to some authorities on the breed, packs of larger dachshunds were even used to hunt wild boar.
The dachshund began its transition to household pet in the 1800s. No longer fighting badgers to the death, this version of the breed became smaller in stature but their large personalities remained. The spunky dachshund quickly won over the hearts of the people, including royalty such as Queen Victoria. The breed made its debut in America at the end of the 19th century and quickly became a household favorite. Their popularity declined during the world wars (they were frequently seen as a direct representation of Germany) but resurged in the 1950s and have comfortably been a fan favorite ever since. Though mostly kept as pets in the U.S., dachshunds are still used to hunt in Europe.