Defining the Dashing Dachshund

Love Dog
 

In This Chapter

  • Understanding why Dachshunds look like they do
  • Reviewing the Dachsie body
  • Exploring the AKC’s breed standard

You know one when you see one. You can easily describe one. But can you actually define what a Dachshund is? If you read this chapter, you’ll be able to do just that.

The definition of a breed can mean several things. For example, it can mean the breed standard, which is (and this is a mouthful) a description of the nonexistent, ideal specimen of a particular breed, against which actual dogs of the breed are measured for the purposes of improving the breed through breeding programs and for judging the conformation of dogs in dog shows. The definition can also mean, simply, the qualities that make a breed unique. I cover both definitions throughout this chapter.

Hey, Who Stretched Out My Dog?

If you ask anyone on the street to describe a Dachshund, chances are you’ll get some version of “those long dogs,” “those wienershaped dogs,” or “those short, stretched-out dogs.” Most people know Dachshunds have unusually short legs and unusually long bodies (see Figure 2-1). But why on earth would anyone try to “make” a dog like that?

Dachshund-shaped dogs are nothing new. Some historians claim that the Dachshund shape existed 4,000+ years ago in ancient Egypt. But the Dachshunds people know and love today were developed
primarily for one purpose: to hunt. The following sections take you through the Dachshund’s shape and how a Dachshund is meant to use that unusual body.
Figure 2-1: Short legs and a long body: That’s a dachshund. (Photo courtesy of Ronald Globus).

The right stuff for hunting

Although they share many features (and plenty of ancestors) with the Basset Hound, Dachshunds certainly are unique. Lighter, smaller, finer-boned, and quicker than their Basset cousins (although some sources say that, originally, the Dachshund was the larger of the two breeds), Dachshunds can fit into places a Basset can’t, and they usually can move with greater agility.
Dachshunds also have a keen scenting ability, facilitated by their low stance and long ears. But it’s the Dachshund personality that’s even more highly prized. Their energy, eagerness, and Terrier-like feistiness in the pursuit of small game have historically distinguished Dachshunds as excellent hunting companions.

Why Dachshunds have long bodies

The Dachshund’s long body is unusual but useful for its original purpose: hunting. Dachshunds had to be large enough to contend with badgers and other game that could put up a fierce counterattack. On the other hand, Dachshunds had to be low to the ground and compact to be able to follow the badger into its burrow without getting stuck. The Dachshund’s long, slender body was the perfect solution. Adding length gave the dog more power and weight while maintaining its low height.

Dachsie Moxie

How breeds are “made”

All purebred dogs are made, to some extent. A tiny Chihuahua and a giant Tibetan Mastiff are both variations on the same theme, created by humans through selective breeding to serve a specific purpose. Dachshunds, too, were designed to serve a specific purpose: to follow a badger, or other burrowing game, into its tunnel and flush it out or bark to alert an accompanying human of its whereabouts. German hunters probably crossed short-legged, long-bodied French hounds like Basset Hounds and Beagles with Terriers that liked to dig underground and chase vermin, although nobody knows for sure. We do know they developed Miniature Dachshunds during the 1800s by crossing in smaller dogs and breeding the smallest Dachshunds together, specifically for hunting purposes, too. The Mini’s tiny body could fit into even smaller holes in pursuit of small game. Of course, the Minis also made (and still make) charming lap dogs, too.
At first, the Dachshund’s long body may seem more of an impediment to agile movement, but Dachshunds are surprisingly lithe and light-footed. Their spines are flexible (although they don’t respond well to sudden movements, hard jolts, or twists — see Chapter Handling Dachshund Health Problems). And although Dachshunds are a fairly deep-chested breed, their bodies are perfect for wriggling. If you have a Dachshund at home, you’ve probably already seen this wriggling as your Dachshund slyly makes her way to the foot of your bed underneath the covers.

Why Dachshunds have short legs

Another distinguishing feature of the Dachshund is its short legs. Dachshunds have short legs to best fit into badger dens and burrows of other small game. But Dachshunds have been used for all sorts of hunting, not just burrowing, and its characteristically short legs serve the Dachshund well in several ways:

– Short legs allow a Dachshund to move quickly through dense brush and into spaces that, even though above ground, would be tight fits for a taller dog. In fact, Dachshunds have been used to flush out wild boar, because after the boar is on the loose, the Dachshunds can hide, protected, under the dense underbrush.

– Underground, the Dachshund’s short legs allow her to maneuver well in a burrow. If the game being pursued turns to attack, short legs allow the Dachshund to back up.

– The Dachshund’s compact legs serve as powerful excavators. Dachshunds can dig out anything and dig into or out of anywhere.

– A Dachshund’s short legs keep her closer to the ground and enhance her ability to catch and follow a scent

Dachshund Anatomy 101

Although the Dachshund’s unusual form makes it an ideal hunting dog, and many Dachsies are still used for this purpose (see the previous section), the Dachshund’s more common role today is one of companion, friend, and resident court jester. But the Dachshund’s unusual shape is worth understanding even if you don’t plan to  hunt a day in your life. Knowing your Dachsie’s anatomy will help you understand her health needs and prevent or prepare for potential problems.
Talking dog anatomy means using plenty of terms that many folks may not be familiar with, so Figure 2-2 shows a boy Dachshund with all his parts labeled. And following is a list — a mini Dachs-tionary — that defines the anatomical terms shown in the figure.

Tip

This Dachs-tionary comes in mighty handy when you’re reading the section “Evaluating the Perfect Dachsie.”

Cheek: The fleshy area behind the corners of a Dachshund’s mouth.

Muzzle: The part of the dog’s head in front of the eyes, including the nose and jaws.

Stop: The place where the muzzle meets the skull.

Skull: The head bone, of course.

Crest: The back of the skull where it begins its descent.

Neck: The area attaching the head to the shoulders and upper chest.

Withers: The highest point of the dog’s shoulder blades, used to measure a Dachshund’s height.

Back: The top of the dog, from withers to tail.

Loin: The section of the dog between the ribs and hipbones.

Rump: The area above the hipbones, in front of the base of the tail.

Hock: The joint on the rear legs between the second thigh and the metatarsus (the area between the heel and toes, or rear pastern), corresponding to the human heel. In a Dachshund, this joint sticks out from behind.

Toes: The digits at the ends of the paws.

Stifle: The dog’s knee — the first leg joint between the thigh and what’s called the second thigh (see “Hock”).

Elbow: The joint between the front arm and forearm.

Forearm: The lower part of the front leg, between the elbow and wrist. In a Dachshund, the forearm should be relatively straight but comfortably shaped around the chest.

Dewclaw: A functionless fifth toe, which is often — but not necessarily — removed.

Pastern: The area of the foot between the wrist and the toes.

Wrist: The joint between the forearm and the toes.

Shoulder: The top end of the front legs, connecting the legs to the body. 

Figure 2-2: The Dachsie’s anatomy in all its glory.

Evaluating the Perfect Dachsie

The American Kennel Club publishes a standard for the Dachshund that was developed by the Dachshund Club of America, Inc. (DCA), and that defines and describes — in great detail — the ideal Dachshund. Every so often, this standard has been updated to further improve the breed. The most recent revision officially took effect in March 2007, the first change to the standard since 1992.
Of course, what’s ideal for one person may not be ideal for all people. But the breed standard has a specific purpose for all Dachsie lovers:

– The standard is designed to guide breeders in their pursuits so that they don’t bring puppies into the world with faults (some with serious consequences, and others with mostly cosmetic faults). The standard can further the good health and good looks of the Dachshund breed.

– The standard serves as a guide for dog-show judges, who are judging, in essence, the work of the breeders. Judges in dog shows measure each Dachshund they see against an imaginary perfect Dachshund, and the dogs that come closest to the ideal do the best in competitions. (Chapter Advanced Training and Competing for Fun goes into greater detail about competitions your Dachshund could enter.)

– Some aspects of the breed standard detail important qualities that happen to be particularly relevant for pet owners. For instance, the breed standard says that a Dachshund should appear “neither crippled, awkward, nor cramped in his capacity for movement” and that his temperament should be “clever, lively, and courageous . . .”. In other words, a sound body and mind make for a wonderful pet as well as a technically correct Dachshund.

That said, some people do like to know that their dogs are as close to perfect as possible. And, because it never hurts to understand the ideal for your breed, this section goes over the AKC breed standard for the Dachshund in detail. The standard is largely based around qualities that ensure good health and the betterment of the breed (the goals of any good breeder). For more on all the characteristics of a Dachshund, jump over to Chapter The Long and Short of Dachshund Varieties.

Remember

Don’t be too critical of your beloved pet if she doesn’t fit the breed standard very well. Who cares if your Dachshund’s eyes aren’t perfectly “almond-shaped and dark-rimmed,” if your smooth Dachshund’s coat is a little too thick, or if your Standard Dachshund is the biggest one you’ve ever seen; she can still be the most perfect pet you’ve ever had. Plenty of love, attention, and care — coupled with proper management and training — are the things that make a good pet, not the perfect coat texture or profile.

Reviewing the AKC’s official breed standard

The AKC’s official Dachshund breed standard was approved on January 9, 2007, and became effective on March 1, 2007. Here it is, divided into a few specific categories.

General Appearance: Low to ground, long in body and short of leg with robust muscular development. The skin is elastic and pliable without excessive wrinkling. Appearing neither crippled, awkward, nor cramped in her capacity for movement, the Dachshund is well balanced with bold and confident head carriage and intelligent, alert facial expression. Her hunting spirit, good nose, loud tongue, and distinctive build make her well suited for below-ground work and for beating the bush. Her keen nose gives her an advantage over most other breeds for trailing. Note: Inasmuch as the Dachshund is a hunting dog, scars from honorable wounds shall not be considered a fault.

Size, Proportion, Substance: Bred and shown in two sizes, Standard and Miniature, Miniatures aren’t a separate classification but compete in a class division for “11 pounds and under at 12 months of age and older.” Weight of the Standard size is usually between 16 and 32 pounds.

Head: Viewed from above or from the side, the head tapers uniformly to the tip of the nose. The eyes are of medium size, almond-shaped, and dark-rimmed, with an energetic, pleasant expression; not piercing; and very dark in color. The bridge bones over the eyes are strongly prominent. Wall eyes, except in the case of dappled dogs (see the following section), are a serious fault. The ears are set near the top of the head, not too far forward; of moderate length, rounded; not narrow, pointed, or folded. Their carriage, when animated, is with the forward edge just touching the cheek so that the ears frame the face. The skull is slightly arched, neither too broad nor too narrow, and slopes gradually with little perceptible stop into the finely formed, slightly arched muzzle, giving a Roman appearance. Lips are tightly stretched, well covering the lower jaw. Nostrils well open. Jaws opening wide and hinged well back of the eyes, with strongly developed bones and teeth.

Teeth: Powerful canine teeth; teeth fit closely together in a scissors bite. An even bite is a minor fault. Any other deviation is a serious fault.

Technical Stuff

Different breeds have different bites. In other words, their upper and lower jaws and teeth meet in different ways. In many breeds, including Dachshunds, a scissors bite is the preferred bite. In this bite, the outside of the lower teeth touches the inner side of the upper teeth when the dog’s mouth is closed. In an even bite, also called a level bite, the top and bottom teeth meet with no overlapping.

Neck: Long, muscular clean-cut, without dewlap, slightly arched in the nape, flowing gracefully into the shoulders without creating the impression of a right angle.

Technical Stuff

The dewlap is the name for loose, pendulous skin that hangs down from a dog’s throat and neck. Dachshunds shouldn’t have one.

Trunk: Long and fully muscled. When viewed in profile, the back lies in the straightest possible line between the withers and the short, very slightly arched loin. A body that hangs loosely between the shoulders is a serious fault.

Abdomen: Slightly drawn up.

Forequarters: For effective underground work, the front must be strong, deep, long, and cleanly muscled.

Forequarters in detail, Chest: The breastbone is strongly prominent in front so that on either side a depression or dimple appears. When viewed from the front, the thorax appears oval and extends downward to the mid-point of the forearm. The enclosing structure of the well-sprung ribs appears full and oval to allow, by its ample capacity, complete development of heart and lungs. The keel merges gradually into the line of the abdomen and extends well beyond the front legs. Viewed in profile, the lowest point of the breast line is covered by the front leg.

Technical Stuff

The keel is the outline of the lower chest (in profile), stretching from the top of the breastbone to the bottom of the ribs.

Forequarters in detail, Shoulder Blades: Long, broad, well laidback and firmly placed upon the fully developed thorax; closely fitted at the withers; furnished with hard yet pliable muscles.

Forequarters in detail, Upper Arm: Ideally the same length as the shoulder blade and at right angles to the latter; strong of bone and hard of muscle; lying close to the ribs, with elbows close to the body, yet capable of free movement.

Forequarters in detail, Forearm: Short in stature; supplied with hard yet pliable muscles on the front and outside, with tightly stretched tendons on the inside at the back, slightly curved inward. The joints between the forearms and the feet (wrists) are closer together than the shoulder joints, so that the front doesn’t appear absolutely straight. The inclined shoulder blades, upper arms, and curved forearms form parentheses that enclose the ribcage, creating the correct “wraparound front.” Knuckling over is a disqualifying fault.

Technical Stuff

Knuckling over refers to a faulty wrist joint that flexes forward when a dog stands. Knuckling over is a serious fault in Dachshunds. It weakens what should be strong front legs and disqualifies any Dachshund from the show ring.

Forequarters in detail, Feet: Front paws are full, tight, compact, with well-arched toes and tough, thick pads. They may be equally inclined a trifle outward. There are five toes — four in use — close together with a pronounced arch and strong, short nails. Front dewclaws may be removed.

Hindquarters: Strong and cleanly muscled. The pelvis, the thigh, the second thigh, and the rear pastern are ideally the same length and give the appearance of a series of right angles. From the rear, the thighs are strong and powerful. The legs turn neither in nor out.

Hindquarters in detail, Rear Pasterns: Short and strong, perpendicular to the second thigh bone. When viewed from behind, they’re upright and parallel.

Hindquarters in detail, Feet/Hind Paws: Smaller than the front paws, with four compactly closed and arched toes with tough, thick pads. The entire foot points straight ahead and is balanced equally on the ball and not merely on the toes. Rear dewclaws should be removed.

Hindquarters in detail, Croup: Long rounded and full, sinking slightly toward the tail.

Technical Stuff

The croup is the entire pelvic girdle region.

Hindquarters in detail, Tail: Set in continuation of the spine, extending without kinks, twists, or pronounced curvature; not carried too gaily.

Gait: Fluid and smooth. Forelegs reach well forward, without much lift, in unison with the driving action of the hind legs. The correct shoulder assembly and well-fitted elbows allow the long, free stride in front. Viewed from the front, the legs don’t move in exact parallel planes, but incline slightly inward. Hind legs drive on a line with the forelegs, with the hock joints and rear pasterns turning neither in nor out. The propulsion of the hind leg depends on the dog’s ability to carry the hind leg to complete extension.

Viewed in profile, the forward reach of the hind leg equals the rear extension. The thrust of correct movement is seen when the rear pads are clearly exposed during rear extension. Rear feet don’t reach upward toward the abdomen and there is no appearance of walking on the rear pasterns. Feet must travel parallel to the line of motion with no tendency to swing out, cross over, or interfere with each other. Short, choppy movement, rolling or high-stepping gait, and close or overly wide coming or going are incorrect.

The Dachshund must have agility, freedom of movement, and endurance to do the work for which she was developed.

Temperament: The Dachshund is clever, lively, and courageous to the point of rashness, persevering in above- and below-ground work, with all the senses well developed. Any display of shyness is a serious fault.

Hindquarters: Strong and cleanly muscled. The pelvis, the thigh, the second thigh, and the rear pastern are ideally the same length and give the appearance of a series of right angles. From the rear, the thighs are strong and powerful. The legs turn neither in nor out.

Hindquarters in detail, Rear Pasterns: Short and strong, perpendicular to the second thigh bone. When viewed from behind, they’re upright and parallel.

Hindquarters in detail, Feet/Hind Paws: Smaller than the front paws, with four compactly closed and arched toes with tough, thick pads. The entire foot points straight ahead and is balanced equally on the ball and not merely on the toes. Rear dewclaws should be removed.

Hindquarters in detail, Croup: Long rounded and full, sinking slightly toward the tail.

Technical Stuff

The croup is the entire pelvic girdle region.

Hindquarters in detail, Tail: Set in continuation of the spine, extending without kinks, twists, or pronounced curvature; not carried too gaily.

Gait: Fluid and smooth. Forelegs reach well forward, without much lift, in unison with the driving action of the hind legs. The correct shoulder assembly and well-fitted elbows allow the long, free stride in front. Viewed from the front, the legs don’t move in exact parallel planes, but incline slightly inward. Hind legs drive on a line with the forelegs, with the hock joints and rear pasterns turning neither in nor out. The propulsion of the hind leg depends on the dog’s ability to carry the hind leg to complete extension.

Viewed in profile, the forward reach of the hind leg equals the rear extension. The thrust of correct movement is seen when the rear pads are clearly exposed during rear extension. Rear feet don’t reach upward toward the abdomen and there is no appearance of walking on the rear pasterns. Feet must travel parallel to the line of motion with no tendency to swing out, cross over, or interfere with each other. Short, choppy movement, rolling or high-stepping gait, and close or overly wide coming or going are incorrect.

The Dachshund must have agility, freedom of movement, and endurance to do the work for which she was developed.

Temperament: The Dachshund is clever, lively, and courageous to the point of rashness, persevering in above- and below-ground work, with all the senses well developed. Any display of shyness is a serious fault.

Remember

The most important things to worry about with a Dachshund are temperament and health. Buying a Dachshund from a breeder can be a good move, because good breeders breed that classic friendly, funny, brave Dachshund temperament. They also want dogs that are sound and free of health problems. For the average pet owner, those are the really important priorities.

Brushing over special characteristics of the coat varieties

The Dachshund is bred with three varieties of coat — smooth, wirehaired, and longhaired — and is shown in two sizes — Standard and Miniature. All three varieties and both sizes must conform to the characteristics specified in the previous section. The features in the following sections are applicable for each variety.

Smooth Dachshunds

Here are the defining characteristics of the smooth Dachshund:
Coat: Short, smooth and shining. Should be neither too long nor too thick. Ears not leathery.
Tail: Gradually tapered to a point; not too richly haired. Long, sleek bristles on the underside are considered a patch of strong-growing hair, not a fault. A brush tail is a fault, as is a partly or wholly hairless tail.

Technical Stuff

A brush tail is a tail that’s bushy and heavy with hair. Dachshunds shouldn’t have one.

Color of hair: Although base color is immaterial, certain patterns and basic colors predominate. One-colored Dachshunds include red and cream, with or without a shading of interspersed dark hairs. A small amount of white on the chest is acceptable, but not desirable.
Nose and nails: Black.

Two-colored Dachshunds

The two-colored smooth coat variety includes black, chocolate, wild boar, gray (blue), and fawn (Isabella). Each has deep, rich tan or cream markings over the eyes, on the sides of the jaw and underlip, on the inner edge of the ear, front, breast, inside and behind the front legs, on the paws and around the anus, and from the anus to about one-third to one-half the length of the tail on the underside. Undue prominence or extreme lightness of tan markings is undesirable. A small amount of white on the chest is acceptable, but not desirable.

Colors voted out

Double-dappled Dachshunds are dappled Dachshunds with an additional sprinkling of pure white patches. This used to be an allowed pattern in the breed standard, but unusual and interesting as they may appear, double dapples are associated with multiple health problems. In 2007, the Dachshund Club of America voted to remove the double-dappled pattern from the standard.
Piebald Dachshunds are white with large spots of any color; this color pattern also isn’t allowed in the breed standard. The Dachshund Club of America voted to add it in 2007, but the motion failed, with 316 votes for and 431 against.

Technical Stuff

Dachshund colors, such as red or black, are easy to picture, but other colors are less well known. Wild boar is more common on wirehaired Dachshunds but can also occur on smooths. It refers to a black or dark outer coat over a lighter-colored undercoat. Isabella is a fancy word for a fawn color. Some two-color Dachshunds are fawn with tan markings, called Isabella and tan.

The nose and nails for two-colored dachshunds are as follows: in the case of black dogs, the two are black; for chocolate and all other colors, dark brown, but self-colored is acceptable.

Dappled Dachshunds

The dapple (merle) pattern is expressed as lighter-colored areas contrasting with the darker base color, which may be any acceptable color. Neither the light nor the dark color should predominate. The nose and nails are the same as for one- and two-colored Dachshunds. Partial or wholly blue (wall) eyes are as acceptable as dark eyes. A large area of white on the chest of a dapple is permissible.
Brindle is a pattern (as opposed to a color) in which black or dark stripes occur over the entire body, although in some specimens the pattern may be visible only in the tan points.
The sable pattern consists of a uniform dark overlay on red dogs. The overlay hairs are double-pigmented, with the tip of each hair much darker than the base color. The pattern usually displays a widow’s peak on the head. The nose, nails, and eye rims are black. Eyes are dark — the darker the better.

Wirehaired Dachshunds

Here are the defining characteristics of the wirehair Dachshund:
Coat: With the exception of the jaw, eyebrows, and ears, the whole body is covered with a uniform tight, short, thick, rough, hard, outer coat, but with finer, somewhat softer, shorter hairs (undercoat) distributed between the coarser hairs. The absence of an undercoat is a fault. The distinctive facial furnishings include a beard and eyebrows. On the ears, the hair is shorter than on the body, almost smooth.
The general arrangement of the hair is such that the wirehaired Dachshund, when viewed from a distance, resembles the smooth. Any sort of soft hair in the outer coat, wherever found on the body — especially on the top of the head — is a fault. The same is true of long, curly, or wavy hair, or hair that sticks out irregularly in all directions.
Tail: Robust, thickly haired, gradually tapering to a point. A flag tail is a fault.

Technical Stuff

A flag tail is a relatively long tail carried high, with feathering on it. Dachshunds shouldn’t have one.

Color of hair: Although the most common colors are wild boar, black and tan, and various shades of red, all colors and patterns listed in the smooth hair section are admissible. Wild boar appears as banding of the individual hairs and imparts an overall grizzled effect, which is most often seen on wirehaired Dachshunds but may also appear on other coats. Tan points may or may not be evident. Variations include red boar and chocolate-and-tan boar.
A small amount of white on the chest, although acceptable, isn’t desirable.
Nose and nails: Same as for the smooth variety in most cases. Nose, nails, and eye rims are black on wild-boar and red-boar Dachshunds. On chocolate-and-tan-boar Dachshunds, nose, nails, eye rims, and eyes are self-colored — the darker the better.

Longhaired Dachshunds

Here are the defining characteristics of the longhaired Dachshund:
Coat: The sleek, glistening, often slightly wavy hair is longer under the neck and on the forechest, the underside of the body, the ears, and behind the legs. The coat gives the dog an elegant appearance. Short hair on the ear isn’t desirable. Too profuse a coat — which masks type — equally long hair over the whole body, a curly coat, and a pronounced parting on the back are all faults.
Tail: Carried gracefully in prolongation of the spine; the hair attains its greatest length here and forms a veritable flag.
Color of hair: Same as for the smooth Dachshund variety.
Nose and nails: Same as for the smooth variety.
by Eve Adamson

Comments on Facebook