You've felt the excitement of bringing a new addition into your family. A fluffy ball of cuteness to call your very own. You buy all the necessities, get your home ready, and then bring home your new puppy. Then it happens! He's running rampant, chewing up your shoes, and keeping you up at night.
You're finding it's a bit harder to raise a puppy than you thought and find yourself asking “Have I made the wrong decision? Am I a terrible person for feeling less than excited about my puppy?”
The answer is, no! You aren't alone in feeling what is known as the “Puppy Blues”. Many new puppy owners experience what you are feeling and it's normal. So what do you do about it?
Before you decide to return your puppy from where you got him, there are solutions to many of the problems you are dealing with and the puppy blues doesn't last forever.
Can you get puppy blues?
Puppy Blues are similar to what new mothers feel when they suffer from post-partum depression. While a new baby isn't the same as a new puppy, there are similar aspects to both. You feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and find it difficult to cope. You can feel depressed, anxious, sad, and a bit numb at times.
Some people will experience puppy blues a few days after they have brought their new friend home, and some will experience it weeks to months after. Puppy blues can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.
Not everyone will experience the same symptoms, and some may not even realize what they are experiencing is normal. Here are common symptoms of puppy blues.
- Feeling anxious or sad
- Crying often
- Not eating as much
- Sleep deprived
- Feeling helpless or overwhelmed
- Feeling regretful of getting a puppy
Is it normal to feel sad after getting a puppy?
Yes, it is normal! You aren't alone in feeling this way. It can feel harder if this is your first puppy that you are raising or you are raising him on your own.
Think about any other situation in life where you feel thrown into the deep end; a new job, a new relationship, buying a home, having a baby.
All of these scenarios can cause you to feel overwhelmed with new responsibilities.
A lot of people won't understand or sympathize either unless they have gone through raising a new puppy themselves. One thing that can be really helpful is joining a group of people who have or are, experiencing the same thing. That support can help you get past the puppy blues.
Why does puppy depression occur?
When you are in the planning stage of adopting a new puppy, you are focused on all of those warm fuzzy feelings that come with it. You picture life with your new friend in all its happiness. This changes once you bring your puppy home though.
Now you are knee-deep in the reality of what it's like to raise and train a puppy.
There are the nights of not getting sleep because your puppy is up crying, the frustration of trying to potty train them, having them destroy property, and finding your puppy has behavior issues.
This can suddenly feel overwhelming! You love your puppy and want to give him the best life possible, and you start to feel a bit inept.
Sit down and take a deep breath!
You're probably wondering why you are feeling these negative emotions and thinking you must be a bad person. But you aren't and what you are feeling is common among dog owners. You can prepare all you want for your new arrival, but the truth is, those first few weeks can be hard. Your puppy just needs time to settle into his new home.
Puppy blues can occur for different reasons.
You're out of your comfort zone
Raising a puppy takes you out of your comfort zone, especially if it's the first one you have ever raised. It's a big change in your life and can feel unsettling. Just like babies, puppies don't come with an instruction manual.
Each puppy is different and will respond differently to situations.
When we are out of our comfort zone, we can feel anxious, stressed out, and depressed.
Your furry friend isn't behaving
Training a puppy to listen to you also takes time and patience.
You may feel like you are doing everything wrong when he doesn't seem to get that it's not OK to pee or poo in the house or chew on your furniture.
Your nerves start feeling frazzled with his constant barking and demands for attention. You're tired, and tiredness can lead to a low mood.
You don't seem to be bonding
When you dreamed of having a puppy, you pictured a strong bond between you both. Bonding doesn't happen overnight though and it can feel disheartening if your puppy seems wary of you or hides under the bed.
This will change as you spend more time together though.
Until then, it's normal to feel blue when you are doing all that you can for your puppy but it feels like he doesn't appreciate it.
It can be exhausting
Just like bringing home a newborn baby, you will find that you aren't getting the sleep you need.
From waking you up at all hours to go outside, to constant crying at night, your sleep schedule kind of goes out the window. When we don't get the sleep we need, normal situations can seem so much worse than they are.
When you're exhausted, it makes it hard to cope and you may find yourself snapping at your puppy.
When you get a new puppy, you turn to experts, friends and family, and puppy groups to get as much information as you can to help your puppy and yourself adapt.
The problem is, there is always some degree of conflicting information.
When you have information being thrown at you 24/7 it can cause your brain to fizzle out and have you feeling more confused than you were.
What causes the puppy blues?
Each person is different when it comes to what they can handle and what will push them into puppy blues.
Some of the main causes of puppy blues are:
- Problems with housebreaking
- Constant barking or crying
- Puppy keeps biting you or chewing on things
- Behavioral issues
- Damaging your belongings or the home
- The financial commitment
- General workload of taking care of a puppy
- Bonding issues
- Not co-existing with other pets
It's important to realize what you are getting yourself into before you adopt a puppy. Saying that even those who know what they are in for will experience puppy blues.
How long do puppy blues last?
You're probably wondering how long puppy blues last and when things start to get easier. The truth is, it depends on the puppy and the owner. The majority of people get the blues within the first two weeks of bringing their puppy home, but some feel it a month or so after.
The puppy blues can last a few days for some, and weeks or months for others. It does get easier though over time and you just need to have patience with both your puppy and yourself.
How to prevent puppy blues?
Knowing what to expect and tackling common issues before you bring home a new puppy is the best way to prevent, or at least lessen the chances, of experiencing the blues. Here are some ways to help.
1. Be realistic
This is at the top of your list. In many cases of puppy blues, having unrealistic expectations is the cause. It's easy to imagine the perfect life you will have with your new best buddy. What people tend to forget is the months of training and bonding that are needed to get to that happy place.
Dogs have emotional and practical needs, and puppies require more.
You need to have patience and remember that they have to learn all of those good behaviors. They don't come trained! What you need to be ready for with a puppy is:
- The costs involved
- Time it takes to housebreak them and the messes to deal with
- Knowing they are going to keep you up at night for some time
- Having to work daily on the basics of obedience
- Realizing that they will probably damage stuff
- Knowing you may not be able to socialize as much
- Conflict due to a multi-pet household
2. Finding the right breed
Another important factor is finding the right breed and dog type for your lifestyle and environment.
Certain breeds have their own traits and needs. From the amount of activity they need to how much space you have, choosing the right breed for your lifestyle will save you some stress in the long run. The mistake many people make is choosing a breed and then expecting it to adapt to a lifestyle that isn't suited to them. It should be the other way around.
Some breeds require a lot of exercise and space to run for example. If you live in a small place with no backyard or aren't very active, this type of dog is not for you.
Here's a helpful link to selecting the right dog breed and minimizing potential problems: Purdue University’s Guide to Choosing an Appropriate Dog Breed (PDF).
3. Make sure you're prepared
When you are having a baby, you have 9 months to make preparations and buy the things that you will need to care for your baby. The same should be done when bringing home a puppy. It will help alleviate some of the stress. What you should have:
You also need to choose a veterinarian for their immunizations and other needs, as well as puppy proof the home as much as you can.
Have gates to keep them out of areas that you don't want them in, keep belongings and human food out of reach, make sure trash cans are not accessible, be sure the home and yard are safe.
How to overcome puppy blues?
1. Use different strategies
Sometimes a training technique won't work and you find yourself lost at what to do next. Find out what other people and trainers have tried that you may not have tried yet.
For example, if your puppy isn't getting the knack of potty training, you may want to try crate training.
Some puppies respond well to clicker training, and some may need the help of a professional trainer.
Stick to a regular daily schedule. Practice patience and consistency, and positive reinforcement for good behavior will always lead to better results than scolding or punishment.
2. Have a support system in place
The worst thing you can do is try going it alone. With any type of depression or mental health issue, you would seek out a support system. The same should be done when dealing with puppy blues.
You can do this by joining groups, both in your area or online. Have someone who can help you out with house chores so you don't get overwhelmed.
Give yourself some quiet time by going out for a short walk and leaving the puppy in its crate or have someone look after them while you are out.
3. Professional training
If you are struggling with training, getting a professional to step in can be a good option. They are not only training the puppy but teaching you how to handle and train them as well. It can help build your confidence and give your puppy a chance to socialize with other puppies in training.
4. Physical and mental stimulation
Puppies have a lot of energy to burn. If they aren't getting enough exercise, they aren't burning that energy off. Then, when it comes time to settle down for bed, you have a puppy still bursting with energy.
They also need a good amount of mental stimulation too. You can do this by teaching them tricks, having interactive toys for them to use, creating a little running course, or playing ball with them. It also helps them release any stress and anxiety they may be feeling.
5. Never take things out on your puppy
It can be easy to snap and yell at your puppy when they aren't behaving. You need to remember that it isn't personal though. They are still learning. Never use physical punishments, intimidation, or yelling because it can cause behavioral issues sometime down the line.
If it seems to be more than you can handle, there is no shame in admitting you aren't cut out for it and finding the puppy a new home and try dog ownership further down the line.
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We'd love to know how long did your puppy blues last? Share with us and our readers your tips and suggestions by leaving a comment below.