|Why, indeed, buy
It seems that most of the puppy buyers' guides - those booklets, pamphlets or computer programs that are intended to assist potential pet buyers to select a breed of dog best suited to their personality, life style and circumstances - most of these that I have seen in the last few years do little to encourage the purchase of a Dachshund. They focus on stubbornness, propensity for digging, likelihood of back problems and aloofness and suggest that Dachshunds are not very good around children.
A couple of years ago, at a pet exposition in Toronto, I spent more than my fair share of time at a computer terminal at the booth of a major dog food manufacturer to get advice on what breed of dog to buy. After answering about 20 multiple-choice questions on my family, living conditions, life style and personal preferences the system recommended either a sheltie, a couple of spaniels or a few terriers. No matter what answers I conjured up, I could not get it to suggest a Dachshund. The closest I could get was a corgi. Yet, for many generations, our breed has been among the most popular companions in both North America and Europe! Why?
So, as is my wont, I have sought solace in our books. What have those that truly know Dachshunds had to say about their character?
Not surprisingly, to me, at least, was that their remarks differ greatly from those of the puppy buyers' guides. They concentrate on the loyalty, intelligence and versatility of the Dachshund without belittling its weaknesses. I was struck with the remarkable consistency in describing the Dachshund character over more than 50 years of writing, which I attribute not to plagiarism but the enduring personality of the breed.
Assuming that other Dachshund lovers might like to share in my findings, here are some quotes from the many books through which I have browsed, basically in chronological order of publication:
'For his character, the Dachshund is famous. Few
if any other dogs possess the same degree of sagacity, combined with affection
and quaint individual characteristics that are a marked feature of this
breed.... With children, no breed of dog can be more reliable than the
Dachshund. Trustworthy and faithful to a degree, he is wonderfully
gentle and sweet tempered, treachery being entirely foreign to his nature...
To anyone who has, on any occasion, owned a Dachshund there is but little
need to describe his charms. The statement that "a dog is almost
human in intelligence," can be no more truly applied to any breed.
Exceedingly clever, confident, amusing and utterly devoted, the Dachshund
possesses a veritable personality of his own... Excellent as guard and
house dogs, their great loyalty and quaint ways make them altogether delightful
as companions, yet, as sporting dogs, they can successfully vie with the
best. It is no exaggeration to state that the Dachshund is indeed
a gentleman among dogs.'
'It is not surprising that the Dachshund has, in recent
years, become one of the most popular of all dogs, for he has all the qualities
most valued in a companion or household pet. His size makes him suitable
to the small, modern home and the Miniature varieties may be kept without
inconvenience even in small flats. He is alert, fearless, affectionate
and hardy, so that he makes an admirable guard; while his high intelligence,
loyalty, unfailing sense of humour and adaptability endear him to all who
have the good fortune to know him intimately.'
'Like people, each animal has a distinct personality.
Breed characteristics, however, are apparent in the majority of the specimens
'The Dachshund is a very intelligent animal with a mind of his own. Though capable of responding well to training, he has inherited a goodly number of stubborn traits from his native Germany.
'Our personal experience is that Dachshunds excel around
young children. They were constant companions to my youngsters as
nursery dogs, serving adequately as foot warmers during wintry nights.
Their size, cleanliness, and lack of doggy odors are characteristics that
most mothers appreciate.'
'The Dachshund has features which he shares with a great
many of his colleagues, especially with other short legged, long bodied
hounds. But if you are looking for that unique combination of qualities,
those which make the Dachshund a distinct and separate breed that cannot
possibly be confused with any other; if you are looking for a dog of moderate
size; for a dog who does as well as a city dweller as he does as a hunting
companion - then you must consider the Dachshund. If you want a dog
who despite his unusual proportions is decidedly elegant, looks cleancut
and well cared for with little effort on your part, again consider the
Dachshund. If, finally, you want a dog who possesses a high degree
of intelligence yet is free from neurotic quirks, a dog that is faithful
though very much a person in his own right, lively and intensely courageous,
then you will really have no choice but a Dachshund because, to my knowledge,
no other breed combines all of these qualities to anywhere near the same
'The lively intelligence and mental alertness of the Dachshund,
combined with its refined manners and engaging form, together with its
unswerving loyalty, have gained the breed great popularity'
'The Dachshund is one of the world's most versatile breeds
of dog, having many features to please many people...
'Where else can you find a breed of dog who comes in three different coats and two sizes? Such diversity is an added advantage in looking for "the" dog...
'Dachshunds are great with children, love them, and get
'For centuries, Dachshunds have lived harmoniously with
people. A Dachshund can share every family mood: exuberant when you
are gay; rarin' to go when you are ready for a walk, a ride, or a boisterous
game; happy to curl up near you when you are engaged in a settled occupation;
and most responsive to every demonstration of your affection.'
Yes, these are the Dachshunds that I have known. And I have lived in a household with one or more (or perhaps, at times, too many) Dachshunds for more than fifty years.
I think what has offended me most about the buyers' guides has been the suggestion that a Dachshund is not a suitable pet for homes with young children. My best companions in childhood were Dachshunds. Our four sons were raised with - and partly by - our "oldest child and only daughter", our Standard Smooth, "Katie". She enthusiastically welcomed each of our babies, suffered all forms of unintended abuse at their small hands without complaint, and totally adored them. Today, eleven year old "Pinkie" dotes on our grandsons when they visit - she is hugged, kissed, tripped over, used as a pillow, sometimes stepped on and occasionally hit on the head with a bottle by the youngest but loves every minute of it and follows them wherever they play. She has far more patience and tolerance than Nanny and Grandad!
And no, Dachshunds are not without their weaknesses - specifically their so-called stubbornness (I prefer to refer to it as independent mindedness) and their love of digging. Once again. I go back to the books, where others have described these characteristics far better than I could:
'Obstinacy, combined with a contradictory desire to please,
are two further characteristics common to the breed. Though usually
easily trained to obedience, a Dachshund when out for a walk will often
be blind and deaf to every command to follow. Quite oblivious to
all entreaties, he will continue to investigate items of interest, returning
to the owner only when it suits him to do so. Despite this, the Dachshund
possesses a power of understanding that is remarkable in a dog, and is
infinitely desirous of pleasing his owner. Having incurred displeasure
he will follow dejectedly to heel, apparently deeply regretting his conduct
and awaiting the slightest sign of forgiveness.'
and, from the same author:
Bred as he is for work below ground, the Dachshund inherits
a keen and very natural desire to dig, a desire he will indulge on any
and every occasion that presents itself - as gardeners will find to their
detriment. It is also not a little disconcerting to find Dachshunds
tunneling their way gayly, from a wired-in pen, but the ingenuity they
show for this purpose is often amazing. They have been known on occasions
to burrow more than four feet beneath a kennel in order to escape from
their confined pen and will, if need arises, bite through wood, tree roots,
wire or similar obstacles that may chance to hinder them in their work.
And, again, for the avid gardener:
'(The Dachshund) makes the most wonderful companion, and
will enter into the spirit of everything you do - the latter characteristic
can be very irritating. If one is busy in the garden an inquisitive
nose is not the best companion, and the same can be said for almost any
task you undertake. I like the sketch I came across in an old German
book of the busy gardener, planting out his young cabbage plants, whilst
unbeknown to him his devoted Teckel is busy behind him, pulling them out!
Alas, it has happened to me - my dogs love cabbages!'
And this independence of mind can lead to other concerns:
Actually, good advice to the owners of any breed of dog!
In balance, these character flaws, if flaws at all (the Dachshund, no doubt, views them as strengths), are small potatoes and are far outweighed by his virtues!
And among the Dachshund's greatest virtues is his versatility. I know of no other breed that can come so close to being all things to all men. During the last few years, Canadian Dachshunds have received titles in conformation, in obedience, in den and earth trials, in field trials, in tracking trials, in agility and in flyball. They have received certificates as Canine Good Citizens and as St. John's Ambulance therapy dogs. Although they receive no formal recognition as they are not allowed to compete officially, they can lure course as well as many sighthounds. And at least one has been recognized for bravery.
So why buy a Dachshund? Because, with their versatility and adaptability, they can offer almost anyone (one obvious exception being the Iditarod competitor) almost everything they could want in a canine companion! It truly fits the mould of "man's best friend"!
As Denlinger wrote: 'It is frequently said - and truly - that any person having once owned a Dachshund will never care to be without at least one representative of the breed."
This versatility certainly isn't a result of the Dachshund's physical structure; it stems entirely from its character and temperament. Responsible Dachshund breeders will, hopefully, pay as much attention to personality as to physical conformation when selecting breeding stock as, without the typical character, a Dachshund simply isn't a Dachshund.
Its resiliency of character is a tribute to the Dachshund. Despite the inveterate tampering by man, the literature shows that, unlike so many other breeds, its basic personality has changed little over the decades. Let's hope it stays that way!
I leave the final word on Dachshunds to Herman Cox who, I expect, beautifully echoes the sentiments of most breeders. In the Foreword to his book, he wrote:
'My association of over thirty years with the Dachshund has been a rewarding experience. I have enjoyed their agility in play; their love and affection for my children; their desire and willingness to please; and their savagery toward the stranger. I have also been depressed by their inability to overcome an illness that eventually lead to death. Their expressions, while reflecting love, affection, devotion and faith, have been possessions close to my heart. I have heard their first gasps for breath at birth and I have also held them in my arms as the last beats of their courageous hearts faded away. In each instance a sense of inadequacy prevailed as I doubted that I could justify their faith.'
Herbert Sanborn, The Dachshund or Teckel, Orange Judd
Publishing Co. (New York), 1937