Pet Tips

Tips for Defeating the Puppy Blues

March 3, 2023

14 years ago today, my partner and I first met arguably the cutest member of our little pack for the first time – Kitsune!  He was just 9 weeks old when he joined our pack in 2009 and was, essentially, both my partner’s and my first dog.  We both had family dogs growing up, but Kitsune was the first puppy that we were tasked with caring for on our own.  Adding a new puppy to your family is exciting!  I had loved papillons since I was little and was so happy to finally be getting one to share my life with.  But puppies can be stressful too.  The “puppy blues” are a real thing!  If you recently added a new furry friend to your life, and have unexpectedly found yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, upset, or maybe even regretful, know that you are not alone.

puppy blues

Puppy Kitsune, so new he still has the tags on him!

What are the Puppy Blues?

When I was a kid and my family got a puppy, a black and white cocker spaniel named Naomi, I wasn’t really responsible for taking care of her.  I don’t remember adding her to our family as being stressful for me.  I got an adorable puppy to play with, but, for the most part, didn’t have to actually worry too much about taking care of her.  Things were quite different when I got a dog of my own, though.  It was just my partner and I living in an apartment together, and he worked long hours outside of the house most days.

puppy bluesI was SO excited to bring Kitsune home.  I wouldn’t have to spend my days alone anymore.  I had been wanting a puppy for years but wasn’t in a position to actually get one until a few months before we got Kit.  You’d think I would have been really happy when I finally got my papillon puppy.  In many ways I was.  But it turned out that raising a puppy was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  I very distinctly remember breaking down crying, sitting on the kitchen floor, and telling my partner that getting Kitsune had been a mistake.

That came at the end of a week when I had gotten precious little sleep.  Raising a puppy was especially hard for me in an apartment.  I felt like I constantly had to worry about little Kitsune annoying the neighbors.  Puppy Kit wasn’t crate trained, and hated being left alone even for a few minutes at a time.  He made this hatred known by screeching surprisingly loudly for such a small little baby.  I didn’t know all the puppy-raising tricks that I do now, and Kitsune was an especially difficult puppy.

The puppy blues are, basically, negative feelings associated with a new puppy.  These feelings can include sadness, stress, anxiety,  helplessness, guilt, feeling trapped, regret, etc.  The puppy blues are sometimes compared to postpartum depression.  Raising a puppy might not be quite as hard as a new human baby (I wouldn’t know), but it’s still really hard!  Adding a new puppy to your home changes your entire life, and it’s a lot of work!  If you’ve recently added a new puppy to your family and are feeling any of these negative emotions, know that you are not alone.  Developing a case of the puppy blues is actually quite normal.  And, thankfully, it’s also usually quite temporary.     

Causes of the Puppy Blues

The puppy blues can be caused by a number of factors.

  • A common one seems to be the disconnect between what you thought owning a puppy would be like, and what it’s actually like.  New owners likely have preconceived notions about what living with their new dog will be like.  It can feel very frustrating when your new little bundle of fluff isn’t living up to any of your expectations.  For a lot of first time puppy owners especially, caring for a puppy turns out to be a lot harder than they expected it to be.
  • Of course the sleepless nights don’t help anyone any!  I know I’m personally never at my best when I haven’t gotten enough sleep.
  • Suddenly being responsible for another living thing can be stressful.  When I got Kitsune, all of a sudden I went from basically just having to take care of myself, to being responsible for a precious little life.  That can feel quite overwhelming at times, especially when your new charge seems pretty determined to find new and interesting ways to hurt themselves.
  • A new puppy can cause big changes to your daily schedule.  Suddenly your routine doesn’t revolve around just you anymore.  Now you have to constantly think about taking care of your dog.  When does he need to eat, be walked, go outside?  Puppies are especially overwhelming because they are especially needy.  They usually need to eat more often, use the bathroom more often, and just generally demand more of your attention.
  • You may find it harder to relax when you constantly have to manage what your puppy is doing.
  • As much as you may have wanted your new dog, a lot of new owners grieve the freedom they lost now that they have a pet.  Your time isn’t just yours anymore.  It’s a lot harder to go out and do something fun at the drop of a hat, or to travel.  Sometimes even just stepping outside to take out the trash or check the mail feels like a task and a half when you have a puppy to deal with.
  • If you are already prone to any mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, getting a puppy can be especially stressful.  

Tips for Dealing with the Puppy Blues

  1. Remind yourself that the puppy stage is temporary.  Dogs grow up entirely too fast.  Look at me, somehow my “puppy” is already a senior!  Depending on your dog, the puppy stage is officially said to last a year or two.  But that doesn’t mean you’ll be dealing with issues like sleep deprivation, bathroom accidents, and puppy biting for that long.  Your dog will grow up, it’s inevitable.
  2. Focus on the positives.  It’s easy to feel down when you’re focusing on the fact that your puppy still isn’t fully potty trained, or that he just ruined your favorite pair of shoes.  But what about the fact that he slept through the night last night, and didn’t bark when you stepped out of the house for a few minutes!?  Focusing, as much as you can, on any progress being made can help you see your puppy in a better light.
  3. Train your puppy!  The sooner you can eliminate unwanted behaviors, the sooner you can stop feeling stressed about them.  Don’t expect miracles, training takes time.  But you have to work at it to make progress.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Talk to friends, family members, trainers, a therapist, your vet.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
  5. Prepare as much as possible.  If you can learn to understand why your puppy is acting the way she is, it can sometimes make it a bit easier to deal with.  Puppies don’t purposely to make our lives miserable.  There are reasons behind their actions.  Most dogs go through a lot before going to their new homes.  They’re taken away from their mothers and littermates.  They don’t always understand the new expectations being put upon them.  Teething is painful.  Looking at life from our puppy’s point of view can give us new perspective as to why they are doing some of the behaviors that drive us nuts.
  6. Adjust your expectations.  You’re setting yourself, and your puppy, up for failure if you constantly expect things from him that he can’t live up too.  Learn about what you can reasonably expect from your puppy based on the life stage he/she is currently in and set your expectations towards reaching reasonable goals.
  7. It’s ok to admit to negative feelings.  Admitting that there are things you’ll miss out on because of your puppy can go a long way towards acceptance.  It’s normal to feel guilty about having negative feelings about your new furry family member, but you are far from alone in having them.  Learning to admit and accept the negative feelings and changes in your life can make dealing with them less stressful.
  8. Take time for yourself.  It’s ok, even beneficial, to take breaks away from your puppy for a while.  Don’t feel guilty for doing so.  Even just a short break, if you can’t manage a longer one, will be beneficial.  Probably the best, most helpful thing I did for myself when I was getting stressed over dealing with Kitsune was to ask my partner to watch him for awhile so I could take a break.

How Long Do the Puppy Blues Last?

puppy blues

Kitsune, all grown up!

This will depend.  Generally, the puppy blues will last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months.  As you get more used to your new puppy, and them to you, you will start to build a new life together.  Things that once caused stress will fade away, or become more routine.  Your puppy will outgrow many of the behaviors that can trigger the puppy blues, especially if you’re committed to training and working with them.

Take if from someone who had a serious case of the puppy blues, it gets much better!  14 years ago I was seriously questioning whether I had made the right decision when I got my puppy.  Now, all these years later, I couldn’t imagine my life without him.  That’s not to say that I don’t fully acknowledge the fact that puppies are hard!  Be kind to your puppy, and to yourself, as you both learn and adapt to living together.  Embrace the puppy stage, hard as it is, as much as you can because someday your puppy will be a white faced senior, and the time passes a lot faster than you could ever imagine it will.

Comment below!  If you’re here because you’re experiencing the puppy blues, share your experience!  What is your new puppy like?  If you have an older dog, did you experience the puppy blues when you first got him/her?  Do you have any tips you would share with new dog owners?

puppy blues

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply