Some thoughts and considerations surrounding bringing home your new baby and helping your dachshund (and you) cope.
I am often asked for advice on the best way to introduce a new baby to a home with a dachshund. This blog is a long one but I have tried to pack in as much as possible, and include some advice from fellow dachshund parents.
As a mum, I remember introducing Kieron to the dogs clearly, admittedly I didn’t do much prep work, my life around the pregnancy wasn’t the best and I was in survival mode. He then came a month early, so I was totally unprepared! Thankfully introductions all went smoothly. As many of you know, he has grown into quite the compassionate and caring owner despite his 'Kevin' moments!
Firstly, a word from the wise, without meaning to sound old, I am grateful that social media wasn’t really a thing when I had Kieron, The expectations set out by the world through a screen are scary. I’ve always prided myself in being open and honest with you. Its not easy. Those pictures are a moment in time. They do not catch the sleepless nights, the random tears and feelings that you just are not good enough. But, if I can get through it, then you can too.
14 years on I have gathered so many tips and tricks, from my own experiences, from the advice I’ve given others and from listening to other parents. By understanding where people struggle it has helped me form a list of top tips, but it is important to remember the advice is general and it really does depend on your situation and your dachshund.
In honesty there is not a one way suits all when it comes to introducing a baby to the home. Much of your journey will be trial and error, just as your new journey into parenthood will be. I don’t miss those early days, it wasn’t fun, however Kieron is now 14 and I’m certainly not enjoying this Kevin stage much either!
The age old rules do apply here, and if you get nothing else from this blog remember to teach your children this.
"Let sleeping dogs lie!" - If they are asleep, if they are resting, leave them alone.
"Never touch a dog with a bone!" - If they are eating their food, have a chew or any item that is valuable to them, leave them alone!
"Always ask before touching a dog you don't know!" - Sadly this rarely happens now, from children or adults. We need to correct this, and this has to start with us adults!
Here we go, please feel free to add your advice in the comments below.
Safety is always a priority, children under 5 cannot follow instructions or remember them at least. It is our responsibility as parents to manage interactions, and to pay attention! They do not have common sense. And, it doesn't always come naturally to us either! Kids can be unpredictable, dogs are just being dogs. Both are learning! We have to helicopter parent constantly to keep everyone safe. We are human, we do make mistakes and therefore it is important to put in management strategies to allow for our errors as parents – of which there will be many! We can only do our best. Having some strict rules that you all agree to and stick to can really help ensure consistency across everyone in the home and make lives so much easier. After 5 it does get easier, but you still need to ensure your dogs needs are met and the ‘rules’ are in place and adapted as your baby grows.
Firstly, think about any changes in your routine that may occur in the later stages of pregnancy and particularly when the baby arrives. Will they still sleep in your room? Will they need to have their safe place (that’s a must with young children especially when they start moving around) in a different area? Will your walking routine change? Its highly likely you (mum) won’t be able to walk as far or as fast as you do now, so how are you going to cope with this? Do you generally leave their toys lying around? How will they differentiate between their toys and the babies? When they are walking will they need to learn how to walk beside you when you have a stroller? Where do they sit in the car? Will you want them sitting next to your baby in the back seat? Lots to think about and consider. Think about these changes and write them down. Then create a plan for each thing. Start adapting your routine early on so its not a shock when your beautiful bundle comes home. Have a plan B just in case you need it. Its better to be prepared than panic at last minute. Kieron was a month early, I had nothing ready, I was completely unprepared!
I have popped some links at the bottom with guides and links to desensitisation sounds to help you pre arrival.
Things to consider:
When you are sitting on the sofa…where is your dachshund? When you bring your baby home, will they be allowed to lie there? What about if you are feeding the baby? Start teaching them to go to a specific, highly rewarded space at different times of day, as soon as possible.
Create a safe space your dachshund can retreat to where your baby cannot follow (once they are mobile). Start this now. This is a place where only good things happen, they can come and go as they need to and can relax. Its also a great visual cue to you that they need some space too and if the baby grows seeing this they will learn just by observation which will make things easier for them.
You don’t want to create any conflict around the baby – the stress hormones are passed through your milk to the baby, and the dogs could create a negative association. They pick up on even the most subtle of things.
When you bring the baby home, it is often easier for many to ask someone to dog sit for you, ideally the first 2 weeks but particularly the first week. Why? Because you will be nakkered! Emotional! All the hormones, lack of sleep, exhaustion from labour take their toll and your coping skills and new parenting hormones will be in overdrive. People don’t talk about the 3 day blues enough. You will cry at the drop of a hat!
Give yourself a minute to settle into being a new parent and getting into a routine to keep things easier. Once you’re in the rhythm collect your dax, go for a lovely long walk with the baby wrapped up nice and warm.
When you come home keep your daxie on lead and baby secured safely and let them sniff the baby’s clothing when they are calm. You will have to asses this part yourself based on your knowledge of your dogs. I allowed mine to sniff Kieron’s bottom, with all limbs wrapped in a blanket and his bum in a nappy. I sat on the edge of the sofa and used my hands as a guard to protect him. By sitting on the edge I could stand quickly if I needed to. I was alone doing this with 5 large dogs, so if there are 2 of you doing it life will be much easier. Introduce one dog at a time, and then carefully introduce the others at a slow and calm pace. Careful delivery of rewards to the floor. Controlling the lead from low down can prevent jumping up. Trying to keep everything calm (including yourself) is key!
Tip: Dachshunds tend to nudge with their noses, use the backs of your hand to control this interaction and keep things calm and short.
Potentially controversial, but, I am a big fan of baby pens rather than restricting the dogs. Why? It means I can create a safe space for the baby to go with their toys and the dogs can observe them safely and remove themselves if they feel overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I still had dog gates up, but this gave me added comfort when I just wanted to relax and have some time with the dogs. Being a single mum I had to find ways around things to make life easier and to split my time safely between baby and dogs.
The pen is great when the baby starts moving about as you can relax that they will be in that area if you doze off. I vaguely remember falling asleep and Kieron locating a box of tissues, yep, you guessed it, tissues all over! You will fall asleep, trust me, that doesn’t make you a bad parent! But you will learn from your mistakes!
There are loads of child play pens online. If you set the expectation the dog never goes in that area, they learn the toys in there are not theirs, it creates a reasonable expectation of a certain amount of space and it gives you an easy place to pop the baby if you need to go to the loo or answer the door!
I do a lot of rewarding four paws on the floor and mat/bed training. I think often the biggest struggle is the high-pitched squeak of the baby. The daxies can get quite distressed or overexcited at that. I teach settle right from early days. Some people recommend those fake babies that cry. I can’t say I’ve used one, however it will teach you how to hold the baby and train, and will help your dogs understand some elements of the context which will be easier to transfer to real life. I am a strong believer in using the lead to help guide them, it gives you additional control and security around the baby. Remember to practice during the day and at night. Night-times are especially challenging at the beginning.
Moses baskets….don’t do it! Certainly not at the start. Dachshunds really struggle with them at the beginning. They are nosey, we all know that and the thing they can’t see but can smell and hear can really wind them up. You may find later on you can introduce it, but they make me nervous. Too easy to lose attention and your dog innocently jumps up for a nosey and knocks it flying! Side sleepers are recommended by many owners, although I didn’t use one myself.
Ensuring your dog’s needs are met, physically and mentally, but also remember how much they love to cuddle you. Your attention will naturally be elsewhere so do make sure they get plenty of time to snuggle.
I asked my Barking Course Graduate parents to share their top tips on raising babies with dachshunds. Things they wish they had known before, things that they did prior to and when the baby arrived. They have kindly shared some pictures. Please remember these images remain the property of these people and should not be copied! Here’s their advice below:
Priya - “We set up all the baby equipment about two months before hand so Monty could get use to it being around the house. Did a few walks with an empty pram. And the most bonkers idea (which I think worked!) was I would walk around with a plastic doll in my arms so he could get use to me carrying something that wasn’t a plaything for him!”
Christina - “I also walked round with a plastic doll and talked to it a lot. Biggest thing for us was playing crying sounds to desensitise him to it throughout the pregnancy - he has never been bothered by our baby’s cry which is amazing. What we didn’t think of is his laugh. Now he has started laughing Brinkley shoots up to check he is ok so in hindsight would have added laughing noises etc in. We also set up equipment early too. Focused on ones that made noises like swinging chair which played music so he could get used to it.”
Lianne - “We did all of the above initially. But we just never forced him to be near her. Especially now she is on the move and wanting to touch/stroke him. We always make sure we are there and he can move away. Watching for signs he isn’t happy, eg. looking away/yawning. Give him space to eat and teaching the baby not to bother him when he’s in his bed.”
Paul - “Speaking entirely on the experience of our first and only dog, as well as first and only baby... I really think how you prepare and manage introducing a baby would be depend a lot on each dog. I'd say the most important rule should almost go without saying, but we never leave them together unsupervised. We played baby crying sounds ahead of time, to which Layla (the dog) barely reacted to. However, when baby came, she'd bark every time he cried, which went on for around three days. After that, he became part of the furniture; and when we were stressing out over colic and reflux induced crying (or any), Layla could not give a sh*t. When it comes to all the gear that comes along with a baby, we've been pretty lucky in that Layla has never been overly bothered by anything. We assembled the pram in the living room ahead of the arrival, more out of necessity and nothing to do with preparing Layla. Even so, pushing it a round inside she wasn't bothered by it at all. Now, for us the biggest challenge has been managing the baby, rather than the dog - in particular when he became more mobile. You can only baby proof so much, and they're so fast that sometimes you can't help but give a panicked reaction to the baby getting into the rubbish bin or grabbing a mop by the dirty end. Because of this, we had a period of barking brought on whenever he went near either of these things. Over time though she's stopped. At the end of the day, I think you can do all the prep you want which will help a bit, but in the end they kind of just get used to the baby in their own time. And in many ways, sometimes better than us Are they best friends? No, but that's ok. They still greet each other excitedly and then go about their own business which is fine with us.”
Al – “My lasting advice would be "be prepared to be given lots of dachshund toys!! We did everything above plus lots of Sounds Soothing from Dogs Trust and handling him differently to get used to being grabbed and prodded. Fingers crossed all is going pretty well one year in, and he has dealt super well with everything.”
And, sometimes, it just doesn’t go to plan. Sophie has kindly explained how she approached her situation despite lots of pre baby prep work. (Edited down a tad)
Sophie: “We did everything you are “supposed” to do ie played baby noises, set up equipment well in advance, carried mock babies and brought home babies clothes from the hospital before we came home to sniff, but none of this was enough to subside our dachshunds anxiety and she was completely overwhelmed when we brought our baby home. So if I could give any warning if you like, it’s that these things don’t always work and that is okay…..Anyhow, she went to live with my mum and wider family for a few weeks (she frequently stays there and is very comfortable there) because it seemed like the best and only option at the time. We went for walks together every day which she oped well with. We built this up to her coming back into the home with us after our walks and followed her cues as to when she had had enough. Eventually, she got to a stage where she didn’t want to leave and escape the situation any more and we knew she was ready to come home. She is now fantastic with our 7 month old. We decided it was easier to crate the baby than the dogs, as this isn’t something they’ve been subject to since tiny pups. This allowed us to leave the baby in a secure place where the dogs could investigate safely. We chose a next to me cot with mesh sides so the dogs could again see what was making strange noises from inside this new piece of furniture. After a few weeks, everyone learned that there was enough of me for everyone to have snuggles.
As your baby grows there will be other things to consider, where advice will vary depending on your set up. But do think ahead.
My best tip as a mum, everyone will have an opinion. Social media portrays an image of perfect which can make you feel that you aren’t good enough. Just do you! It is your journey and you will learn as you go on. Its hard, there’s no easy way to parent. Just do your best. Safety and management is always a priority, and after that just learn and enjoy it. Soon enough you’ll have a belligerent teenager and looking to others with fully grown kids to reassure you it gets easier! (Maybe!)
(Tip: Pop Alexa or google dot in the baby's bed/pram/your arms whilst you play this.) Start quietly, the idea is to have no response. Remember its the random sounds they struggle with, not constant sounds!
High pitched babbling - https://youtu.be/s1xpxP8KJlM
Sounds Soothing (baby noises) - Sound Therapy & Firework Training for Dogs | Dogs Trust