Updated 11/15/2023 – Let’s talk about something that’s not often discussed when getting a puppy but is super real: the puppy blues.
Yeah, you heard me right. It’s that overwhelming feeling of regret or doubt that can hit you after bringing home your adorable, fluffy bundle of joy. I know, it sounds crazy, right?
If you are like me, you’ve been dreaming of this moment, scrolling through endless cute puppy pics, and researching everything to do with puppy care. Then, suddenly, when you’re in the thick of potty training, chewed belongings and sleepless nights, you start to wonder, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Believe me, I’ve been there. When we first brought our puppy home, we were all thrilled to finally have her. We had been searching for a puppy for the longest time with no luck. Then we found the perfect puppy at a rescue. Now it’s important to know that this is not our first puppy. We had raised a puppy before and I grew up with dogs in the house. But our last puppy experience was 18 years earlier and she was a little older when we got her.
This time around our puppy was just 9 weeks old. The reality of constant care, training challenges, and the huge lifestyle shift hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt guilty for feeling this way, I often wanted to cry and I was afraid to talk about it because, hey, who feels down about getting a puppy?
In this post, I’m going to share my journey through the puppy blues. I’ll share my experience and most importantly, how I came out on the other side with a stronger bond with my furry friend. Whether you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with your new pup or just want to prepare for the road ahead, I hope my story and tips can help you navigate these choppy waters.
You Are Not Alone
First, it’s very important for you to know that you’re not the only one feeling this way. Ever since I shared my own puppy blues experience a few years back, I’ve been overwhelmed by how many people reached out with similar stories. You can check out some of their comments below. Taking care of a new puppy can sometimes feel like a mistake, and it’s tough to admit that.
I have personally known people who didn’t make it past those initial challenging days, ending up returning their puppies to the breeder or shelter. It’s a tough decision, and it impacts more than just the puppy; it can really take a toll on your mental health too.
So, if you’re in the thick of the puppy blues right now, remember, you’re not alone in this struggle. There are a lot of people that have to deal with the puppy blues. Those first few days or even weeks with a new puppy are a rollercoaster. And since every puppy is a unique little character, there’s no magic formula that works for every situation.
What Are the Puppy Blues?
You may have heard the term puppy blues (also referred to as post-puppy depression) 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.
And let’s be real, social media often adds to this disconnect. Scrolling through your feed, you see all these effortless, joyful moments with puppies, making it seem like having a pup is all fun and no fuss. But reality often tells a different story – it’s not always as simple or idyllic as those curated posts suggest. This discrepancy 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, or that they made a huge mistake and want to return the puppy. Others will start to have second thoughts about whether they were ready to get a puppy in the first place.
For me, I think I felt every one of those feelings in the first few weeks after bringing home Bella.
Whatever you are feeling, know that you are not alone. Those first couple of weeks are 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 best friend. So what changed? The causes will differ by person but the most common reasons are:
- First-time they are responsible for another life. For first-time pet owners, they may not realize just how much hard work is involved with caring for a puppy. Especially in the early days after bringing your dog home. 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.
- Unrealistic expectations of life with a puppy. For new dog owners, 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.
- 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 and feelings of anxiety for the first couple of weeks. As you may already know, the lack of sleep can really alter your mood.
More contributing factors
- Potty training issues – For new dog parents toilet training can be hard. Check out our post on How to potty train a puppy fast
- Financial commitments – Between puppy supplies and the cost of vaccines, puppies can be expensive in their first year.
- Behavioral Issues – Puppies don’t come trained, but with some help you can train your own puppy. Here are some basic training tips on how to train a puppy
- Damage caused by puppy – The best thing you can do for you and your puppy is to provide him with a safe space to play. I recommend using an exercise pen that attaches to a crate or a baby gate that limits where they can roam.
- 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.
- Increased workload – There is no denying that puppies take a lot of work in the beginning. But the good news is, it does get better
- Dog/child interaction – There is nothing sweeter than a child and their dog but during the puppy biting stage the two don’t necessarily get along.
- Loss of freedom – When puppies are young, they need a lot of attention.
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 an older puppy at 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 decided 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 early 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, you are still working on potty training and trying to establish a daily routine everyone can live with.
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 environment, 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. They may even be able to sleep about 4 or more hours in a row. This is your first big hurdle 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.
Five months old
By the time they are 5 months old they should have all their puppy vaccinations. This generally means you can start taking them out with you. But check with your veterinarian first to be sure. 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 months 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 choose not to listen to you, but it does get better.
By the time they turn one they should be the dog you always knew they could be.
How to Handle the Puppy Blues
Like I said earlier, I’ve been through the puppy blues myself. Honestly, I wasn’t totally on board with getting another dog at the start. But then, I ended up being the primary one to train our new puppy, mostly because I had experience with dogs growing up. This just added to the pressure I was already feeling about looking after this tiny, dependent pup.
To manage, I had to devise a strategy that would be effective for everyone involved. Stick with me, and I’ll share my personal tactics for tackling the puppy blues.
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 but you should limit where your puppy can roam until they are completely trustworthy. 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. If you have an open concept home, an exercise pen will work the best.
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, establish a support network before bringing home the puppy. This can be your spouse or family or a friend that likes puppies.
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 and yours.
Another option is to tap into that support network. 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
It is a good idea to take your puppy to training classes. This will give you access to a professional dog trainer that can give you expert advice on any training issues you may have. It is also a place where you will be around other first-time puppy owners that may be going through tough times too.
However, check with your veterinarian first to make sure it is safe. If you go before your puppy is five months old, they will not be fully vaccinated. Only go to a dog training place that requires proof of up-to-date vaccines and health checks. Do not go to a place that can have unvaccinated dogs like a pet supply.
6. Talk to someone
You know the saying, ‘Misery loves company’? It really holds true in this case. Connect with a friend who can lend an ear to your puppy troubles without passing judgment.
Alternatively, reach out to fellow puppy owners. Your friends without puppies might not get what you’re dealing with, but other new puppy parents will definitely relate. If you can’t find any new puppy parents to talk to in person, look for new puppy support groups on Facebook; they can be a real lifeline.
If talking about it isn’t really your thing, consider starting a journal to track your journey. It’s a great way to reflect on your progress and see how far you and your puppy have come together.
And remember, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to seek professional help. There’s no shame in asking for support when you need it.
7. Celebrate the successes
Now, onto a really important part: celebrating your successes. Sure, not every day with your puppy is going to be a walk in the park, but when you take the time to appreciate the good days, it makes the tougher ones a bit easier to handle.
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
- Crate Training A Puppy – Made Easy,
- How to Crate Train a Puppy: 10 Mistakes to Avoid and
- Puppy Crying in the Crate at Night? How to Make it Stop
9. Create a daily routine with naps included
Puppies train best when they have a routine. Puppies can’t tell time but they 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 than 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.
Don’t forget about socializing your puppy. To learn more about the benefits of puppy socialization check out these posts: