What’s the Minimum Exercise Required to Help Keep a Dachshund’s Back Strong?

As you know if you’re read my blog at all, I am very passionate about making sure a Dachshund gets enough exercise.

There are two main reasons for this:

  1. It helps to keep them healthy and fit
  2. It helps keep their core and back muscles strong so they are less likely to suffer from a back injury (or, as in our case, it was more mild and can recover faster)

Over the years, I’ve found that people often get a Dachshund- a small dog – because they think their size means they won’t need much exercise.

However, that is far from the truth.

Can a Dachshund learn to be lazy? Sure.

Portrait of a long haired dachshund standing proudly on a stump looking up
Photo Credit: Depositphotos/Lilun

But they were bred to be hunting dogs and many are capable of the same amount of exercise as most bigger dogs.

So what is the minimum amount of exercise your Dachshund needs to help them stay fit and strong?

General Guidelines for Exercise for Dachshunds

When it comes to exercise, each dog is different in their ability and interest. However, as with people, there are some minimum activity guidelines.

Generally, a healthy, adult dog needs at least 30 minutes of activity a day. Some dogs need a lot more in order to be happily tired.

While Dachshunds, a hunting breed with a lot of natural energy, are definitely capable of doing more than 30 minutes a day, based on experience, I would say that is an acceptable minimum.

However, my Dachshunds – and I’ve seen many who can do the same – can easily hike or walk for 1-2 hours a day or more.

In fact, my dogs are so used to exercising for longer they can hike up a steep hill for 4 or 5 hours and still have energy to sprint back to the car.

Of course, puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with health issues may need less exercise or be incapable of doing that much.

The general exercise rule for puppies is 5 minutes of activity for every month of age, up to twice a day.

Most senior dogs still need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day but they may need that broken up into 2-3 sessions a day and to go at a slower pace.

How is Exercise related to Back Injuries?

It’s definitely related but not in the way you might think.

Some owners are under the impression that their Dachshund’s backs are very fragile so keeping them less active reduces the risk of injury.

Even if the owner is very active, they often leave their Dachshund at home when going for a long walk or hike.

Also, the internet is plastered with warnings such as:

  • Never let your Dachshund use stairs
  • Never let your Dachshund jump up or off of anything
  • Dachshund’s can’t do sports like agility, dock diving, or flyball

It turns out that completely preventing a Dachshund from doing these things can’t prevent back injuries and, in some cases, may indirectly make a back injury worse.

For an explanation, I’m going to hand it over to a James Woller, a co-owner of the dog walking company Release the Hounds in Vancouver, Canada.

What Causes Back Problems in Dachshunds

Note: the below conclusions are based on a study that is well-respected in the Dachshund community. However, there are many factors that can play into your Dachshunds needs for exercise. Definitely check with your vet if you have any questions or concerns (but do keep in mind at lot are not Dachshund specialists and have not read this study).

Long haired red miniature Dachshund sitting in the grass looking up
Photo Credit: Depositphotos/Tylinek

With their long backs and short little legs, it comes as little surprise that Dachshunds are disproportionately likely to suffer from problems with their backs.

The potential for injury and pain is higher in Dachshunds than in many other dog breeds, whose leg length and back length are more in proportion and better able to support the weight of the dog.

More specifically, the long and short proportions of a Dachshund are caused by the dwarfism gene. This gene is associated with a higher rate of Chondrodystrophy and Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

IVDD causes Dachshund’s pine to age prematurely and for the spinal disks to become brittle. When one of these disks cracks or “explodes”, material from inside the disk damages spinal nerves.

Depending on where this happens along the spine, and to what degree, this can result in pain, lameness, or paralysis in the back legs or both the back and front legs.

In other words, most Dachshund back injuries are caused by genetics.

Debunking Common Myths About Dachshunds and Exercise

The increased tendency of Dachshunds to suffer from IVDD-related back injuries compared to other dog breeds is a known one.

Unfortunately, this has led to some misconceptions about exercise and activity restrictions that should be put on Dachshunds to purportedly protect their backs from injury.

The vast majority of websites, including some maintained by qualified veterinarians, will tell you that the way to protect a Dachshund’s delicate spine is to strictly prohibit them from climbing up on or jumping down from furniture.

Similarly, Dachshund owners are usually encouraged to avoid having a Dachshund in a home with lots of stairs and to install ramps to allow the Dachshund to get up and down stairs and onto and down from furniture if absolutely necessary.

It is also commonly assumed that Dachshunds have low to moderate energy levels and that their daily physical needs can be met by following their owners around the house.

The final, most prevalent, piece of advice regarding the care and protection of a Dachshund’s spine is to ensure that the dog is always held in a way that supports the back.

People are advised to keep the Dachshund’s body in a horizontal position while being held, with one arm supporting the rear end and the other supporting the chest.

One of the above pieces of advice is actually both correct and helpful to a Dachshund’s back.  Can you guess which one?

Your choices are:

  1. Prohibit Dachshunds from jumping up or down from furniture
  2. Prohibit Dachshunds from using stairs, and install ramps instead
  3. Dachshunds have low to moderate energy levels and shouldn’t exercise too much
  4. Dachshunds should be carried in a well-supported horizontal position.

Misconceptions About Activity and Back Injuries – What the Science Says

If you guessed that number four is the correct piece of advice, you’re absolutely right.

Dachshunds should be carefully carried in horizontal position with both their chest and rear firmly and equally supported.

This means that the first three pieces of advice are incorrect.

But how can this be so, with so many sources insisting that the way to protect a Dachshund’s back is to stop them from using furniture and stairs and to keep their activity levels to a moderate amount or less?

Let’s defer to the experts here and cite an extensive 2015 study on Dachshunds, published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2016, Volume 3, Number 1, Page 1).

DachsLife 2015: an investigation of lifestyle associations with the risk of intervertebral disc disease in Dachshunds 

This study involved an enormously in-depth study of the risk factors of Dachshunds suffering from IVDD, and the effects of furniture jumping, stair access, and exercise on the likelihood that a Dachshund will be diagnosed with IVDD during their lifespan.

Without getting into the statistics and the rigorous methods used when compiling the study (you can read that by clicking the link above), let’s jump straight to the results and how they relate to the three misconceptions identified above.

Incorrect Advice: Dachshunds Should Never Jump

  1. Prohibit Dachshunds from jumping up or down from furniture.

Study Conclusion

Dachshunds who were not allowed to jump up or down from furniture were found to be at greater risk of suffering from IVDD.

It’s thought that dogs who regularly jump up and down, and between items of furniture may gradually, develop spinal musculature, natural protection against IVDD.

Commentary: the study didn’t define height of jump but it’s assumed they didn’t mean jumping more than a foot or two.

Dachshund on the stone stairs with growing garden plants after rain
Photo Credit: Depositphotos/photopotam

Incorrect Advice: Dachshunds Should Not Use Stairs

  1. Prohibit Dachshunds from using stairs, and install ramps instead.

Study Conclusion

Dachshunds who did not use stairs at all, or who used a maximum of one step in or out of the house each day, were found to be at increased risk of being diagnosed with IVDD.

Commentary: Gretel’s rehab vet told us that stairs were good – especially going up – because it can help strengthen their core (as long as they were not going to likely fall and twist going up or down)

Incorrect Advice: Dachshunds Shouldn’t Get Too Much Exercise

  1. Dachshunds have low to moderate energy levels and shouldn’t exercise too much

Study Conclusion

Dachshunds who were exercised for less than 30 minutes a day had an increased risk of IVDD-related back injuries.

Dogs considered to be moderately or highly active were considerably less likely to suffer from IVDD-related back injuries.

One hour per day of deliberate exercise was considered sufficient to meet the natural energy requirements of a Dachshund while taking positive steps to reduce the risk of IVDD.

Commentary: I’ve found that 45-60 minutes a day is the ideal MINIMUM exercise for my own Dachshunds in order to tire them out and make them happy

Leashed black and tan short haired Dachshund out for his daily walk - regular exercise is important
Photo Credit: Depositphotos/antmos

So What Can You Do To Help Reduce the Chance of Your Dachshund Injuring Their Back?

Exercise Your Dachshund

People who have a Dachshund as a pet understandably want to do everything they can to increase their beloved dog’s health, happiness, and life expectancy.

This includes – and may be predominantly given that 25% of Dachshunds will have back issues in their lifetime – wanting to protect their Dachshund’s back from injury.

It is perfectly understandable, then, why many people follow the common – yet ill-advised – online advice warning against overexerting a Dachshund, or letting them climb stairs or jump up on furniture, for fear of hurting their back.

That’s the advice you most commonly see repeated around the internet. But saying something over and over again doesn’t make it right.

Unfortunately, people who follow this type of advice are inadvertently doing a grave disservice to their dog.

Yes, it is important to protect the relatively fragile overly long back of a Dachshund, but limiting their activity is not the way to do this.

As we now know, one of the best things you can do to prevent a back injury in your Dachshunds is to provide a moderate amount of daily exercise – ideally at least 30-60 a day.

Check out this article to see some of the many ways you can exercise your Dachshund

In addition, according to this study, there is likely a benefit from allowing your Dachshund to climb stairs and jump onto and between items of furniture.

Know the Signs and Symptoms of IVDD

The very best thing you can do to help prevent debilitating back injuries in your Dachshund is to know the signs of symptoms of IVDD.

In fact, this is doubly important if your Dachshund is active.

Symptoms of an IVDD-related injury can start with pain, discomfort, and stiffness, and can move to the inability to rise up and “stand” on the rear legs, loss of bladder and bowel control, and even complete paralysis.

Nobody wants that for their pet.

Some IVDD injuries are sudden and severe. In those cases, there were probably no warning signs for you to spot.

However, many others start with small signs (you won’t catch unless you really know what to look for) before progressing to a full disk rupture.

So what are the signs and symptoms that could mean your dog is suffering from an IVDD-related injury?

The most common are:

  • Walking wobbly or “drunk”
  • Standing with their back hunched
  • Showing signs of pain like shivering, rapid breathing, hiding in a corner or den (like crate or nook), and refusing to eat
  • Yelping or crying out if you touch them
  • suddenly paralyzed or not able to stand
A handy chart of IVDD episode symptoms and what to do if you expect your Dachshund is having an episode

If you notice any of these in your dog, please call your vet right away and make an appointment.

In the meantime, you must do this to help make sure the issue doesn’t get worse.

Final Thoughts

The increased tendency of Dachshunds to suffer from IVDD-related back injuries compared to other dog breeds is a known one.

Because of this, the Dachshund breed is considered one of the most likely to end up needing the use of a canine wheelchair to support the back legs in later life.

However, limiting a healthy Dachshund’s activity level, and types of activity, is unlikely to prevent back injuries.

In fact, this study, and some others out there, found that doing so may make the frequency and severity of spinal injuries in Dachshunds worse.

In most of the stories about Dachshunds who suffer an IVDD-related spinal injury and are partially or fully paralyzed, the owner could not point to a direct cause.

They describe their Dachshund being find one minute and being unable to walk the next.

While it is true that jumping and exercise may need to be limited in a dog with a history of back issues, assuming all Dachshunds need their activities limited is generally unnecessary.

As always, stay in touch with your veterinarian to regularly monitor the health, fitness, and well-being of your dog.

In the meantime, make the most of life with your courageous, bold, and short-statured fiery Dachshund.


Note: The basis for this article was originally provided by For an explanation, I’m going to hand it over to a James Woller, co-owner of Jet Pet Resort and Release the Hounds, professional dog service companies based in Vancouver, Canada. James is also the executive director of Thrive For Good, a non-profit movement to secure organic food and natural medicine in impoverished countries.

However, I have modified it so much over the years that it is now almost completely my own.

What's the Minimum Amount of Exercise My Dachshund Needs?

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.

12 Comments

  1. I am 67 yrs. young, and I have had dachshunds since I was 14. All of them were standard, and lived 20 + years. Exercise is necessary for quality of life dogs as well as humans. Get one!

    .

    1. Woe. How wonderful to have shared your life with Dachshunds for so long. They certainly are special little dogs 🙂

  2. I read the article and was amazed to know that they can jump up and down from my bed. I was under the impression that not let my dogs jump was good for them. Now I know not to stop him, he loves the stairs to the house. And walks he gets a lot of them everyday. I’ve learned so much more by reading this article. Thank you so much for the information that was provided.

    1. Personally, I would not let my Dachshunds jump from a standard bed height. Most are well over two feet high. Furniture that is 15-18 inches high on occasion for me though. I allow them to jump off the window perch that is that high but not the couch, which is also that high. To me, the idea is to allow it sometimes when it’s not very high but not for them to overdo it. Stairs are always ok to me.

  3. I have an 8 month and a 2 year old miniature dachshund. They chase each other and wrestle daily. Is this dangerous play for their backs? They use stairs but sometimes jump off the couch when excited.

    1. Hi Joan. I would definitely prevent or greatly minimize jumping off the furniture. Here is an article on my other Dachshund blog that can help with that. https://formydachshund.com/how-to-prevent-your-dachshund-from-jumping-on-and-off-furniture/. The chasing and wrestling is ok but I would always stay vigilant about watching after to make sure one isn’t limping. If one is trying to get away from the other, personally, I would give them each a time out. One dog may “play” beyond when they are tired or sore simply out of defense. If it seems pretty even and fair though, it should be fine.

  4. This was a good and easy to read article. It reminded me of my Dachshund. He was always so precarious, getting into everything. One time he chewed completely through the cage when I left him at home. At that point I got a pet sitter but it was okay. He was the best dog ever!

  5. We have bought a ramp for my miniature dachshund. He loves to play by running up and down it after a doggy toy is thrown is this ok for him. I was also told that providing you put your hand under his bottom it was ok to carry him vertically. She is only 5 months old Please can you help.

    1. Hi Irene. Yes, as long as the back end is supported, carrying them vertically is ok. Horizontal is ideal but not always practical. Running up and down the ramp should be find as long as he actually runs the whole thing and doesn’t jump off the side half way down.

  6. I have my 4th dachshund. He’s just a year. Got him from a very good breeder. All my other ones were fine. Never suffered back issues. We have a bi-level house, so stairs all the time. He’s on the BARF diet, which I feel is a very good diet. He gets long walks. He has great muscle tone in his hind legs. Will he be OK with the stairs?

    1. Hi Kathy. I asked our rehab vet (when Gretel had her back injury) and she did not strictly advise against stairs. She even speculated there could be some benefit in regard to strentgh. However, she did point out that stairs were ok a long as there was little or no risk of a Dachshund falling off, or down them, and twisting their spine. And, based on my experience and comfort level, I don’t allow my dogs to go down stairs that are taller than they are long so they can actually step down instead of jump (I’m not worried about up unless it’s so tall they might not make it and fall).

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