The time to learn about the breed of a dog is not after you have already made the commitment and brought it into your home. Do your homework first before you make a decision that, if you are a responsible pet owner, you will live with for as long as 20 years. Dachshunds tend to live long lives if not plagued by disk problems. They are little dogs with big dog personalities.
I volunteered at a rescue event for Save-A-Pet Animal Shelter this past Saturday and among the dogs that joined us were two adorable dachshund puppies. They certainly attracted lots of attention, but people should know what they are getting when they bring this precious bundle of affection into their homes. You see the floppy ears, the soulful eyes, that huggable long body and short, stubby legs. There is an immediate attraction to the cuddly, dwarf-like creature—but what’s beneath all that cuteness?
People don’t realize that they are getting a serious hunter, one who initially was trained to ferret out badgers and other varmints above and below the ground. They are fearless and have sharp, staccato barks to inform owners that they have cornered their prey. It takes time and patience to train a dachshund, but it’s necessary. These adorable tykes can be aggressive if not properly socialized.
I will never forget when I brought my new dachshund puppy to the beginner class. The instructor took one look at her and said, “You know what you’ve got here, don’t you?”
I glanced at her innocent dachshund face and shrugged my shoulders, not knowing what the instructor was talking about. “What I’ve got here? What have I got here?” I asked myself.
With amusement in her voice, the instructor said, “You’ve got a hunter-killer.”
I glanced back at my sweet-faced, red smooth doxie with those almond-shaped eyes and happy, wagging tail. What on Earth was this woman talking about? I chose to ignore her comment, considering it outrageous.
One afternoon, shortly after that exchange, I went into our backyard in search of my little doll, Madison. I called out to her and while I checked the underbrush, I heard a rustle of leaves, turned to find her prancing out from behind a line of arborvitae at the far end of the yard. My adorable doxie was proudly mouthing something. I didn’t realize what it was until she bounded up to me offering her gift at my feet. What I was looking at suddenly registered and I let out a scream that must have disturbed the entire neighborhood.
My beautiful, angel of a girl had proudly brought me the gruesome carcass of a rabbit a la Fatal Attraction. Madison was about to scoop the thing back into her mouth, but my wails caused her to stop in mid-track and the smile that had covered her mouth drooped into disappointment as if to say, “What is it, Mommy? Don’t you like my gift?” I yelled, “Get into the house!” Madison bowed her head, tucked her tail between her legs and dejectedly made her way inside. She knew I was displeased, but she was perplexed. She simply couldn’t figure out why I was so upset about what she intended to be a bright, shining present for her mommy.
That’s what you get when you adopt a dachshund. Yes, they are hunter-killers. They are bred to hunt badger and small rodents. They have very sensitive noses above and below the ground. They will happily curl up in your lap, but when the scent of squirrel, bird, mouse or even raccoon wafts through the air, they become consumed with the hunt.
This summer alone, we have been presented with two baby birds and a mouse. My response has always been the same—a resounding wail that has shaken the windows almost off their frames. I’m just thankful that when our mahogany-colored little puppy came running up the deck steps and into the kitchen with feathers hanging from the sides of her mouth, my husband was there to redirect her immediately outside again. In truth, this was the first summer I have received so many unwanted “gifts.” The baby birds just seem to fall out of nests, leaving them vulnerable as easy prey.
That brings me back to the rescue event this past Saturday. Yes, these doxies were adorable. There was a gorgeous black and tan female long-hair and a handsome red long-hair male. They were from the same litter and were five months old. I showed prospective adopters how to hold a doxie—the chest and butt must be supported at the same time. You can’t just pick up a doxie under its front legs. Then there are the differences within the breed itself. The smooths are the greatest hunters. The long-hairs, like the pups being shown at the event, tend to be easiest to train. Since there is spaniel in the long haired doxie, they are attracted to water. When I lightly mentioned hunter-killer, I got bulging eyes with comments of, “No, really? I can’t believe it.”
“That’s right,” I insisted, “You’re not getting a Maltese, Shih Tzu or Pug.”
I felt it was my responsibility to educate the public about this delightful yet misunderstood breed. The last thing a pup needs is to settle into a new home only to be tossed out after the first hunting event. That’s what has been going on in Canada. I recently read the article “We Wuv Weiner Dogs: Why They Need Rescuing” by Kim Hughes of Samaritan Magazine. It was about all the dachshund rescue groups that have cropped up there. Uneducated owners thought they were getting lap dogs, then they discovered the little devil inside that innocent exterior. The dogs are being surrendered simply because they’re doing what doxies do best—hunt.
As for me, it’s true that I didn’t really know what I was in for when we adopted Madison. But I love this loyal breed. They remind me of myself—they’re small, but don’t be fooled by that tranquil exterior. There’s the soul of a warrior just beneath the surface. And at the same time, this dwarfed little devil is clever and always the clown. They weasel their way into your heart and when that happens, life, as you know it, will never be the same. They become the center of your universe, bestowing extreme love and loyalty. And their antics will constantly keep you amused.
As I told prospective adopters at the event this weekend: Consider the doxie, but understand what you are getting. Don’t be fooled into visualizing a sedentary little lap pup. Your doxie will love your hugs and kisses, but watch out when it gets the scent of mouse. It relentlessly sniffs and hunts until it procures its find. Then you’ll hear sharp barking, announcing victory, and you may or may not scream at the top of your lungs when greeted with a grizzly gift offered just for you.