Here's the lowdown on the sausage dog

  • Animals
  • Tuesday, 04 Jan 2022

If you’re looking for a dog with a great attitude-to-height ratio, then a dachshund might be for you. But make sure to learn about the breed’s potential health problems before making the plunge. Photo: dpa

They're low to the ground and about the most personality you can fit onto four legs. They’re rascals who are stubborn and question everything.

“If you offer a dachshund your little finger, he’ll take your whole hand,” says Elfriede Kolbeck of the Bavarian Dachshund Club.

But, despite the animal’s outsized ego, there are legions of fans of the diminutive dog. Or maybe they flock to the dog specifically due to the breed’s traits.

Dachshund enthusiasts certainly take the dog seriously. There’s a pub devoted to the breed in Berlin. Further south, there’s a whole museum to the breed in Passau, Germany. Hunters also value the dachshund for its passion: No foxhole is safe from one of these dogs. They also show great fortitude when it comes to foraging.

But the breed is also a favourite of the elderly and families. How does this all compute?

“You have to be very serious and clear with these dogs and keep them busy,” says Kolbeck. “But if you do that, then the dachshund is fit for anyone.” That means families with children, in-shape senior and singles can all consider the dog, with the caveat that not every dog or breed is a right fit for every single person.

“Anyone who wants to have a dachshund should get in touch with a trustworthy breeder,” advises Kolbeck. For example, the average puppy from a line bred for hunting probably wouldn’t be right for a family in the city. But animals that don’t show a lot of pep probably aren’t right for hunters.

Breeders can help to match the right animal with the right owner. The animal’s appearance – long- or short-haired, wire- or smooth-haired – is of secondary importance. What’s key is finding a personality that matches yours.

And no matter what activities you have planned for the dog, it’s understood that they shouldn’t be expected to jump or climb stairs.

“To keep the dachshund healthy, it has to be kept slim and develop good back muscles,” says Kolbeck. That means regular walks are called for. Swimming is also good.

A good breeder will do everything possible to ensure an animal’s health. That means keeping track of any diseases that affected the parents and careful records of marking and sizes.

But because the breed tends to be long and short-legged, that creates a greater chance of back problems, says Sonja Kraemer of TVT, a German veterinarians’ organisation.

“They have a strong tendency to premature deformities in the vertebrae, which can lead to a slipped disc, even with normal exertion.”

And there are other problems. Some of the dogs are known as tiger dachshunds because of the striped, pastel pattern on their fur. That comes from breeding with what is known as the Merle gene, but it can also be dangerous. If two such animals breed, their offspring are often sickly and, in some cases, seriously disabled.

That’s why it’s important to know the animals’ genetic background before breeding. Dogs with the Merle gene tend to be healthy, but it’s not always possible to tell whether the gene is present simply based on appearance. Tests are required to be sure what’s safe for the dog and its offspring.

But the TVT worries more about the gene. So long as it’s not clear if even one incidence of the gene is safe, the group recommends against any breeding with dogs carrying the gene. – dpa/Marie Von Der Tann

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