It frustrates me that so many people treat their wiener dogs like lapdogs. I see so many Dachshunds that are overweight and I’m sure it’s the belief that Dachshund are fragile and don’t need much exercise that significantly contributes to that.
Just because Dachshunds are nicknamed “sausage dogs”, doesn’t mean they should look like one (the nickname is actually because it’s speculated that the German hot dog was named after the breed).
Dachshund are prone to gaining weight but it’s important to keep them fit for their health, to help them live longer, and to help prevent back problems.
There are two ways to control a Dachshund’s weight – diet and exercise. Let’s look at that second piece. How much exercise
Guest Post: This is a topic I’ve wanted to write on but haven’t had the time. Instead, I turned to Mathew Coulton at wileypup for help. He has worked with dogs for just under a decade and is the founder of wileypup, a doggy lover’s website that provides great tips and advice for pet parents everywhere.
Why do so many folks think Doxies need to be handled with kid gloves?
Well-meaning owners of the breed are convinced that they should never be allowed to jump or play too hard for fear of injury.
Let’s look at one possible reason, followed by a peek at the historical roots of the breed which live in stark contrast to this false conception.
In addition, we will offer some tips to help you safely get your wiener dog in great shape so that they can enjoy healthy living, ensure their exercise needs are met and join you on all of life’s great adventures.
IVDD and the Myth of the Delicate Doxie
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a potentially paralyzing genetic condition that is somewhat common among breeds with short legs (a.k.a. chondrodystrophic) such as Basset Hounds, Beagles, Pekingese and Dachshunds.
Exercise restriction is one (of several) treatment options for Dachshunds with IVDD depending on the severity or progression. Extreme exercise restriction is a typical post-operative prescription after a Dachshund has spinal surgery to treat this debilitating condition.
However, there is no reason to assume that a treatment regimen for a diagnosed or post-op dog should be the standard for healthy dogs. Also, even though every case is different, it’s not a given that any dog who has suffered an IVDD related injury can no longer live an active life.
In fact, there is evidence suggesting that exercise can ward off disc calcification, an early symptom of what can develop into IVDD.
The UK Dachshund Breed Council has put together a useful resource to help the Doxie community make sense of IVDD. They clearly recommend that plenty of age/fitness appropriate exercise is for the best.
The hand wringing over jumping on furniture and using stairs? Turns out that healthy 3-year-old Dachshunds allowed to use stairs daily had LOWER incidents of IVDD.
Being aware of the symptoms of IVDD, and what to do if your Dachshund shows any of them, remains a critical part of responsible wiener dog ownership.
However, using IVDD as an excuse to allow your little athlete to become an obese lap potato just isn’t doing right by your dog.
Dachshunds Are Bred to Be Athletic
Dachshunds were bred as early as the 15th century to be tenacious and athletic hunters!
In fact, their primary prey was the badger, well known for being extremely mean, ornery, and dangerous.
The original name for descendants of the breed was Dachs Krieger – “Badger Warrior” in German.
These early little warriors were charged to dig down deep into underground tunnels to face down the agitated occupant and force the badger out of safety to the hunters waiting above ground.
To say a Dachshund is a naturally athletic is an understatement!
They Are Time Tested Athletes
Dachshunds continue to prove their athletic prowess and are popular participants in many dog sports.
Their natural athleticism and scent acumen makes wieners particularly skilled at Earthdog trials. Caged vermin are placed in a network of tunnels and Earthdogs learn to chase and “work” the quarry (although they cannot harm the rats).
As their skills improve, Earthdogs progress through a hierarchy of titles: Introduction to Quarry, Junior Earthdog, Senior Earthdog, and Master Earthdog.
In Dachshund field trials, Doxies are set in pairs, called “braces,” that are put on the scent of live rabbits and are then released to show off their scent tracking and quarry chasing skills.
They don’t catch or harm the rabbits, rather, they are judged for their ability to hold the trail of their quarry. Successful participants can win points towards the AKC Field Champion Title.
Although there are other breeds better suited for the wide range of skills it takes to win competitive agility (short legs aren’t exactly built for speed… although you would be shocked at how far they can run on little legs), that doesn’t stop wiener dogs and their owners from loving the sport.
Their determination, love of adventure, and excellent trainability makes Doxies delightful partners on the agility field, although a well-honed sense of humor is required.
Many Dachshunds, like Gretel, and Chester before her, can hike long distances to high elevations.
Holy crap! We made it!! Gretel hiked 4,700 feet over almost 5 miles (trail 10 miles round trip) to the second highest mountain in the US… and the highest you can bring a dog on. She did it all under her own power. Old man Chester hiked 3/4 of it. I am beyond proud of these two. And us! I wanted to quit probably no less than 50 times. #14er #Adventurewiener #adventuredog #trailtime #hikerchat #ToughestWienerDogInTheWorld #MtElbert #outdoorist
My Dachshund are not the only ones who are capable of, and love, hiking though.
Sniffing through the woods is literally in their blood and most take to it right away.
How to Get and Keep Your Dachshund in Shape
It should be clear by now that Dachshunds are not meant to be sedentary lapdogs. In fact, their exercise needs are more than what most people think.
In additional to general guidelines for dog fitness, there are some special considerations to be particularly aware of with Doxies.
Add Exercise Gradually
If your dog is in poor condition, rushing into strenuous exercise too fast can make him prone to injury. Give him some time to build up muscles to support his neck, spine and joints.
Start with regular walks at least 5 times a week, adding distance and difficulty as his fitness improves.
Puppies Require Special Consideration
The muscular skeletal system of young dogs is still developing during the first year so you should wait until your puppy is old enough for strenuous physical activity.
While normal levels of activity including play with other puppies or running around in the yard are not a cause for concern, it can be unwise to start activities such as leashed jogging, prolonged swimming, excessive and repetitive jumping, hiking, or very long walks.
Once acclimated to the exercise, Dachshunds make excellent sport or trail companions!
Train Your Doxie to Play Active Games
Fun games like fetch and find it will engage your wiener dog both physically and mentally. Plus, you can play these games inside when the weather isn’t cooperating.
Avoid games like tug-of-war, or activities that cause a lot of twisting, which can put undue stress on the neck and spine.
Investigate Dachshund Friendly Dog Sports
You may find there are clubs in your area that give your dog a chance to socialize and get plenty of exercise while giving you exposure to the most modern training techniques from people that really “get” dogs.
Flyball, Earthdog, Scent Work, and Agility are all good choices.
Hopefully this gave you a different perspective on miniature Dachshunds and inspired you to make sure you yours is getting enough exercise. Wiener dog are certainly not lapdogs!