The teckel or dachshund may be small and slightly comical but don’t be fooled: these fierce little dogs have almost endless sporting potential says Steven McGonigal
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On first appearances teckels give all the impressions of a lapdog: small in stature with an almost comical look about them. Anyone would be forgiven for thinking they were nothing more than a companion dog. However, delve a little deeper and you may be surprised. To clear up any ongoing confusion, a dachshund is a teckel, and a teckel is a dachshund. They are the same thing. There are working and showing types but they are all teckels or dachshunds.
Although a German breed by origin, they have a long-established British connection going back as far as 1840 when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha were gifted some top-quality smooth-coated dogs by Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar. These not only worked but had the pleasure of the Royal Kennels. Dachshunds have long enjoyed a relationship with the German aristocracy but it is thought that prior to the breed’s establishment there they were in the hands of French migrants who brought them to Germany, where they found favour among gamekeepers and foresters as well as the nobility.
Dachshund (pronounced ‘daks hund’ rather than the commonly and incorrectly used ‘dash hound’) translates literally as ‘badger hound’, and they were originally bred for the pursuit of badgers below ground. This continues today in parts of Germany and beyond where it remains a legal and important type of pest control. The dachshund has a stout heart but prefers brain over brawn and will rarely engage in a fight but rather ‘box’ his opponent and keep enough distance to stay out of harm’s way. This is never more evident than in the pursuit of wild boar to guns in Europe. The dachshund’s nimble nature and low set allows him to avoid the often treacherous tusks of an opponent sometimes five times his height and regularly well over 200lb in weight.
Robert Leighton wrote of the dachshund in 1922: ‘He comprises in his small person the characteristics of both hound and terrier – his wonderful powers of scent, his long, pendulous ears and, for his size, enormous bone, speak of his descent from hounds which hunt by scent. In many respects he favours the bloodhound, and one may often see dachshunds which, having been bred from parents carefully selected to accentuate some fancy point, have exhibited the very pronounced “peak” (occipital bone), the protruding haw of the eye, the loose dewlap and the colour markings characteristic of the bloodhound. His small stature, iron heart and willingness to enter the earth bespeak of the terrier blood.’
There are three sizes of dachshund along with three coat types, making a total of nine varieties. The smallest of these (and least seen) is known in German as kaninchen (rabbit), followed by zwerg (dwarf or miniature) and finally standard. Within these, we have the three coat types: smooth-haired, wirehaired and longhaired. There is often a misunderstanding that the wirehaired is the only working variety of dachshund but this is not the case.
THE TENACIOUS TECKEL – LEAVING NO STONE UNTURNED
Many smooth workers exist but more so in Eastern Europe. The longhaired variety too is a common worker, especially in America, where the miniature longhaired has gained a huge following. Breeders there have produced excellent dogs capable of a range of tasks, one of which is working with and flushing game to hawks. Teddy Moritz is well known in the USA not only as a teckel enthusiast but also as a falconer and writer. Her kennel of miniature longhaired dachshunds hunt several days a week, and her little dogs have a fierce reputation for leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of cottontail rabbits to push in front of the hawks.
To further confuse matters, in fact there are two varieties of wire coat, with one being thick and almost woolly and the other appearing from a distance to be smooth – it is actually a tight wire type known as ‘pin wire’. The pin-wire coat is preferable for many as it requires little maintenance and is pleasing to the eye.
Wendy Annette Riley, author of The Wisdom of the Simple and a keeper, worker and enthusiast of the breed, wrote in 1948: ‘To see a pack of dachshunds hunting across country is like watching small ripples and waves moving.’ She also found them ‘businesslike about their hunting as well as tenacious, untiring and essentially honest with such accurate noses that time is rarely wasted on an uninhabited earth or warren’.
These little ‘badger hounds’ have developed into a multipurpose sporting breed and today can excel in a number of jobs, including flushing pest species and an array of game to guns, as well as retrieving it; blood tracking for injured deer; and despatching vermin such as rats. Many even retrieve ducks from water. In Europe teckels are much in demand for driven hunts, or drückjagd. Their small size and slower speed isn’t a major concern for deer and wild boar, which equally are not under any pressure to move too fast in the large forestry tracts, allowing better opportunities for a shot.
In 1949, the Stourhead (Western) estate was perhaps an unusual place to find four couple of smooth-coated dachshunds at work. But at work they were and alongside owner Rennie Hoare, plus his gamekeeper, Bill Garrett. They managed to clear the forest of the large population of rabbits that were decimating the newly planted trees. This shows the complete adaptability of the dachshund and its ability to fit in and work whatever the task.
Today, teckels can be found working across the world. With their small size and unmatchable scenting ability, they are fast becoming the dog of choice for the deerstalker in the UK and abroad. Stalkers are finding this small, portable and keen little dog a pleasure to own and work as well as being a family companion. Locating an injured deer is second nature to the dachshund, and many are called upon to track animals that have either been injured or are unable to be located after shooting. “Being low to the ground with large ears that hold in any scent gives them a great advantage and, of course, their enthusiasm is second to none,” says British deerstalker and teckel aficionado George Smithfield, who made the change from owning larger dogs some years back. Lindsay Ware is a full-time professional tracker based in Canada. She works daily with her teckel, Aldo, tracking white-tailed deer, moose and bears, all of which Aldo takes in his stride. She believes the teckel “is much easier to handle while tracking through heavy cover and difficult terrain”.
In Europe, annually there are many trials for dachshunds as well as working certificates. These can range from voicing on scent, retrieving, blood tracking and steadiness all the way through to trials that run over two or three days, similar to spaniel or retriever trials in the UK but with more varied content and quarry. The most prestigious of these takes place in the Czech Republic. It is called the Memorial Rudolph Kristla and it draws competitors from across Europe for an intense three-day test including retrieving over large distances, searching for shot quarry, tracking, water retrieving and a boar test, to name just some of the tasks.
“It is a rule in Germany and Europe that a teckel should voice on scent [spurlaut – spur meaning scent and laut loud] on hare, rabbit, fox or other quarry while remaining quiet on a blood track when following up a wounded deer or boar,” explains Julia Szeremeta, co-compiler of The International Working Teckel. “This is something that is taught from early on. Stöbern is the German term for searching or hunting quarry from cover and it should be part of a teckel’s being – it cannot be taught,” she believes. This is the flip side of the much-loved ‘sausage dog’ that became a fashion accessory for celebrity owners including Brigitte Bardot, David Bowie and Pablo Picasso, and more recently pop star Adele and actress Nicole Kidman, to name but a few. Whoever thought those little dogs that are carried around in couture handbags by runway models were originally transported to hunts in Loden rucksacks and capable of driving wild boar to guns, tracking deer or catching rabbits?
Dachshunds are great characters. They are fun, they make great working and family companions, and are a joy to own. They are headstrong and require firm training as puppies but they do have a sensitive nature, especially bitches. An untrained dog is a nuisance; an untrained teckel is a nightmare. Stock training, recall and obedience are a must from day one. If you think a teckel may be for you, speak to other owners and to breeders. But make sure you find those who are doing health testing – teckels do have a number of inherited conditions – and have a history with the breed, and are not just cashing in on its rise in popularity.
Never forget that a teckel is nothing like a spaniel or labrador. Many will fall deaf on scenting a hare or deer and are prone to slipping down inviting-looking holes as their ancestors would have. Serious consideration needs to be given to this. Sadly, in many cases, a teckel proves too much for someone who wants a dog to take for a walk after a pub lunch. On the other hand, if you are prepared to spend time on training and give the dog the stimulation and exercise it needs, you will find yourself with a fiercely loyal sporting companion who will tire you out long before he is and may even put a rabbit or two in the pot come autumn, search up your shot deer or fetch a duck back from the water while taking up little room on the back seat of your Land Rover.
ESSENTIAL HEALTH TESTS FOR DACHSHUNDS
Potential puppy buyers should be aware of these conditions and the testing available to breeders.
PROGRESSIVE RETINAL ATROPHY
An inherited eye condition. It is a progressive disease that usually leads to blindness, affecting both eyes simultaneously. Unfortunately, there is no treatment, no cure and no way to stop or reverse the damage, so it is vital that potential breeding dogs are tested.
An inherited disease that causes defective collagen, leading to extremely fragile bones and teeth. Parents should always be tested.
A form of epilepsy present in miniature breeds. A simple DNA test is available and is essential before breeding.
INTERVERTEBRAL DISC DISEASE
A spinal problem occurring in the breed. Screening programmes are operated through the Kennel Club. Any responsible breeder should be involved.