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What Were Dachshunds Bred For? History, Roles & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

dachshund dog sitting on pet ramp

Also known as the sausage dog or wiener dog, the Dachshund has a unique build that has seen it become a very popular pet. They are loyal and good with respectful children, although they can be difficult to train, and their pack-animal nature means that they can be clingy.

The dachshund wasn’t originally bred as a companion dog and this German breed was once more at home under the cover of darkness and chasing potentially fierce badgers. Read on to learn more about this breed’s history and to learn how the “badger dog” rose to prominence.

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What Were Dachshunds Originally Bred For?

Dachshunds are believed to have been around since the 15th century and were likely bred as hunting dogs. Originally, they were used to hunt a range of different prey. This included badgers, boars, and rabbits. Because of the difference in size of the dog’s prey, there were dachshunds of different sizes, too. Smaller dogs were used to hunt rabbits while the larger examples would have hunted boars.

During the 17th and 18th century, the breed was refined primarily to hunt badgers. Badger pelts were highly sought after, but the nocturnal animals had thick skins and sharp teeth and claws. They were difficult to hunt down and even more difficult to subdue.

The dachshund’s squat, elongated shape meant that they were ideally suited to climbing inside badger setts. Their curved legs made it possible to dig soil out of the confined space. An elongated ribcage protected internal organs from sharp roots as well as potential badger attacks. Similarly, the bone above the breed’s eyes protects it from claws and teeth while the large teeth of the dachshund enabled it to take badgers down even while in a constricted and confined space.

It wasn’t just the physical features of the dog that made the dachshund the perfect badger hunter, either. The breed was independent and intelligent: capable of making its own decisions whether to follow, attack, or retreat, according to location and prey. It was also prized for its courage. Badgers can be very ferocious, and they have the tools to put up a good fight. A less courageous dog would have backed down from this kind of fight.

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20th Century Dachshunds

red dachshund
Image Credit: Ian Lindsay, Pixabay

The unique characteristics of the Dachshund meant that they became very popular hunting dogs, but their popularity suffered during both World Wars. Because the dogs were so closely associated with the German nation, other countries shunned the breed. Not only did they become unpopular in other countries, but they were actively tracked and killed in some countries.

Fortunately, as time passed, people once again became more accepting of the Dachshund. However, where they were once used for hunting prey and flushing out badgers, they became popular for their unique look and their quirky characters. These once noble hunting dogs became household pets and family companions.

The Modern Dachshund

The modern breed is very close to that of the original, albeit slightly smaller. It has the same elongated body and other physical characteristics, and most owners report that they are equally independent and can be difficult to train.

However, they are loyal, and they will usually get along well with children, especially those that are willing to play games like fetch and tug-o-war. They still love to burrow, too, which explains why they are often found in makeshift tunnels under duvets and blankets, and although not as highly honed, their hunting instinct remains: most dachshunds will give chase if they see a rabbit or squirrel in their paths. Some may treat cats in the same way, although the modern variant is unlikely to try and take on something as large and formidable as a badger.

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How Intelligent Are Dachshunds?

dachshund dog dressed in suit and vest with a hat on
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

Dachshunds are very smart and intelligent, although their intelligence is severely tempered by their headstrong, independent nature. They are likely to use their intelligence to their own ends, and this means that they can be very difficult to train.

Successful training requires diligence, patience, and, usually, bribery with tasty treats. However, they can quickly work out problems and they can learn how to get into the treat cupboard, how to find the comfortable burrowing spots of the house, and they instinctively chase small animals.

Is A Dachshund a Good First Dog?

The dachshund has become popular because of its unique look and because its relatively small size gives them the appearance of being easy to handle. They are loyal and they usually get along with children and all family members.

However, they can be difficult to train because of their independent nature. They will chase small animals, and they bore very easily, which can lead to destructive and unwanted behaviors. Their physical characteristics, primarily their long spine, also require special care and attention.

This combination means that the breed can make a good first-time pet for owners that have a lot of spare time and energy and that are willing to learn effective training methods, but they are not the kind of dog that will instinctively do what you say as soon as you bring them home.

dachshund nesting
Image By: Masarik, Shutterstock

Are Dachshunds Lazy?

Dachshunds can seem lazy because they spend a lot of time sleeping: typically, around 12 hours a day. However, once they are awake, they are energetic and lively, and because they are, traditionally, working dogs, they do have moderate exercise requirements that need to be met, if you want to ensure a happy and healthy dog and a stress-free living environment.

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Conclusion

Dachshunds are very popular pets because they are small enough to be loving companions to children, they have a unique look that stands out from other dogs, and they are loyal and potentially loving dogs. They are headstrong and prone to chasing small animals, however, because they were originally bred to hunt prey including badgers and boars. Although their popularity did dwindle during the first half of the 20th century, they have become popular in most countries, once again.

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Featured Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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