If you’re thinking of adding to your family – both in terms of pets, and babies, you should read up and prepare. Parenting pets is a commitment as is – add babies to the concoction and the balancing act gets more real.

Katie Nitti, of Dog Walk NYC, shares tips on choosing a breed, what having a pet and a baby entails, and why you should never get a dog when already pregnant.

Charles: Hello, and welcome to Dreaming of Baby, where we’re asking the questions mothers- and fathers-to-be want the answers to! Today, to help us on our journey of discovery is mummy Katie Nitti; who is also expecting baby number two! As dog walker and all-around canine services professional, we will be discussing different breeds, tips on doggy and baby parenting, and more! Katie would you be so kind as to tell our readers a little about yourself?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: Thank you for having me! I’m a mom of one to a 2-year-old, Ellie, and am currently 30 weeks pregnant, expecting #2. In 2011, I left my career in finance to start Dog Walk NYC in Midtown Manhattan. After 6 years in business, we currently walk over 50 dogs a day and are a team of 6. My husband & I recently moved to Brooklyn. I still continue to run the business in Manhattan.

Charles: Wow so you are also a mummy-preneur?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: I am! I was “just” a dog mom prior to having Ellie in 2015 but our dog Phoebe is the greatest! She is actually what inspired me to start Dog Walk NYC.

Selecting the right breed for your family

Charles: That is awesome! I’m going to ask a question that I know has no correct answer but definitely has some opportunity for some solid advice for parents to be that don’t yet have a pet but are dreaming of baby plus furry friend! We often see the big golden retrievers in ads with young children but I am sure there are other breeds people should consider. What can you tell us about selecting the right breed?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: Well, golden retrievers are wonderful dogs! They make a great family pet. But there are not many “bad” breeds you can pick. You have to figure out what is right for your family. For example, some dogs like my Phoebe (a 4lb Chihuahua) do not do well in homes with small children – tiny kids frighten them. A breed I recommend to a lot of young couples considering a family is Havanese. They are hypoallergenic, SUPER family friendly, they love kids and grownups alike, are healthy, happy and super cute too! They come in many colors and are about 10-16 pounds, so small, but not too small.

Katie Nitti: “A breed I recommend to a lot of young couples considering a family is Havanese. They are hypoallergenic, SUPER family friendly, they love kids and grownups alike, are healthy, happy and super cute too!”

Charles: So, when selecting a breed such as the Havanese, what factors should a young family take into consideration?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: I also recommend trying to rescue a dog, especially a dog a bit older and trained if you already have children. Puppies are A LOT of work & many times you may be able to find a dog that is anywhere from 1-5 that may have come from a family that could no longer take care of him or her but are still trained, friendly and great with kids. In my opinion, there are no “bad” breeds.

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: Families should take into consideration their current status: are they two people looking to start a family soon? Are they a couple with one or two young kids? Do they live in an urban environment, suburban, country? What hours will they be away from the dog? Will they be able to dedicate time to train, walk and get their dog exercise? For example, a lab or retriever will need A LOT more exercise than a Havanese.

Charles: The concern there for many parents is the fear that being an older dog it may not be “THEIR” dog, fears of the dog taking time to integrate with the family and also potentially being dangerous. How can they plan against this? I also ask because considering the fact that you walk over 50 dogs you can offer unique insight into varying dog and breed characters.

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: I think you can tell a lot about a dog from visiting with them at a shelter. If you have children, a dog with an unknown past might not be a good idea. But many dogs do have a known past & you can try and adopt those. There are also dog-foster organizations in which you can foster to adopt. You can also rescue specific breeds. You can rescue any type of dog really! In six years and walking hundreds of dogs, I’ve never encountered one specific breed that is a bad fit for families. We have walked rescue pitbulls and large mixes & they’ve all been great family pets.

Babies and pets

Charles: You pointed out puppies are a lot of work. As a pet owner myself, I would have to agree; added to this, babies demand a whole lot of attention. Are there any tips apart from of course hiring a dog walker, for keeping pets entertained when a new baby arrives in the home? Are there lower maintenance breeds so to speak – a special consideration to urban living as understandably suburban and rural pets normally get a considerable amount of space and nature to entertain them…

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: Do your research on any breed you are considering. I know a family that got a Wheaton Terrier puppy that was A TON of work and the busy family could not handle it. Wheatons are GREAT but require a lot of attention, exercise and training.

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: I don’t know of any lower maintenance dogs per se when it comes to having a new baby in the home. Having a new baby is an adjustment for everyone, your dog included. Your dog is used to being the baby, then one day, a new baby comes in the house & eats up all your attention! This can cause all sorts of negative behavior from your dog. I know dogs that start chewing items when they never have before, growling/snapping at their owners or baby, start to pee indoors, and so on. My advice would be to TRY and give your dog as much attention as possible. Have your partner walk the dog while you and the baby are napping. Stock up on extra bullysticks or whatever type of bone/kong/treat you can think of to keep your pet entertained. Always give a lot of extra positive praise when your dog is doing something good when your new baby is home. And if you can, try to integrate your dog into activities. Have your dog join you and the baby on a walk, bring your baby outside to nap in the stroller (weather permitting), while you throw the ball.

Katie Nitti: “Having a new baby is an adjustment for everyone, your dog included.”

Charles: That is good advice, especially to people that already have pets. Having worked with our canine friends, would you recommend a family delays bringing in a new addition to the family when baby is on the way?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: Yes, I’d say getting a dog when you are pregnant is a bad idea! Not only is a new dog a lot of work (and money!) but you’ll barely have time to adjust to being a dog parent before you’re a parent. I think the best time to get a dog is when you’re newly married or committed a year or so before you’re planning on having children. Or after your children are a little older. From what I’ve heard, kids get a little easier at 4, so maybe when your youngest is 4, you can plan on bringing a new dog into your home.

Katie Nitti: “Getting a dog when you are pregnant is a bad idea! Not only is a new dog a lot of work (and money!) but you’ll barely have time to adjust to being a dog parent before you’re a parent.”

Charles: If you were finding a home for a canine, what would be the top three questions you might ask a family that is expecting a baby? That is, to put your mind at ease that they could handle being pet-mums/dads as well as parents…

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC:
1. Will you have help with the dog once the baby is born?
2. Do you think you can still give the dog the attention it needs once the baby arrives?
3. Have you ever been a dog owner before?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: Rarely, I have had a few clients adopt or buy a new dog and not understand the demands of dog ownership. Personally, I cannot imagine having a new baby and a new dog! I don’t think people can properly understand how much work either are until they are in it themselves, especially being new parents.

Charles: I would imagine that with an existing canine pre-agreement on caring for the dog might be a good idea?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: A canine agreement is a good idea for everyone considering getting a dog. But a prearranged agreement could be a great idea. You and your partner can agree to certain responsibilities when it comes to the dog once the baby comes.

Hiring a dog-walker

Charles: Now, since I have a dog walker with me today, I definitely have to ask: do most dog walkers give better rates to doggy parents that need more frequent dog walking?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: They might! Some dog walkers charge by frequency, so 1-3 walks a week may be more expensive, per walk than 5+. We charge a flat rate per walk and have a 3 walk a week minimum. So personally, our rates don’t change. It never hurts to ask your dog walking company about bulk rates.

Charles: I would assume that different dog walkers will walk different lengths with your dogs, I know some will take them to parks. etc. Of course, these things will make a difference to the overall well-being of pooch, their temperament and the level of energy they have for acting up now that they may not be the center of attention. What are some of the questions that should be asked? What differentiates one dog walker from another?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: Yes, I’d probably recommend having your dog walker give your dog extra attention & longer walks, especially those first 6 weeks when the baby is home. For me, when I am hiring a new dog walker for our team, I think about the following items. 1. Do they seem to genuinely like and care for dogs? 2. Do they have common sense? 3. Would I trust this person to come in and out of my home every day and care for my beloved family dog?

Charles: As you may imagine our audience is nationwide or to be more accurate worldwide; so, my question – What kind of special request can normally be accommodated, and beyond the above three points, what are the variables in the dog walking service itself? I would imagine the length of the walk, possibly feeding, etc…

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: For requests, we can normally accommodate new requests, like a longer walk, adding a second walk in for the day, going to the dog park instead, feeding the dog and so on. Some dog walking companies will even take the dogs home with them – so you may want to hire a company that will do boarding in their own home if you need a break for a few nights or someone to watch your dog when you deliver in the hospital. Something I tell people looking for a dog walker & researching different companies/services is – how is turnover at the dog walking company? Nobody wants someone new in their home every day! Is the company paying and treating their workers well? Has the dog walker been on for a while? And so on.

Charles: That is excellent advice. In fact, I think boarding becomes very important in the delivery period. It has been an interesting conversation we have had here today and I think some important points have come up! With that in mind, and as a final question, is there anything you would like our readers to know about pets and parenting that we have not covered here today?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: Nothing specific but generally I’d like people to know dogs are a GREAT addition to a family. They bring so much joy and are amazing little creatures. Even though they can be a lot of work – they are worth it. They are selfless, they can comfort us, they can guard our homes and rescue us in ways we didn’t even know was possible. Heck, they can even inspire you to finally quit that job and start your own business!

Charles: Some excellent advice! On a final note, if our readers wanted to reach you what is the best way to do so?

Katie Nitti, Dog Walk NYC: I am reachable at www.dogwalknyc.com. I’m happy to try and give any additional advice or thoughts to new parents out there and of course, if anyone in Midtown Manhattan needs a walker, I hope they’ll reach out!

For more insight on dealing with kids and your furry babies, read more in this Dreaming of Baby segment:

Pets and a New Baby: Why Planning and Routine are Important

Preparing your Pet for Newborn

Kids and Pets: Training, Obedience, and the Best Breed for a Young Family

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