If the reality of puppy life has you feeling all kinds of blue and wondering whether you’ve made a big mistake… you’ve landed in the right place.
If you’ve found yourself wondering whether it’s normal to feel depressed or overwhelmed after getting a puppy, let me reassure you – it is totally normal.
You’re not a bad person. You don’t have a bad puppy. The reality of life with a puppy is a far cry from what most people expect – and that can often lead to the puppy blues.
Let’s talk about why the puppy blues happen and hatch you a plan to make things better.
What is the puppy blues?
Puppy blues refers to the feelings of regret, depression, overwhelm and potential guilt that new puppy owners can experience after getting a puppy.
A Many Pets survey undertaken in 2023, revealed that the puppy blues are a lot more common than you might think.
Nearly 70% of puppy owners reported symptoms of anxiety, depression, or both.Many Pets – New Puppy Owner Survey 2023
What you might have expected life to look and feel like with a new puppy can be wildly different from the reality. The truth is, puppies are hard work. And there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re finding the puppy blues are hitting home and making you sad, depressed or full of regret.
It’s not your fault and there are things you can do to make life with your puppy easier.
Why do the puppy blues happen?
Before we dive into how to make life with your puppy easier and happier, let’s talk about why the puppy blues happen in the first place.
Clearly, there are a huge number of new puppy owners who are struggling with the real life experience of raising a little landshark, who has no concept of sleeping through the night…. and not peeing wherever they like!
Not being able to leave your puppy alone or having them zooming around in the evenings when you just want to relax can leave you feeling trapped and held hostage at times.
Common problems that make life with a puppy HARD.
- Toilet training struggles
- Chewing stuff they shouldn’t
- Stealing things & not giving them back
- Puppy biting
- Separation anxiety
- Struggles with being left alone
- Jumping up
- Refusing to walk
- Pulling on the lead
- Running off and not listening
This list is not exhaustive – but it gives you a sense of the most common (and normal) things that puppies do which humans can find difficult.
How do you survive puppy blues?
Dogs learn through consequences, just like humans. A positive outcome will encourage your puppy to repeat the same behaviour again (whether you like it or not!).
Here’s the secret that will transform your puppy blues survival plan…. you don’t decide what your puppy finds rewarding.
This means that your puppy may be enjoying positive outcomes from their troublesome or annoying behaviours without you even realising it.
And if your puppy does something and enjoys it, they will repeat it.
So, if your puppy jumps up at you and gets attention (even if it’s shouting), they may decide that was a rewarding experience.
If your puppy tugs on your clothes and you shriek or pull away, your puppy may find this enjoyable.
You don’t get to decide what your puppy finds rewarding. But we can discover what floats their boat and use it to our advantage in our puppy training, so we can teach repetition of the things we like (and stop the things we don’t).
Teach a positive interrupter to stop unwanted behaviours
While you work on your puppy training and ride out the choppy period of a young dogs life, there’s a super simple trick you can teach.
It’s called a positive interrupter. It’s a sound or a word that gets your puppy’s attention to redirect them from whatever they’re doing that you’d like them to stop.
Using management to make puppy raising less intense
Management is going to be your best friend throughout the puppy period and into adolescence.
You can’t possibly be on the ball at all times. It’s an unreasonable expectation and it will leave you feeling exhausted. Management means keeping your puppy safe and out of mischief when you can’t give them your full attention – or when you need a break.
Using this alongside puppy training will help you make progress with your puppy and deliver you some respite from what can feel relentless.
A crate or a puppy pen can be a lifesaver if you teach your puppy to settle and be happy in it. This has to be trained as we don’t want your puppy feeling stressed in their crate but putting the effort into crate training will help you both massively.
Use puppy chews and treat toys to give your puppy something positive to do when in their crate. This will also help your puppy to relax as chewing and licking produce calming endorphins which will help your pup feel good.
Spotting the good stuff & celebrating it
Your puppy will gradually develop and learn to control their impulses, come out the other side of teething… and yes, they’ll sleep through the night!
They won’t be a bouncy ball of relentless energy forever.
You will start seeing some of their annoying behaviours getting better if you put time and effort into your puppy training.
Keep a little log for yourself of things that have gone well or that are getting better – so that you can visually see your problems diminishing. Being able to take stock of this gradual progress and celebrating your wins will make you feel much more positive.
When do puppies get calmer?
You’re not going to like this…. It depends on the breed and the size of the dog but until your dog comes out the other side of adolescence, there will be tricky behaviour to navigate.
Much like raising a human, you can’t skip the hairy realities of toddlerdom or the teenage tearaway phase.
It’s important that I’m honest with you about this, because a BIG reason for your puppy blues was the mismatch between expectations and reality.
When we know what’s coming, we can prepare for it. And that immediately makes us feel more in control, more relaxed and less stressed.
When do I get my life back after puppy?
As your puppy grows in confidence and learns to settle, you will feel your freedom returning. Once you’ve taught your puppy that spending time alone is good, you won’t feel so penned in and trapped.
Being able to take breaks from your puppy to do the things you did before they arrived will make a big difference to how you feel.
As your puppy learns how to behave in different environments, they will integrate into your life and be able to do more things with you…. Without being a pain in the butt!
Will puppy training help?
Absolutely, but only if you choose a good positive reinforcement based dog trainer. You can learn more about different types of dog training methods here.
Training your puppy is part of helping them to learn how to live happily in our human world. The side effect is good behaviour, but the big focus is learning to understand your dog and to communicate with them.
When you focus on your bond and building trust with your dog, everything else will become infinitely easier.