Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
The Dachshund is a popular dog breed with a distinctive long body and short legs.
If you’re thinking about getting one of these adorable dogs, you might have heard they’re aggressive.
However, is there any truth to this claim?
Dachshunds are one of the most aggressive dog breeds and actively protect their owners and territory. They were traditionally badger hunting dogs, and their prey instinct is often activated when they see small animals. Unneutered males and females with puppies can be particularly aggressive.
Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about aggressive behavior in dachshunds.
Are They Aggressive to Humans?
Dachshunds can be aggressive to humans because they are very territorial and protective of their owners. If someone invades a dachshund’s personal space uninvited, they may react aggressively out of fear.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine revealed that dachshunds are one of the most aggressive dog breeds.
Despite their small size, dachshunds are typically confident dogs.
Still, they can quickly feel threatened by larger animals or humans and display aggressive behavior.
However, if the people around them know not to invade the Dachshund’s personal space and the Dachshund has been socialized well, aggression should not be an issue.
I’ll discuss how dachshunds behave around family members and strangers below:
If you’re considering getting a dachshund as a family dog, here’s what you need to know about their behavior around different age groups:
Dachshunds can feel stressed and anxious when there is a change to their home environment, and a new baby is introduced.
Since they are hunting dogs, you should exercise caution and supervise them around your baby.
Your Dachshund may confuse them with a small animal and attack them.
When your baby begins crawling and exploring their environment, they might invade your Dachshund’s personal space or grab at their fur.
This can initiate aggression in your dog, potentially causing them to bite your baby.
Toddlers like to explore new things through touch; if you have a dachshund, they will likely want to touch and pull their fur.
While well-socialized dachshunds don’t mind being petted, they may react aggressively if the toddler pulls their tail or fur too roughly.
Toddlers and dachshunds can develop a friendly relationship, but you need to teach both to show respect for each other.
Older kids typically do well with dachshunds because you can easily teach them the correct way of playing with a dachshund, namely not engaging in “tug of war” type activities and playing games that dachshunds enjoy, such as fetch.
If your child has never had a dog before, the Dachshund’s diminutive size can make interacting with a dog feel less overwhelming.
Dachshunds are usually incredibly loyal and protective of their owners.
If you train your Dachshund from a young age to obey you and they know that you are the leader of the pack, they will be submissive and should not display aggression.
You can show your Dachshund that you are the leader by:
- Walking in front while on walks.
- Entering first when you’re both walking into a room.
- Teaching them commands and insisting that they perform a command before giving them a treat or toy.
Now that I’ve explained how dachshunds typically behave around family members, I’ll dive into their behavior around strangers:
In Your Home
Dachshunds are very territorial and loyal and will aggressively protect their homes and owners from potential threats, including guests or intruders.
Dachshunds will not be aggressive toward strangers if you introduce them correctly.
When guests come into your home, ask them to allow your dog to make the first move, so your pet doesn’t feel scared and lash out aggressively.
If you’re worried your Dachshund might become aggressive, put them on a lead and take them into another room if needed.
Dachshunds are small, cute, and adorable-looking dogs and are not what most people have in mind when they think of a guard dog.
While they might not scare away intruders due to their small size, they will actively try and protect their territory from intruders.
They will bark and bite at the intruder’s ankles.
Outside Your Home
When your Dachshund is out and about and not well-socialized, they might growl or bare their teeth at other people or animals who try to approach them or their owners.
If you’re out on a walk with your Dachshund and you meet a friend and hug them, your dog might perceive this as a threat and could display aggression to try and protect you.
Are They Aggressive to Other Animals?
Dachshunds can be aggressive toward other animals if they aren’t socialized or appropriately introduced. They were initially bred as badger hunting dogs, and their instinct is to chase small animals. However, they can learn to tolerate and become great friends with other pets in the home.
I’ll explain more about how dachshunds interact with other animals below:
Other Animals in Your Household
Dachshunds are playful, confident, and spunky little dogs who love being in charge.
Since hunting smaller animals is in a dachshund’s genes, this trait can sometimes cause problems if you don’t introduce new pets gradually and calmly.
When introduced properly, or if the pets grow up together, dachshunds will thrive with other dachshunds or larger, friendly dogs.
They can do equally well with cats, rabbits, and ferrets under the same conditions.
If you want to introduce a bird, rodent, or reptile to a dachshund, try and make the first meetings on neutral territory and keep your dog on a leash.
Once the new pet is part of your household, ensure that they are protected by a cage and closely supervise interactions with your Dachshund until you’re confident that the two pets are used to each other.
Animals They Encounter Outside
In the previous section, I mentioned that dachshunds were traditionally badger hunting dogs.
When they encounter animals (especially small ones) outside, their prey instinct can kick in, and they won’t hesitate to try to catch a duck or a squirrel.
Therefore, You should closely supervise all outdoor interactions with other animals.
Are Female or Male Dachshunds More Aggressive?
Female dachshunds can be more aggressive if they have puppies and are trying to protect them, while unneutered males are more aggressive than neutered ones.
Neutering your male Dachshund involves removing their testicles, causing a decrease in testosterone, which can prevent:
- Aggression toward other dogs, especially rival males.
- Mounting other dogs.
- Other males from viewing them as a rival and fighting with them.
What Can Cause Aggressive Behavior?
Lack of socialization or training, separation anxiety, and personal space invasion can cause aggressive behavior in dachshunds. A change in the dog’s household, pain, boredom, not being neutered, and having puppies can also cause aggression.
I’ll discuss these causes of aggression in more detail below:
Lack of Socialization or Training
Dachshunds who have not been adequately socialized with humans or other animals can display aggression.
If your Dachshund struggles with this, gradually introduce them to other people and animals by going on daily walks, visiting dog parks, and other public spaces.
Dachshunds need a lot of direction and training as puppies to become well-behaved adults.
Thankfully, if your adult dachshund is aggressive, taking them to a professional dog training facility can help them overcome it.
Depending on your Dachshund’s personality and relationship with you, they can experience separation anxiety when you’re not there, which can sometimes manifest as aggression.
To prevent this, try giving your dog plenty of exercise before leaving the house and leaving them with new and interesting toys.
Personal Space Invasion or a Household Change
Petting a dachshund uninvited, tugging at their fur, or pulling their tail invades their personal space, causing them to lash out aggressively.
As sensitive and protective dogs, dachshunds can become stressed and act out aggressively when there is a change in the household.
When introducing a new baby or pet to your Dachshund, do it gradually and make the first meeting in neutral territory.
As with all dogs, when dachshunds are ill or injured, they can behave aggressively to protect themselves from further pain.
This behavior typically resolves when the dog recovers from the illness or injury.
If you think your Dachshund is ill or injured, it’s essential to take them to the vet as soon as possible.
Dachshunds are playful and intelligent dogs who need a lot of stimulation.
Although they don’t need to be walked as much as larger breeds, dachshunds thrive on games with their owners and interesting toys.
When they are bored, dachshunds can become aggressive and act out.
Being Unneutered or Having Puppies
Unneutered males have higher testosterone levels, a hormone that can cause aggression.
Neutering your Dachshund reduces testosterone levels and can resolve aggressive behavior issues.
It’s normal for mother dachshunds to be protective of their puppies, and they will act aggressively if they think someone is trying to harm them.
Is Your Dachshund Being Aggressive or Protective?
Your Dachshund is aggressive if their prey instinct has been activated, they haven’t been socialized or appropriately trained, and they lash out at other animals or people. They are protective if they think someone is trying to hurt their owner or puppies or invade their territory.
It’s normal for dogs, including dachshunds, to be protective over their owners, puppies, or territory if they perceive a threat.
Lashing out at guests or other pets who have not invaded their personal space shows aggressive behavior.
Learn To Recognize the Signs That Your Dog Is About To Get Aggressive
While you can socialize your Dachshund and train them continuously, avoiding aggression is not always possible.
Here are some common signs that your dog is about to get aggressive so that you can take action quickly:
- The fur on the back standing up
- Ears back
- Lowering the head and body into a lunge position
If you notice any of these signs, it’s advisable to calm your Dachshund down using a calm and gentle voice and restrain them before moving them elsewhere before things escalate.
What To Do During an Aggressive Episode
If your Dachshund displays signs of aggression, they are likely out of control and will not obey commands, even if they are well-trained.
In such cases, it’s best to de-escalate the situation before they hurt themselves, a person, or another animal.
Here’s what to do during an aggressive episode:
- Don’t shout or physically punish your Dachshund, as this will exacerbate the behavior. Instead, command them to stop in a loud and assertive voice.
- Distract your Dachshund by asking them if they want a treat, for example.
- Spray water on your Dachshund.
- If your Dachshund is on a leash, pull it back sharply.
- Separate your Dachshund from the other animal using large, heavy objects like chairs.
- Grab your Dachshund by the hips, lever them upward and take them to another area.
When To Get Professional Help
If you have tried to socialize and train your Dachshund not to be aggressive and it is not working, it is time to get professional help.
Start by chatting with your vet, who might recommend an examination to rule out a physical cause.
If the vet doesn’t find anything concerning, they will likely recommend you contact an animal behavioral expert.
An animal behavioral expert will work with you and your Dachshund to discover why their behavior is so aggressive and will implement a training regime to rectify the behavior.
The rehabilitation process may include:
- Training you to have a calm demeanor with your Dachshund and to recognize when your Dachshund is about to lash out.
- Ensuring your Dachshund has enough stimulation (i.e., enough exercise and engaging toys).
- Using positive reinforcement techniques.
- Training your Dachshund to obey commands.
When dachshunds are not trained or socialized correctly, they can easily become aggressive.
Since they were traditionally bred as badger hunting dogs, it’s natural for dachshunds to display aggression toward smaller animals.
Thankfully, you can improve aggressive behavior in your dachshunds by providing them with plenty of exciting toys and exercising them enough.
You must consult your vet or an animal behavior expert if this doesn’t work.
- ScienceDirect: Breed Differences in Canine Aggression
- Dog Discoveries: Discovering the Effects of Testosterone on Dog Behavior
- AKC: Is Tug-of-War Bad for Dogs?
- AKC: Dachshund History: The Badger Dog’s Fascinating Past
- Petfinder: Behavioral Problems of Unneutered Male Dogs
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society