Dachshunds are also known as sausage dogs or wiener dogs. These nicknames stem from their elongated bodies which resemble a sausage and their short legs.
Their bodies look disproportionately longer because of their tiny legs. They are closer to the ground than other dog breeds.
Dachshunds have a long body because they were specifically bred that way.
Originally, dachshunds were bred in Germany around 300 years back. They were bred as a working dogs, used for hunting badgers.
Dachshund translates from German as “Dachs” meaning badger, and “hund” meaning dog. So the dachshund literally translates as a “badger dog”.
They were bred to sniff out badgers and any other animals that lived in burrows and then hunt them by diving in the burrows and tunnels.
The genetic mutation of the dachshund only stunts the development of their legs, not the body.
They only appear to have a long body. But, in reality, their body is normal, though their legs are short, which makes the back look out of proportion.
Why were dachshunds bred to have such long bodies?
Having long bodies gives a lot of advantages to dachshunds.
Because of their genetic breeding, they have certain features that help them in the job they were bred for.
A dachshund’s long body was important while hunting down badgers.
Their long bodies made them quite strong and heavy, which meant that they could not only chase their prey at a fast pace but also fight their prey with their strength.
Badgers can be very aggressive animals, and the long bodies of dachshunds made them powerful enough to fight the badgers.
Badgers live underground in tunnels. A dachshund’s long body made it easier to get in the tunnels and maneuver through the tunnels in search of its prey.
Their flexible spine made it possible to twist and bend at turns in the tunnels while chasing after a badger.
Not only that, a dachshund’s long body and curved tail also made it easier for the hunters to pull them out of the tunnels and burrows in case they needed to.
The elongated spine of the dachshund also meant that they could run very fast, making it easier to catch their prey. Speed was an essential quality since dachshunds were bred as hunting dogs.
Why do dachshunds have short legs?
Dachshunds have a genetic condition called chondrodysplasia, which is the reason for their short legs.
This gene was specifically used by the breeders as a dwarfism gene. This gene affects the growth of cartilage in the dachshund’s legs, stunting their growth.
This same condition can be found in all dogs with short legs, such as corgis and basset hounds.
Therefore, dachshunds have a genetic mutation that leads to the growth of their leg cartilage being stunted when they are growing in the womb. This is why right from fetal development, the legs of a dachshund do not grow as long as they normally should.
While short-legged dogs have been around for thousands of years, this feature is a result of a single mutation event that occurred only a few hundred years ago, according to a recent discovery at Maryland’s National Human Genome Research Institute.
However, in some breeds, chondrodysplasia could mean trouble, as it indicates a stunted development of the cartilage, which could lead to various problems in your dog.
While having short legs is a defining feature of a dachshund, they were much larger in size when they first came into existence.
The original dachshund used to weigh between 31 to 40 pounds, while the average dachshund today weighs not more than 30 pounds.
What were the advantages of having short legs?
Dachshunds were bred this way because of the advantages of short legs in being a hunting dog.
Short legs meant that dachshunds could enter burrows of small animals like badgers. They could continue the hunt underground as well, owing to their short legs.
Because of their small size, dachshunds could fit into small holes and narrow tunnels, something that would not be possible for dogs with long legs.
Dachshunds are closer to the ground because of their small legs, which means that their ability to sniff out the scent of their prey and track them down is excellent.
Being closer to the ground also meant that dachshunds could easily navigate through the undergrowth.
How long should a dachshund’s legs be?
There is no exact leg measurement for dachshunds. However, the standard breed size standard for dachshunds is as follows:
The standard dachshund has an average weight of up to 32 lbs and reaches 8 to 9 inches in height.
The miniature dachshund has an average weight of up to 11 lbs and reaches 5 to 6 inches in height.
There is a generally accepted guidance with respect to the ratio of the height and length of the dachshund. A dachshund’s height should be half of its body length. It should not be too low to the ground. Dogs shorter than 2:1 are usually preferred.
The accepted dachshund standards show an average of 75% body depth and 25% ground clearance to be the most ideal.
Can my purebred dachshund have long legs?
Even proportions as low as 1:6:1 have been accepted in dachshund breeding. However, the optimal ratio is 1:8:1. Some differences in proportions are accepted, but the dachshund should be longer than taller to meet the official dachshund standards.
If you have a dachshund with legs that are longer than the average standards, your dachshund might not be purebred.
A lot of breeders get a fake certification or keep the interbreeding details a secret.
Another reason why your purebred dachshund has longer legs than average could be because of a genetic variation within the litter.
This means that some kind of silent gene could have been activated, causing your dachshund to have longer legs than average. This would also mean that there is some other breed in your dachshund’s family tree.
At some point in the breeding history of your dachshund, there was an inter-breeding that took place. This can be tricky, as genes can stay dormant for generations and then crop up suddenly at any time.
It is also possible that your dachshund has longer legs, but none of its brothers or sisters do.
Your puppy will still be healthy and active, but it may not be able to participate in dog shows or mate with other purebred doxies.
Do the long bodies and short legs of dachshunds cause them problems?
The long back of the dachshund might have been an important trait for hunting, but it is also the dachshund’s major weakness.
Dachshunds are highly prone to spinal and back problems.
Dachshunds are more likely than any other breed to suffer from Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). Intervertebral Disc Disease affects discs in the spinal column, causing prolonged pain. It can lead to permanent damage or even paralysis.
According to research, 1 in every 4 dachshunds suffers from some form of a spinal issue.
A lot of time, this pain is not detected because of the low severity.
IVDD can be treated through surgery or even some non-surgical options.
Dachshunds can also suffer from other bone-related health issues, apart from back problems. This includes patellar luxation, which is the dislocation of the kneecap, and osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease.
Because the body of a dachshund is the result of a gene that is a form of dwarfism, it can cause the legs of a dachshund to grow weirdly.
Sometimes there are dachshunds that have feet turning out to the side instead of facing straight in the front.
All the issues relating to the long body and the bone structure of the dachshund make it important to take special care of your dachshund.
Make sure that its food intake is regulated. If your dachshund becomes overweight, it will put extra strain on its already delicate spine.
Dachshunds also need to be exercised regularly so that their muscles become strong and can support the weight of the body. One or two walks a day can be sufficient.
Dachshunds can be allowed to move freely around the house, but make sure they don’t run up and down the stairs constantly, or jump on or off furniture, as this could cause potential injury to their backbone.
If you have kids in the house, it is very important that they know how to handle it. If your child does not know the right way to hold a dachshund, it can cause injuries to the dachshund.
A child can also put its own body weight on the dachshund unknowingly, which could cause back problems.
Dachshunds are no more used for hunting today. However, they still engage in behaviors that are in line with what they had been bred for.
Dachshunds today might not be burrowing tunnels to catch badgers or other animals, but they are still avid diggers. Your dachshund would most certainly enjoy digging up your garden or flowerbed.
Even while at home, they tend to dig into their blankets and burrow inside to sleep.
Dachshunds still have deep barks, which was a necessity during those times so that their owner could locate them easily.
Their feisty nature also makes them over-confident at times, trying to stand up to dogs that are ten times bigger than them. This could get them in trouble, so make sure your dachshund is well-trained and obedient.