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Puppy Blues: Dealing with the Regret

Getting a puppy is an exciting time, especially if you are a first time puppy parent. 

I bet while you were waiting to bring home your puppy you thought about what it would be like to live with them.

Maybe you were dreaming of puppy cuddles and kisses or a sweet playful puppy who adores you?

Why wouldn’t you?

Puppies portrayed on TV always seem to be so well behaved.

But the reality of living with a puppy can be very different from what we see on TV. When this happens people can get the “Puppy Blues”.

What Are the Puppy Blues?

You may have heard the term puppy blues in the past, but not known what it meant.  Or maybe you are feeling overwhelmed or regret and don’t understand why.  The most common reason the puppy blues happen is when life with your puppy doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. This can affect everyone differently.

For some people they may feel sad, depressed or lonely, others may feel anxious or overwhelmed. It’s not unusual to want to cry.  You may feel like your life will never be the same as it was before the puppy. Some will feel regret and want to return the puppy. Others still will start to have second thoughts about whether they were ready to get a puppy in the first place.

Whatever you are feeling know that you are not alone. Those first couple of weeks is the hardest but it does get better.

What Causes the Puppy Blues?

So you may be wondering what causes the puppy blues.  After all you were so excited to get your new puppy.  So what changed? The causes will differ by person but the most common reasons are:

  1. First time they are responsible for another life. Young puppies are like babies, they need a lot of care in the first few weeks. This can be very stressful when it is new.
  2. Unrealistic expectations of life with a puppy. Even if you did your research, chances are you probably didn’t get an accurate picture of what it’s like to care for a puppy.
  3. Sleep Deprivation – It’s common for puppies to cry the first few nights in their new home. Plus they can’t hold their bladder for more than a few hours at night. All this translates into sleepless nights for the first couple of weeks.

More contributing factors

  1. Potty training issues – For first-time puppy parents potty training can be hard. Check out our post on How to potty train a puppy fast
  2. Financial commitments – Between puppy supplies and the cost of vaccines, puppies can be expensive in their first year.
  3. Behavioral Issues – Puppies don’t come trained, but with some help you can train your own puppy. Here are some tips on how to train a puppy
  4. Damage caused by puppy – The best thing you can do for you and your puppy is to provide him with a safe place to play. I recommend using an exercise pen that attaches to a crate.

  1. Feeling like you can’t bond with your puppy- You might feel like you are unable to feel close to your puppy. Just remember that bonding does take time.
  2. Increased workload – There is no denying that puppies take a lot of work in the beginning. But it does get better
  3. Dog/child interaction – There is nothing sweeter that a child and their dog but during the puppy biting stage the two don’t necessarily get along.
  4. Loss of freedom – When puppies are young, they need a lot of attention.
Puppy Blues - Happyoodles.com

Can You Get Puppy Blues?

Absolutely! I know I did the first week we brought home our puppy. Since this was not my first puppy as an adult, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about taking care of a puppy. But our previous dog, Molly was 4 months old when we brought her home. Although she was still a puppy we missed a lot of the early puppy behaviors, like chewing on everything and biting us all the time. Plus with Molly, it was just my husband and me in the house. This time around we had two school aged kids to care for too.

The funny thing is we chose to get a puppy because we were hoping it would help with some of the stress our family was feeling. We had read that dogs were great stress relievers for kids. I can tell you the first few weeks of Bella living with us were anything but stress free. I worried about everything.

How Long Do the Blues Last?

This really depends on the person, but the blues should go away once you are able to gain some control over the situation. Generally the first two or three weeks are the hardest. This is when you are getting little sleep and you are still working on potty training. After the first three weeks your puppy should be going to sleep without crying. They may even be able to sleep about 4 hours in a row.

New Puppy blues

When Do Puppies Get Easier?

By the time your puppy is 6 months old they should be fairly easy to live with. But that doesn’t mean they are hard to live with all the time before then. As with children, puppies reach developmental milestones as they grow up. With each milestone they attain your puppy will be easier to handle.

First three weeks

The first three weeks your puppy is with you is always the hardest. During this time they are adjusting to a new home, with new people and rules. They are learning what is acceptable and what is not. It is very important during this time to be consistent with your training. By the end of the first three weeks your puppy should be going to sleep at night without crying. This is your first big hurtle to overcome with your puppy and once you are there life gets a little bit easier.

Three months old

By the time they are three months they should know to go potty outside. Although they may still have an accident on occasion it should be the exception, not the norm. They should also know basic commands like sit, stay, come and leave it. Once you hit these milestones, life with your puppy will get a lot easier. If you are having a hard time potty training your puppy check out these potty training mistakes people make.

Four months old

When they are 4 months old they should have all their puppy vaccinations. This means you can start taking them out with you. This new found freedom to get out of the house will be a big relief for you and your pup.

Six months old

According to PetMD somewhere between 4 and 6 months old your puppy will go through getting their adult teeth. During this time the puppy may bite a lot making them difficult to be around. But by 6 month the biting and nipping should stop.

Six to 12 months

This is the time puppies go through their teenage years. During this time they may chose not to listen to you, but it does get better.

One Year

By the time they turn one they should be the dog you always knew they could be.

How to Handle the Puppy Blues

As I mentioned above I also had the blues. I wasn’t completely sold on getting another dog in the first place. Then I became the main person to train our new puppy since I was the one that grew up with dogs. This increased the pressure I was already feeling about caring for this small helpless creature. In order to cope I had to come up with a plan that would work for everyone. I will let you in on my secrets to dealing with the it.

1. Manage your expectations

First you need to manage your expectations. In fact, instead of thinking how wonderful it will be to have a puppy think about the worst case scenario. This way when reality hits everything will seem easier.

But seriously all puppies bite and chew. Their sharp puppy teeth really hurt and can even draw blood. Plus they often don’t want to eat the first day; they run around the house, don’t listen to you and have accidents. They rarely come trained and they can’t understand what you are saying.

Oh, and did I mention that they eat stuff that is not food? Our puppy had a thing for the plastic caps on the milk bottles. She loved chewing them. No matter how hard I tried to keep them from her, she always seems to find them.

Curious about what other dogs have chewed? Check out the post Crazy Things that Dogs will Chew

But if you are prepared for all this then you can manage the bad behaviors a little easier.

Do yourself a favor and get an exercise pen. If you are planning to crate train get one that attaches to their crate. Keeping your puppy safe and away from anything they can destroy will help keep your sanity. Also be prepared with age appropriate chews and a plan on how you will handle the biting. You can see how we handled it in our post How to Stop a Puppy from Biting.

2. Limit where your puppy can roam

I touched on this above already but you should limit where your puppy can roam until they are completely trust worthy. This will cut down on a lot of their bad behaviors and also your stress. We used gates to keep our puppy in the kitchen with us. This allowed us to keep an eye on her and make sure there was nothing that could harm her. Plus it keeps the messes in a confided, easy to clean place. As I mentioned above you can also use an exercise pen.

3. Share the work

I am very thankful that my husband took on a large share of the work to take care of Bella. During the first few nights when Bella would not sleep he was the one sleeping on the floor in the kitchen next to her. That allowed the rest of the family to get some sleep. I in turn watched over her during the day. If possible, enlist someone to help care for the puppy.

4. Take a break

When you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, make sure to take a break from your puppy. Or better yet schedule nap times for your puppy. Puppies need down time too throughout the day. Place puppies in their crate for an hour or two to get some sleep. During this time take a walk or something else that will relax you.

If it’s not nap time and you need a break take them out for a walk in the yard or other safe place. Dogs love to smell and explore stuff. Your puppy will be too occupied by the sights and sound to misbehave. Plus the exercise will do wonders for their mood.

Another option is to enlist a family member, friend or even a pet sitter to spend time with your puppy so you can take a break.

5. Seek out puppy training advice

If you are having trouble training your puppy, consider taking them to puppy kindergarten. Puppy kindergarten is a training classes geared for puppies. The dog trainer will teach you how to train your puppy. Plus it’s a safe and easy way to socialize your puppy with other dogs and for you to talk with other puppy parents.

6. Talk to someone

What’s the old saying ‘Misery loves company.” This is so true. Find a friend who will listen to you about your puppy issues without judgement.

Or seek out other puppy owners. While your puppy-less friends might not understand what you are going through other puppy parents will. If all else fails check out new puppy parent support groups on Facebook.

If talking to someone is not your thing start a journal to document the journey. This is a great way to look back and see all you have accomplished.

7. Celebrate the successes

This brings us to celebrating your successes. Not every day will be perfect but if you celebrate the good days it makes the not so good days bearable.

8. Get some sleep

Don’t expect your puppy to settle in the first night. Although some may settle down quickly most will miss their previous homes. Be compassionate and think about how your puppy might be feeling. Oh and forget about crate training the first few nights. Your puppy needs to know you will be there to protect them while they sleep.

Although I don’t suggest that you have your puppy sleep with you in bed (unless this is what you want going forward). Do try to come up with a sleeping arrangement that keeps your puppy safe and close to you. This will enable you both to get a good night’s sleep.

When you are ready to start crate training check out our post on

9. Create a routine with naps included

Puppies train best when they have a routine. Puppies can’t tell time but the can learn that after a walk it’s time to take a nap. If you follow the same routine every day they will quickly learn what is expected of them. When deciding on your schedule make sure to schedule two nap times. Plan the naps for one in the morning and one in the afternoon for about 2 hours each. Naps should follow some type of exercise, food and time outside so they will be ready for the nap.

10. Remind yourself it will get better

When things get tough remember that this is only temporary. Your puppy will learn to sleep through the night. They will stop chewing on all your stuff and they will learn to potty outside. The great thing about puppies is they grow up fast. Which means the issues you are having today will get better in a month or so.

11. Seek professional help

Sometimes you just need a little extra help to deal with the blues. If the stress becomes more then you can deal with, make sure to seek out a professional. They will have the knowledge and experience to help you.  

Can a dog smile?  Many Dog Trainers and Animal Behaviorists will tell you that dogs cannot smile, at least not in the true sense of a smile.  But I am not so sure they are correct.  Check out why I think some dogs can smile.

Puppy Socialization

Don’t forget about socializing your puppy. To learn more about the benefits of puppy socialization check out these posts:

Liana

Sunday 7th of November 2021

We just got a 2-month old puppy 6 days ago and I had a minor anxiety attack on the first night when the puppy refused to sleep and kept howling. My husband ended up sleeping on the couch with the puppy sleeping on the rug next to the couch. Potty training has been hard. There have been quite a few accidents already. The puppy is actually very sweet, but he needs a lot of attention and I am not sure we are ready for that with our busy schedule. I feel so guilty right now because I thought we were ready for a new puppy, but we, especially me, feel so overwhelmed right now. I have taken some time off work, but will have to return to work next week. I don't know if I can handle that.

Bonnie

Tuesday 9th of November 2021

Hi Liana,

The first few weeks of having a puppy is hard. We had the same issues with our puppy not wanting to sleep. My husband slept on the floor in our kitchen for the first week + just so we could all get some sleep. The lack of sleep makes everything harder.

It does generally get better once the puppy settles into a routine. Being home for a few days should help with potty training. Here are a few tips that worked for us when it came to potty training Potty Training a Puppy.

Best of luck.

Bonnie

Deb

Sunday 17th of October 2021

Hi, we got a Basset Hound puppy yesterday. We already have an 11 year old dog and I feel we have made a huge mistake. The puppy is my teenage daughters as she has wanted this for 3 years and a few weeks ago she had been having a hard time and without thinking it through I said yes. I couldn’t then go back on my word and we now have a 9 week old energetic puppy weeing, pooing and whining. Our older dog is scared of him and I am conscious that we are going to end up with a huge dog and I am regretful. I know I have been stupid not planning and acting rashly and wondered whether anyone else has done the same? Your article resonated a lot with me and at the moment even 24 hours feels like an age.

Anna

Monday 20th of September 2021

I'm going through this right now. We have two children (the oldest is 8). My husband and I are overwhelmed at work. I've had big dogs all my life and had the expectation that it would be easy for me to handle him. He's 5.5 months and is an absolutely sweetheart who has bonded (almost obsessed) to me but I can't even get myself to pet him. He wasn't trained at all prior to coming to our house. In one week, we've trained him to stay in his crate at night and he's mostly potty trained but the thing that bothers me about him is that he needs me to next to him all the time and he needs to go out to poo/pee every 1.5-2 hours! He's almost 6 months old, shouldn't he be going out every 4-6 hours by now? He's able to stay in his crate overnight from about 9:45 pm - 5:00 pm with minimal issues.

I'm overwhelmed & unhappy and I keep asking my husband to return him. He's told me the kids have already bonded to him and we can't return him now. I'm a very strong person who rarely panics but I'm panicking now.

Bonnie

Thursday 23rd of September 2021

Hi Anna,

It sounds like you are doing a great job at puppy training. Puppies are difficult when you first bring them home regardless of their age or your experience. It's like having a baby in the house. They want all your attention. Plus since you got him at an older age he may be feeling insecure. He may just need a few weeks to settle in. The great thing is they grow up and mature much faster than kids.

I've never had big dogs so I don't know what a normal potty schedule is for them. But you should check with your vet to rule out any medical issues.

Best of luck Bonnie

Dyan

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

My pup is almost 6 months old. Had him since he was 9.5 weeks old, and I am still struggling. I cry almost every day because I feel so guilty crating him while I’m gone (he will sleep for part of the time but then cry and cry once he wakes up — I have a camera I use to check in on him). I also have cats that he seems to totally get along with, but I don’t know that I will ever trust him being left alone with them, and the thought of having him in a crate or in his pen every single time I leave has me never wanting to make plans. I feel so bad that he may never be a dog who gets to just chill out on the couch or sleep in my bed, even when he’s an adult, all because I will worry about whether he may snap and hurt one of the cats. I find myself constantly feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of attention he requires. I live alone (divorced, kids in college), and I feel like I have no time for myself. How do I get past the guilt of crating or confining him when I leave? It has me really sad.

Amy

Wednesday 21st of July 2021

I don’t even know how old this article is, but it’s exactly what I’ve been tirelessly searching for online. I’ve had my puppy about 2.5 weeks now. I can’t help but wonder if I’m just not cut out to be a pet owner. This article gave me a lot of peace of mind because it gave a little bit of a timeline that’s better than any of the other ones I’ve tried to find. A lot of family members and friends questioned my decision to get a dog and kept telling me how much work it is so I don’t feel good about talking to them about my regret. I do love my puppy, but I can’t wait until he’s 6 months or a year!

Bonnie

Wednesday 21st of July 2021

Hi Amy,

Having a puppy is hard work, but it does generally get better with each month they get older. Our little former land shark is now three years old and super easy.

Best of luck Bonnie