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Daring, dashing dachshunds

Posted: Sunday, May 04, 2003

Affectionately referred to as wiener dogs by some, the dachshund is one of the most easily recognizable dog breeds to the layman pet enthusiast.

The reason for the easy identification is obvious few other breeds are as low to the ground or have such elongated bodies as the dachshund.

But don't be fooled by the small size or unusual build, these dogs were bred to be tough. In fact, the name dachshund's literal translation from German means "badger dog."

Although presently, it is unlikely that one dachshund in a thousand is used to hunt, the breed was originally used to to tackle the tenacious badger. This task was no small feat and required the dachshund to have strength, stamina, and courage above and below the ground.

"They've got no fear," said Roxie Little of Sterling. She owns four dachshunds and currently has a litter of puppies.

"They'll chase moose if I let them, but I never do. But they'll bark and bark when they see one in the yard. We have a brown bear that comes, and they'll even growl at him. They won't bark, but they'll growl," she said.

Although the hunting dachshund of days past frequently weighed up to 35 pounds, modern dachshunds are rarely so large. There are currently two sizes shown in the United States, standard and miniature. The breed was eventually bred down in size to accommodate hunting for rabbits and other small animals.

Little can vouch that her dogs have carried this trait in their genes. She said Quigley, one of her male dogs, has made digging for small rodents a full-time hobby, but all of her companions enjoy the thrill of the chase.

"They're like cats when it comes to mice," she said. "They really go for it. They'll even chase squirrels."

Despite how eager they are to hunt, dachshunds can make good house pets.

"They're just nice little dogs," Little said. "They're mellow, even-tempered and good family dogs."

The same cleverness and lively attitude that made them such good hunters, also makes them exuberant, playful dogs.

"We get more entertainment out of their antics," Little said. "We could just watch them for hours."

Little said they even make good watch dogs, since they quickly sound the alarm by barking at the first sign of anything strange. In fact, she said the only real complaint about dachshunds comes from her husband.

Her husband pampers one of the dogs, named Ellie, by letting him sleep in the bed with them. But as it turns out, Ellie is quite a bed hog.

"He just keeps pushing and pushing on him," Little said. "Ellie will practically push him right out of the bed."

All of Little's dogs are shorthaired, smooth dachshunds, but the breed also can be found in two other coat varieties wirehaired and longhaired.

Little said she's sold on dachshunds, and was recently surprised to find out she wasn't the only one. She visited distant relatives in Austria and they had them too.

"It must run in the family, I guess," she said.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He has worked with wildlife and domestic animals for more than 10 years as a veterinary technician, a zoo keeper, and most recently as a zoologist for the Wildlife Conser-vation Society. He welcomes any pet-related questions or story ideas, but please none of a veterinary nature. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at clarion@alaska.net.



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