You’ve just got a puppy, you should be over the moon, but you’re feeling down…
You can’t explain it, but nothing’s going right. You’re exhausted, and puppy just seems to not stop.
I know what you’re going through, I was there! Honestly. Everyone was full of compliments for my puppy, and thought he was marvellous (and he was!) but I just didn’t feel it. It has a name though, and it’s called the Puppy Blues.
I went through Indie’s early puppyhood totally on my own, which meant all the toilet breaks that I had to give him through the night had to be me. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel a bond with Indie, that was there from the get go, it was just so much. It felt overwhelming.
Lack of sleep was getting to me, and I couldn’t understand why he was so tough. My temper was frayed at best and I felt, more than once, like I was going to have to take him back. That I’d made a bad decision.
Does that ring a bell for you too?
Do not feel alone!
Honestly, you’re really not alone, and it can truly feel that way.
A lack of sleep, not knowing what to do even after everything you’ve read means that you can easily feel overwhelmed, especially if the puppy is largely your responsibility. Feeling totally unsure of what you should do for the best? Is tough.
It’s a little like Post-Partum depression – except that obviously you didn’t give birth to this fluffy little pupper – in a way that makes it worse though! In a way. You likely haven’t had nine whole months to prep for this. Though, unlike post-partum, your boss is not very likely to be sympathetic with this one. And to be honest? Jo Public just doesn’t understand it. Similar to how they don’t understand depression (or didn’t until a light was shining on it… hold up… let me grab a torch/flashlight…), you likely won’t get a sympathetic ear unless you know someone who has gone through it.
This is where I wave at you and go “Hey, Ali here… I know what you’re feeling”. So, let me help you through this, because I’ve been there.
Does Everyone Get The Puppy Blues?
Yes, to some extent – but it’s definitely more consuming for the likes of me and you than it is for others – but please do not feel like this makes your feelings any less valid. Puppies are hard work. They will test your patience and there’s zero way of efficiently communicating – other than learning to understand. So it’s totally understandable.
What Are The Puppy Blues?
Well, simply put, it’s feeling low, overwhelmed, anxious, sad and/or helpless shortly after getting a puppy and wondering whether it was the right thing to do. The puppy blues can be totally consuming, and you can feel like it inhibits your ability to bond with your new, gorgeous puppy that everyone told you was going to be your new best buddy for life.
Now, you know (logically speaking) that you didn’t just see the puppy in a shop with a label that said “HALF OFF! TODAY ONLY” and you bought that little puppy on an impulse, you’ve considered this (to some degree) for a long time.
So… why do you feel this way?
Who Gets The Puppy Blues?
From my experiences talking to all of you wonderful puppy parents, it’s the people who care in abundance. I don’t want to say “too much” – because that’s not possible. It’s those of us who crave success and it’s those of us who may struggle to not be in control at times.
It seems (from informal research) that it affects women more than men, but that could just be down to biological programming.
Is The Puppy Blues Normal?
Fairly normal, yes. Lots of people tend to get it, they just don’t necessarily categorise it as such, or they experience it to a lesser degree.
It does seem to take greater effect on those who are more isolated and have less of a support system in place (e.g. a partner), but it happens a lot in super busy families too because there’s potentially a lot to be done, and a puppy is simply adding to that responsibility.
Why Do You Have The Puppy Blues?
For me, I have a predisposition to depression and anxiety – so not a shock that I experienced it. I’m also an utter rat-bag when I’m tired. Managing your mental health when you’re exhausted is no joke – but that’s not always the reason behind the puppy blues. It’s not just people who are prone to anxiety or depression, it’s more than that.
Sometimes it can just be the drastic change in lifestyle associated with getting a puppy and suddenly having a hugely dependent creature in your life, having them break things, chew on things, then add in the associated sleep deprivation with toilet training… It can even just be a culmination of a bunch of small things as your entire world begins to revolve around this adorable, fluffy puppy that you know you’re meant to love.
Now. I want you to read this bit carefully.
It’s not that you don’t care (because you’re biologically programmed to, sorry, and especially if you’re female, it’s why dogs bonded with us in the first place!) but it’s that you care a lot. You’re worried you’re failing, and no one can tell you otherwise.
And it’s not wrong to want to get it right. Okay? But puppies don’t play to a plan, nothing living does. So you have to roll with them.
Is The Puppy Blues A Form Of Depression?
I cannot say this as a mental health practitioner, or researcher, but I can say it as someone who has experienced both.
It’s very similar. It’s got the same all consuming-ness that depression has, and it’s not a very nice place.
However, because you know the root cause of your depression? Tackling it isn’t as tough as depression was (at least for me), confusing and frustrating, but much more manageable. But if you are struggling? There are people who can help.
Can I Still Get The Puppy Blues If My Puppy Is 6 Months (Or Older?)
Well! This one becomes a fine line, and my answer here is it depends.
This usually applies to when puppy first comes home, whether that’s 8 weeks, or 8 months – it’s to explain the period of adjustment that you and your pup go through which initially is packed full of moments that just do not align – aka miscommunication.
This can actually happen for any new dog that comes home, be they a puppy, or a rescue that is older.
However – it’s also true that your puppy will likely go through a rebellious stage around the ‘teenage’ bit. We come into fear phases, and we come into the potential “I know better than you” phase (that’s not an official one, but it does feel that way, which gets bundled into “Teenager”.
This can be very frustrating, but usually isn’t quite the same as the puppy blues, if this sounds more like you? Try How To Survive A Problematic Teenage Puppy – 7 Tips From A Professional!
Can I Get The Puppy Blues With A Rescue Dog?
Similarly to a puppy, there is often a big learning junction between you and your new rescue (thank you for rescuing by the way!), and it can feel pretty rotten too. Especially seen as you wanted to give a dog a second chance… and now it feels so tough.
How does simple, week by week guidance from an award winning trainer sound?
Again, it often comes down to communication, but with a rescue dog, you often have the added burden of The Past. Where sometimes this is known, and other times, it is not. But no matter what trauma happened to your new woof, you won’t communicate in the same way their old family did. So they essentially have to re-learn language, though they have some foundation this time.
It’s good to note though, that the 3-3-3 rule works really well to guide you in what to expect from your new addition.
Do The Puppy Blues Go Away?
Yes, eventually given time, training and a few natural behavioural developments. It most certainly is a finite period. So please don’t panic! It’s just a case of managing it in the right now. Your puppy will grow into a fantastic dog, and do you know why I know that?
Because you care enough to be reading this.
How Long Do The Puppy Blues Last?
It’s a really difficult thing to say, and consequently, I’ve explained the variables for you over in another post: How Long Do The Puppy Blues Last? With 5 Tips To Help.
But the short version is how long the following last:
Can Anyone Help With The Puppy Blues?
Yes. You absolutely do not have to go through this alone – though you can be a part of the solution.
✅ Your Friends & Family
✅ Your Doctor
✅ Your Therapist
If you want more guidance on this check over here in 7 People Who Can Help With The Puppy Blues.
Learn from my experience
These tips come from my experience, and they’re there for you. To help you through this, okay? You can do this. You don’t need to give puppy back. You went into this with your eyes open and you’re just feeling a little wobbly.
Wobbles are normal, okay?
You’re allowed to be unsure and you’re going to get things wrong. Don’t aim for perfection. Perfection is the biggest target that you cannot set yourself. You want practical, not perfect. Trust me.
Anyway! Aside from knowing what you’re going through, you want to get through the puppy blues. Below are my tips on how to help you and your puppy get through this puppy blues phase.
1 – Remember it’s finite.
Crate training, routine implementation, the sleepless nights and the huge focus on puppy will decrease over time. You only get this with this puppy once, so try and enjoy it. It will end. If you need to cry? It might just help. You have to feel what you have to feel – and this will come to an end. They become easier, I promise.
2 – Brush Up On What To Expect
Knowing what to expect when you get a puppy is huge. Because let me tell you? Expectations vs reality with a puppy? Is often some of the biggest chasm of difference that ever happens to a person.
It’s bloody hard to raise a puppy. The communication, the sleeplessness, the mood, the exhaustion etc? It’s hard. And there are minimal resources on what will actually work.
What does exist now? Is my programme. Pupdates.
I’ve got metrics in there, I’ve got what to expect, when to expect it, and you get all of that info before it’s going to happen so that you’re prepared. It’s the product I really wanted when struggling with the puppy blues, so, go check it out, it’ll help take the anxiety out of this process for you.
3 – Make Sure Your Crate Training Is On Pointe!
Getting your puppy settled in at home, and having their own space is so very important and can be so handy for helping with the puppy blues – because if there’s a space where your puppy is happy to be alone? It means you have even 5 minutes for yourself. So make sure that your crate training is working.
If you need guidance on this? Check The Rebarkable Crate Training Information Center! for all of my resources on crate training.
4 – Take time for you.
Like the advice they give new mothers and fathers, try to squeeze in some time for you. For example, you could take a nap! Settle puppy into their crate and close your eyes. You’re certainly exhausted because the little one is crying or howling at night.
Alternatively, a time for a bath, where you can relax. Or go get your nails done! Sorry, I know they’re a bit girly – or – maybe go to a bar with your buddy and watch some football? There’s a lot of options for “Me time” – that’s great to help you with the puppy blues!
5 – Cranky Puppy Plans
Make sure you have a routine in place. make sure there is a structure to your new puppy’s day. Check out our post on Creating a Routine for your Puppy – because it’s really important to segment the day so that you’re making the best routine for them – if you don’t? This stage can be totally rotten, because if your dog isn’t getting the right level of exercise, or sleeping properly himself, it can make him cantankerous, which is really not going to help the situation. Chews can be a life saver.
6 – Build A Support Network
Whether this is your mum, your best friend, or a paid professional like the dog walker I mentioned, even a trainer! Particularly a trainer if there’s something that’s bugging you senseless. Sometimes having someone there to help you, to become your back up when you just need a break – that’s fine! Honestly, and do not feel guilty about that – that’s an order, ok? Feel ok. You need to take time for you.
Now, if you’ve had something going on for a little longer? If it’s been festering for a while… Or if this starts extending for a longer time, please make sure to go seek professional help. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, seek help, feel better. No one deserves to be in that hole and talking to a professional is one of the best ways of dealing with it in my opinion.
You can find help in the US from Mental Health America.
In any country? Talk to your doctor, they’ll know what to do.
This needed to be said.
This did need to be said. I promise you, if you post about this in a facebook board – you will not be alone! Talking can help too. And, if you can? Try talking to dog people, because mental health is a tough enough subject to talk about, let alone when it involves an animal.
Last big thing? You can’t be everything to everyone all the time.
I promise you, if you prioritise yourself for an hour, even if that means you have to get a dog walker in once a week to hang out with your pup (which they are gonna LOVE doing! Hanging out with puppies was one of my favourite things to do when I was a dog walker!) whilst you go have a bath, go to the pub or similar is going to help.
if you are genuinely feeling down about this?
Oh! And don’t take it out on your puppy – even if you’re feeling totally overwhelmed. Remember you brought them into your life and they’re learning to live with you, too.
If it helps? Let me know. If you’re struggling, let me know! I’m happy to talk and help if I can. Email me. Honestly, I’ll reply.
If you have 2 minutes….
Can you help with a little research into the puppy blues?
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021’s worlds’ best pet blog!