I recently had the pleasure of discussing the challenges, benefits, and details of raising children around dogs with mum of two, Rachel Fletcher who also owns a Basset Fauve de Bretagne, Kipper. Below is her interview.
Have you grown up with dogs?
Mostly, though I wouldn’t say I had a good understanding of their behaviour or body language. We had two dogs until I was around eight years old, I then begged for another (as children do!) which we finally got when I was fifteen.
Who do you currently share your home with?
Myself, my partner Ryan, our two children, Isla (4 years) and Evelyn (7 months), Kipper the Basset Fauve, and Hobnob the cat!
What made you choose a Basset Fauve de Bretagne?
Ever since I converted to force free training methods, and became more interested in dog training at around 17 years of age, my partner and I had been researching breeds and making lists up of which we would like in the years to come.
We narrowed it down to a few different breeds that we thought might fit our lifestyle and on the shortlist was a Cardigan Corgi (a breed I’ve always loved), and the Basset Fauve de Bretagne.
There were many others that we thought of but weren’t seriously considered due to one reason or another.
After speaking with owners and breeders of both breeds, online and over the phone, for many months we came to the conclusion that the Fauve seemed to be the most easy going, family orientated, and calmer of the two – which has definitely been the case.
Did you have your children before the dog, or vice versa?
We had Isla first, then came Kipper, and then Evelyn.
What challenges did you face introducing Kipper and Isla?
Our biggest challenge was puppy biting. Of course, all puppies bite, and all two year olds run rather fast! So that was a regular game and became quite difficult to manage at times, to ensure both were safe and not learning bad habits!
How did you prepare Kipper for the arrival of Evelyn?
Kipper came into our lives at the age of 8 weeks, and at the time I was 8 weeks pregnant so we knew from the start that we had to bring this puppy up to be comfortable around children and babies. Thankfully, we have friends with both so he had many meetings with the different stages of youngsters from babies in arms to toddlers walking like T-Rex!
In the house we introduced some baby items like the bouncy chair, the changing mat, etc. and, using positive reinforcement, showed him which behaviours were appropriate around those items. We also introduced different sounds using the Sound Proof Puppy app, YouTube, etc. We did this gradually, increasing the volume and varying the types of baby cry. We used a hysterical cry as a cue for Kipper to go into his bed so that he had a safe space to retreat to and for us to be able to focus on, and deal with the baby in times of stress.
We didn’t need to adjust his routine as he never had one, he quickly got used to a lack of continuity in everyday life as this was the case since he was a puppy because we already had a young child to consider as well, so walk, meal and training times were always varied.
What was Kipper’s reaction to the new baby?
Amazingly calm and non plussed by the new arrival! He has always liked to be quite close to her but this has always been closely supervised. It’s easy to idealise and interpret this as love but it can also be stress related, so it’s always good to be mindful of that and get to know your dog and their body language to understand why they do what they do.
What are the biggest challenges you faced/are facing with having a baby and a dog?
People imagine having a newborn baby and having loads of spare time. Whilst this is true, I can assure you that the majority of this time is spent feeding the children, cleaning up after the children, chasing about after the children and all the time wishing you were in bed! Especially when a four year old is involved as well!
Time management has never been my strong point and this is even more noticeable with the three of them. Stretching myself between each of them but equally, not spreading myself too thin that I become utterly exhausted and of no use to any of them.
Know your limits, ask for help, know when to take time for yourself and don’t feel guilty for it!
Did you take any special measures to ensure Kipper didn’t feel left out by the arrival of Evelyn who needed so much extra attention?
I don’t know that he needed it really, we made sure to set time aside where either I or Ryan would do mini training sessions with him, we bought a new puzzle toy for him and used the many others he already had regularly. During the early weeks, Ryan walked him and made sure those walks were filled with Kipper-led sniffs and unwinding from the chaos of the house.
What do you love most about having dogs and children together?
I love the bond they are creating, I love it when Kipper actively chooses to be close to them, especially with my eldest. I love the smiles on their faces when he walks through the door and how my eldest talks so emotively about him.
What is one piece of advice you could pass onto people considering adding a dog to their family or people with dogs planning to have a baby?
Just one?! Learn as much as you can about dog body language and behaviour. Speak to a dog behaviour consultant and get a consultation/training plan put in place to ensure the transition for both parties is as smooth as possible.
Thank you to Rachel for talking to me about her experiences – if you are interested in taking part in an interview on your chosen dog related subject to be shared on our blog and newsletter, or if you’d like to guest blog, please contact me at [email protected]