Dachshunds are a popular pet around the world with their distinctive appearance and vivacious personalities. They are fearless hunters, and their friendly and curious nature makes them extremely appealing to dog owners.
Dachshunds are known to be stubborn because they were bred to flush out prey from burrows, and they can be single-minded in their pursuits. Renowned for their intelligence, training them can be challenging. However, with dedicated training and consistent expectations, dachshund owners can overcome this stubborn streak.
This article will explore the development of dachshunds and how their breeding has a direct bearing on their temperament. It will also look at how dachshunds should be trained and treated so that their willfulness does not become a significant behavioral issue.
The Dachshund Breed
Dachshunds are very distinctive-looking, sporting a long body and short legs, which explains their nickname of “sausage dogs.”
They come in two sizes with regular dachshunds usually weighing between 16 and 32 pounds and miniature dachshunds tipping the scales at 11 pounds or less. They have three different coat varieties — smooth, wire-haired, or long-haired — that present in various colors and patterns (source).
They are part of the group of canines known as “hounds,” which traditionally describes breeds originally used for hunting, either by smell or sight. Dachshunds hunt by scent and are joined in the scent hound category by beagles and bloodhounds. Those that hunt by sight also include whippets and greyhounds.
Dachshunds originated in Germany about 600 years ago, where they bred them specifically to hunt badgers from a combination of English, French, and German hounds and terriers. The name in German translates to “badger dog,” and they intended them to be able to dig into a badger’s den.
Badgers are ferocious animals, and it would take a brave and plucky dog to enter its burrow and pull it out. The courage and perseverance required to battle the sharp-clawed and dangerous badger were bred into this dog to equip it for the task.
Their bodies, although comical to some, are perfectly designed for this work. Their short legs allow for burrowing, and their large, paddle-like paws are well-shaped for digging.
Their long, low body facilitates entry to the den, while their loose skin resists tears, and their long nose provides them with superior olfactory skills.
They have a deep chest with an enlarged lung capacity required in long pursuits and a surprisingly loud bark that can attract attention. Their long, straight tails allow them to be seen through long grass and also to be pulled out of a burrow by their owner if they get stuck.
The original dachshunds had short, smooth coats, but selective breeding produced varieties with wire-haired coats for working in thorny areas and long-haired coats to withstand colder climates (source).
They were trained in packs and used to work on various hunts, including wild boars, rabbits, and foxes, as well as the well-known badger.
In modern Germany, they know them as the teckel or dackel, and Germans still see them as a symbol of their country.
They were first bred outside of Germany as far back as the 1800s, and as they became more common as pets than as working dogs, their size reduced. Dachshunds grew in popularity in the US, evidenced by the founding of the Dachshund Club of America in 1895.
Their approval in the US dropped briefly and dramatically after World War I, as did other German breeds, because of their strong association with Germany.
However, it quickly recovered, and they have since enjoyed many years of popularity, most recently ranking 11th in the American Kennel Club’s Most Popular Dogs of 2019.
Dachshunds generally do not require complicated care, provided that their owners exercise them regularly and feed them a healthy diet. Weight is one of the most important issues for dachshunds, as being underweight or overweight carries serious health risks.
Being overweight is particularly dangerous for a dachshund, and owners are cautioned to avoid overfeeding these animals, or giving in to their desire for high-fat treats. Being overweight causes strain to their long backs and can lead to ruptured or slipped discs, which is a significant health risk.
Exercise is also very important. As these dogs were bred as working hounds, they need the physical and mental stimulation of exercise. If your dog is bored, it will be much more likely to display undesirable behavior, which could exacerbate its stubborn streak (source).
Additionally, it is important to groom your pet regularly and to visit the vet for annual check-ups and when issues arise. With proper care, most dachshunds live to between 12 and 16 years. Their ears are prone to infections, and, as with all dogs with drop ears, they need to be kept clean.
Dachshunds tend to be very social dogs, and they generally prefer to be around people. It is not advised to keep them as outdoor dogs because they need regular stimulation and attention from their owners.
These dogs are generally described as good family pets and loyal companions. It is important to understand and accept their working origins — if they get a scent, they can be single-minded in their pursuit and refuse to listen to instructions.
They are often described as disobedient because they have such an independent streak. However, they are intelligent and can be trained if their owner is consistent and patient.
Dachshunds enjoy giving and receiving affection and, therefore, do best with reward-based training rather than harsh commands or punishments.
It is best to deal with their stubborn nature firmly and lovingly with plenty of patience. It’s essential to go at their pace and not force behavior, as that is when they will dig their heels in and respond defensively or even aggressively.
Dachshunds have a particularly good sense of smell and a strong drive to pursue prey. This is what they were bred for, and their ability to stay focused and follow a trail is what makes them such excellent hunting dogs.
It’s also often construed as stubborn behavior, which can be balanced by their eagerness to please.
The key with dachshunds is to make sure that training is appealing and interesting enough to keep them engaged.
Training should ideally begin between three and six months when your pet’s potentially stubborn nature is not too ingrained, and any hostility can be more easily managed. The following four pointers can help make training your pet a little easier.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Dachshunds do not respond well to being yelled at or punished. These forms of training will often set you back because the aim with a dachshund is to make the dog trust you and not fear you.
Use a Desirable Reward
Dachshunds will respond best to treats that they really like. If traditional dog treats don’t work, you could try more enticing treats like chicken or sausage. If food isn’t the route to your pet’s heart, you can also try playing ball or another fun game with them for a bit during training.
If your dachshund is distracted by what’s going on outside, it will be hard to focus on training. Close the blinds or move to a location where you can be alone, and your dog’s focus can be entirely on you.
Keep Training Sessions Short
Dachshunds are excitable, and long training sessions could be too much. They also have a short attention span and you should rather keep sessions short, even doing several sessions of five minutes at intervals throughout the day. If your dog shows signs of being frustrated, it’s important to take a break.
Because dachshunds are naturally aggressive, it is important to manage this aggression with proper training. They also have high energy levels and need to be sufficiently exercised to spend their energy and avoid frustration and boredom.
Untrained dachshunds can be unpredictable around children, particularly if children are allowed to tease the dog or provoke unwanted behavior. Punishment can also result in aggression and increase their stubborn demeanor. It is therefore very important that training is kept enjoyable and positive.
Many experts believe that, because of the challenges that owners can experience, dachshunds do best when they are trained in obedience school by a professional, avoiding the pitfalls of an inexperienced home trainer.
This adventurous, bold, and curious little dog has so much to offer as a pet. Dachshunds are independent and energetic and, although they look like lapdogs, they are efficient hunters and have a natural affinity for burrowing, scenting, and catching prey.
It is important to remember that they were bred to assist with hunting and to work with their natural inclinations rather than against them. They can be stubborn, but this can be positively managed and, with a clear focus and consistent training, you can get the most out of your pet.