Two brown dachshunds sit on the leash in a park.

You know what they say: when you want to live happy like they did on the homestead, that’s when it’s time to “get a long, little doggie!”

Groan if you want, but jokes like that are emblematic of the adoration owners of long dog breeds hold for their precious pups. 

Dogs with “long but low” profiles include some of the most recognizable breeds on the planet, including dachshunds, corgis, and basset hounds. Many animal wellness experts also include other breeds not commonly thought of for their long backs, like shih tzus and pekingeses. 

In addition, some dogs that are relatively stout and well-proportioned can also suffer from similar health issues to their low-to-the-ground counterparts, including German shepherds, golden retrievers, border collies, Labrador retrievers, and certain types of Spaniels.

As you can see, back issues are not exclusive to dogs shaped like weiners or bread loaves! Many of the most popular breeds can have similar issues, especially if the individual dog happens to have a particularly long back. 

To benefit owners of all “long dogs” — and ensure their pups are able to live a long, healthy life — we’ve provided the helpful tips below.

Take Them to the Vet Often

Dogs with legs that are not proportionate to the size of the rest of their body are referred to as “chondrodystrophic.” This trait stems from early growth plate termination during the dog’s fetal development.

Genetic research has been able to trace the emergence of the chondrodystrophic gene to very early on in the evolution of domestic dogs. In other words, stumpy dogs have been around for quite a while — far longer than the development of most iconic breeds that bear the trait. 

While the prevalence of the “long and low” gene now is largely the product of intentional breeding, it’s safe to say that it stuck around up until recent history because it must not have hindered dogs too much! Otherwise, we wouldn’t be leashing up their extensive descendants to this day.

That said, long dogs do have a higher incidence of certain health problems, including:

  • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)
  • Spinal cancer or infection
  • Acute spinal injury
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Angular limb deformities
  • Osteoarthritis


To monitor for these conditions, while ensuring your dog has an overall high quality of life, make sure to bring your dog to the vet at least once a year. Book an appointment immediately if you notice any changes to activity, eating, posture, or bathroom habits.

As your dog gets older — or if it begins to encounter chronic health problems early on — then take it in more frequently so that you can verify that no problems are sneaking in under the radar. Since many degenerative conditions like IVDD are cumulative, it can be tough for owners to notice them without an outsider’s perspective, so be proactive, and take precautions when it comes to your long dog’s back health!

Symptoms of Back Issues in Dachshunds, Corgis, Bassets, and Other Long Dogs

Signs of back issues in your dog will largely consist of drastic behavior changes, such as a dog that is “unable or unwilling to jump or go up stairs, is reluctant to move around, has a hunched back, cries out, or refuses to eat or go potty,” in the words of Denver-based Vida Veterinary Care. All these behaviors indicate intense pain and changes in ability.

Also be on the lookout for:

  • Bruising or swelling along the spine
  • Difficulty or inability to move the head or back legs
  • Intense pain responses when touched, especially near back or neck
  • Fever

Stick to Safe Activities (And Don’t Overdo It)

The long backs of certain breeds makes them more predisposed to injury, as well as the cumulative effects of degenerative wear on their discs, bones, and other tissues.

At the same time, these potential risks don’t make the dog any less excited to participate in activities. In fact, dachshunds and corgis are some of the most energetic and curious breeds, so they deserve both the exercise and mental stimulation that can come with a packed regular schedule of activity.

Experts typically recommend 30 minutes to an hour of activity every day with your dog. This activity should be increased when the dog is developing as a puppy, and it can be reduced (but not eliminated!) as the pet’s age advances and their energy levels taper off.

In every case, be extremely careful with the type of activities you enjoy. Try to entirely avoid:

  • High speed running or chasing
  • Heavy use of steps
  • Rough play with other pets or people
  • Tug of war (places extreme stress on the spine)
  • Games involving jumping off furniture, fixtures, porches, steps, etc

Be Careful When Lifting

You and everyone else living with and caring for your long dog will have to learn a particular technique to lift them safely.

When lifting your long dog:

  1. Keep their spine straight throughout the whole process
  2. Place your hand under their chest
  3. Use your other hand to support their abdomen and lift in tandem with their chest, keeping the spine straight
  4. Move your hand to their rump or back feet to keep them from dangling while being carried, as needed
  5. Always gently place the dog on the ground, ensuring they are supporting their back with their hind legs before letting go

Try to only lift your dog when they are calm and relatively still, too. If you catch them by surprise, they could try to wriggle out in a frenzy, likely placing serious stress on the spine.

Provide Accommodations to Reduce Jumping

Long dogs are not only, well, lengthy, but they also tend to be lower to the ground than their more-proportionate counterparts. This configuration makes it extremely difficult for them to get up and down steps and furniture. 

Just imagine trying to get into a bed that’s around 20 feet tall to you! That’s about what it feels like to jump into a high bed as a dachshund.

To keep stress on the animal to a minimum, provide them with a ramp or shallow steps to get onto bedding and furniture, as needed. 

Also, don’t wait until the animal is older or already experiencing potential issues to provide this accommodation! Proactive prevention reduces the cumulative stress they will experience, avoiding the type of wear-and-tear that affects their mobility as they age.

Maintain a Good Weight, and Feed a Good Diet

Don’t let your long dog turn into a big log!

Some of the most frequently heard advice from vets on these breeds is to make sure they maintain a good weight. Being overweight hampers their mobility, makes it tougher for them to keep their muscles fit enough to safely carry their weight, and creates even more pressure and risk for their spines.

Work with your vet to determine a healthy diet and the right meal portions to provide to ensure they don’t get too plump. You may want to steer towards options that promote bone and joint health, too, especially if your animal is older or begins to encounter issues like arthritis.

Keep After Their Coat

It may not be the first thing you think of, but your long dog’s coat can end up causing them more trouble as they age than their actual spine. How so? Because any issues with their coat, like itching or dryness, will mean irritations that are that much harder to get to because of their long shapes. 

In addition, constant grooming can put pressure on the spine, while issues related to oily coats or matting can further risk infections of their back legs or even their spine.

Fortunately, places like Greenlin Pet Resorts can provide your protracted pup with professional dog bathing services. A bath can be added onto your training, dog daycare, or dog boarding package for extra convenience and a squeaky clean canine!

Get Help Training or Providing Safe Activity With Greenlin in Mechanicsburg

High energy breeds and breeds with back problems can tend to be a tricky combination, especially when you have a busy schedule as it is. Finding safe activities to keep them healthy can get difficult, but at Greenlin we always pull out all of the stops to ensure every dog has a fun, safe time.

Our dog daycares in central Pennsylvania always separate guests by size and special needs, including when they can’t quite run with the bigger pack for fear of their own safety. Our staff are also trained to provide care accommodations, as needed, and keep their eyes out for any potential issues that could result in an unhappy guest. Most importantly, everyone is trained in Pet First-Aid and CPR.

You can expect the same royal treatment when boarding your dog in the Harrisburg area, as we go above and beyond to ensure pet comfort, safety, and enjoyment. Any of these services can be combined with one another or dog training, the latter of which can be especially useful when trying to get your pet to avoid certain activities or to respond to specific safety commands.Your long dog’s long day of enjoyment can be had at any of our six locations in the Harrisburg area, so call or click on the location nearest you to find out just how eager we are to serve.