Are you thinking about getting a dachshund, or specifically a wirehaired dachshund? Then this is the post for you! I’ve got a lot to cover, so this is part 1 of 2. This post might also be helpful if you’re getting a puppy soon, even it it’s not a dachshund. I will share my impressions of owning a dachshund, and tips for training a miniature wirehaired dachshund, including general welfare.
Dachshunds are an incredibly popular breed, though wirehaired dachshunds less so. If you’re looking for an energetic, comical member of the family then this could be a breed for you! However, now that Wilbur has been with us for a year, I’d like to share my honest views on wirehaired dachshunds to help you make the best breed choice for your lifestyle. This guidance can also help you to set realistic expectations for your new companion.
For more on Wilbur, see:
Seek Expert Advice
I’m not a dog expert, nor am I a vet or behaviourist. If you’re looking for health information for your pet, or if you have specific health concerns about dachshunds, I would recommend asking a vet, or consulting specific advice websites such as Dachshund IVDD. Thankfully, I don’t have experience with aggressive behaviour, and for this you should always speak to a vet or qualified behaviourist.
It also goes without saying that Wilbur is an individual dog and doesn’t represent the breed. Also, my expectations as a pet owner and preferences for training might be different to yours. Do what works best for your and your dog! Lastly, we got Wilbur as a puppy and this is likely to be a different training experience than rescuing a dog, which could have trauma or learned behaviour. I would recommend seeking specific guidance for re-homed, or older dogs if that’s your situation.
Find Your Community
I found it helpful to join a few breed-specific groups on Facebook. It becomes apparent quickly that there are lots of people going through similar struggles with training. Facebook groups can be a great forum to share knowledge and try different tactics. What I appreciate about these groups is that they are monitored for treatment standards (e.g. positive enforcement) and they are quick to specify when advice should be given by a qualified behaviourist. That being said, when you ask advice on the internet, everyone has an opinion!
What I found frustrating about looking for training advice is that it never seemed to address our exact problem. For example, we crate trained Wilbur, which can be a challenging task with dachshunds. When looking for advice about how to get him to sleep through the night, most of the advice was simply have him sleep in the bed with us, or put the crate in the bedroom. We wanted Wilbur to sleep downstairs so this “advice” wasn’t actually helpful. Stay tuned for part 2 for advice on how to crate train your dachshund!
This might be different for smooth coat dachshunds, but for Wilbur (a wirehaired) he has a load of energy! When Lucy and I were researching how much exercise dachshunds need, many web pages said 30 minutes a day. There is also the standard advice for 5 minutes of exercise per month of age up to a year old. This helps to ensure that the dog isn’t over-exercised when their body is still developing.
All I can really say is that this guidance did not work for Wilbur. Obviously when he was little, we kept walks fairly short, but by around 5 months he had a load of energy and stamina! On an average day, Wilbur gets two walks a day, approx. 40 min in the morning, and 20 min in the evening. For longer walks, he does 1-2 hours, some of which may involve chasing a ball or paddling in the river.
He refuses to be carried when he’s tired so we have to judge carefully about how long a walk should be since he won’t give up. My point is that this is not 30 minutes a day. Wirehaired dachshunds are terrier in nature, and they like to be busy and stimulated. Therefore, they best suit a household where they have company and can get plenty of exercise/stimulation.
Another great example of struggling to find advice is in regards to barking. Dachshunds LOVE to bark and for such a little dog they have a set of lungs on them! Many dachshunds bark at particular things, such as other dogs or people on walks, or when the door bell rings. For us, Wilbur’s most annoying barking is when he sits like a tiny demon in the middle of the room and just barks in our faces. We still haven’t figured out what exactly he wants, and sometimes I don’t think he knows either. Hence, training advice for barking will very much depend on why and when your dog barks.
All that being said, we attended a Zoom training session with Sharon at Perfectly Polite Dachshunds, and I highly rate her advice and courses. Wilbur did the 8 months plus training session and he was very engaged and loved learning new tricks (and getting lots of treats). Sharon focuses on positive reinforcement, high-value rewards, and distraction techniques. These basic principles can work to improve any type of undesirable behaviour.
Dachshunds can be very fussy eaters. Wilbur goes through phases when he is ravenous and licks the bowl clean. Other times he merely sniffs the bowl and looks at us in disdain. Many people will say that your dog is hungry enough, they will eat. Unfortunately, Wilbur is very stubborn, and at one point his weight got too low as he just wouldn’t eat his food. Lots of people have had good luck with raw food, which is worth checking out if you have a fussy eater. Otherwise, we have had success with the following (affiliate links):
- James Wellbeloved kibble
- Lily’s Kitchen wet food – preferably poultry or lamb
- A few shreds of boiled chicken or scrambled egg
Wilbur seems to prefer the meal when it has a tiny bit of hot water, or if it’s microwaved to slightly warm.
Last but certainly not least, I want to cover some basic commands that we have found useful for keeping Wilbur safe and (sort of) well-behaved.
- “Touch” – This is for off lead or on a long leash. The important thing is that Wilbur gets a reward and praise for coming back. It instills in him that returning to us is the highest reward. It’s an important command in urgent or dangerous situations.
- “Sit” – A basic command, but we specifically use it when Wilbur is over-excited before a walk. He has to sit to put his harness on and again before we leave the house. This sort of helps stop the excitable jumping and barking.
- “Gentle” – Taking treats gently mainly because we want to make sure he’s gentle with kids.
- “Lie down” – Another basic command used frequently, but mainly to get him to calm down if he is being stroppy or jumping too much.
- “Down” / “Off” – To get down from somewhere or stop jumping. Variable success.
- “Wait” – Reminding him that he doesn’t control the situation. “You wait” for when he’s barking with impatience.
- “Leave it” – Sort of works for stopping him from eating poop/ garbage… sort of.
- Not greeting straight away – Wilbur has to lie down before being greeted because otherwise he jumps and nips at my clothing.
- Distraction techniques – Giving him something else to do or chew instead of the undesirable behaviour.
- Explaining what we are doing/where we are going/time frames. Dogs do understand a great deal of our verbal queues, especially if they’re used repeatedly. E.g. “I’m going to work”, “Lucy went to get groceries, she’ll be back in a little while”. “She’s not here, she’s gone to work and will be back later”, “I’ll be right back”.
If these tips and impressions have been helpful to you, stay tuned for part 2.
Do you have tips you’d like to add? Fee free to share!