If your new dachshund doesn't have an ideal personality right off the bat, you need to know how to handle her. This is important whether your dog is shy or aggressive. The body language for a fearful dog is often confused with aggressive behavior. If you look closely, however, you'll usually see distinct differences. For example, the fearful dog will lower her ears, tail, or even her entire body. The aggressive dog, on the other hand, will stand up on her toes, ears erect, tail stiff, and every muscle tensed.
When something frightens the fearful dog, her initial reaction is to back up or try to stand behind you for protection. If the scary thing or person continues to approach, the frightened dachshund may begin barking loudly. This is a defensive move, even though the barking may sound aggressive and “offensive.” The fearful dog may even lunge to create some space between herself and the feared object or person. If all else fails, she may feel she has to resort to biting.
To help the fearful dog overcome her worries, allow her to approach the feared object on her own terms. Reward quiet approaches with treats, but do not reward fearful reactions or coddle the dog. Telling her “It's okay,” will do the opposite and reaffirm that what she feared really was bad.
If your dachshund is afraid of people or certain groups of people, such as children, mail carriers, or delivery persons, you must be very careful in working with her. Never put a person in danger simply because you are trying to work your dog through her shyness.
For the adopted dog, many forms of aggression may surface because she is inexperienced or unsettled in her surroundings. For example, if an adopted dog never had a toy before, she may want to guard this newfound treasure. A dog may be aggressive to other dogs because she's had a previous bad experience or has had little opportunity for socialization. You may notice food aggression from a semi-starving dog or one that had to fight for every scrap of food she got.
Though there is a reason behind the way your dachsie responds, this does not give her an excuse to behave poorly or for you to allow the behavior to continue. Solutions to these and other behavior problems are covered in more depth in Chapter 13. If you can't handle problem behavior on your own, don't be afraid to get help.
Who Can Help You
Just because a person offers advice on an e-mail list does not make this individual an expert. Unless you know the advice came from an experienced, reputable dachshund trainer, breeder, or rescue coordinator, take it with a grain of salt. If the idea sounds off-base, and no respected professional seconds it, don't follow that lead.
If you are experiencing behavior problems or quirks with your dachshund, seek help. Dachshund breed rescues are excellent sources of assistance. Even if you didn't adopt your dog from a rescue, you can still contact these folks for advice or to be pointed in the direction of a reputable expert. There are also several rescue e-mail lists that you can join and where you can ask questions.
Don't forget that you can tap into your local shelter's expertise. Some shelters are quite sophisticated and have certified animal behaviorists and well-respected professional trainers on staff or in advisory positions. Call your shelter, and find out what kind of services they offer. If they don't have someone on staff, they are likely to be able to direct you to someone who can help.
Other sources for help include your veterinarian (who can rule out physical problems and offer some behavioral advice), a reputable trainer, or a certified animal behaviorist.