How long do the puppy blues last? It’s a great question, huh? It’s the big question for you right now…
I’m a puppy trainer now, but I’ve also been a new puppy parent – just like you. And the puppy blues? Is no freaking joke.
I’ve been where you are right now. I’ve been in your shoes, but for me? This content, this recognition didn’t exist. So I wanted to normalise this experience for you, to explain it from my first-hand experience. I want you to understand what’s happening and how you can help yourself.
But the single biggest question is “How long”, the “When does it get better?”, “When does it get easier?”
I want to talk about that. Because it’s not really a “one size fits all” answer. Because, as with anything emotional, it’s a “How long is a piece of string” answer. But I can give you the components.
But, as always, let’s start with a little understanding.
What Is 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.
Yet, you can feel like it’s all consuming, that you might even want to give your puppy back…
So… why do you feel this way?
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.
When Did It Stop For You, Ali?
For me? The worst of it was the first week. After that? There were peaks and troughs after that first week, it’s not as bad. I found Indie became a whole chunk more manageable after I got the majority of my sleep back. For me and Indie, this was around the week after he came home – though I will say this may not be the case for you. Indie is a large breed dog (so bladder control tends to be easier), he is smart, his breeder had made a start, and his akita-side is very inclined to cleanliness (it is an odd fact that some dogs are naturally cleaner than others! Super weird, but totally true).
How Long Do The Puppy Blues Last?
It can be as long as a month or two, but it definitely depends on a number of factors, such as the dog you have, some are easier than others, and some are more difficult! That’s just how the world goes. Then there’s also how much effort you put in too. Training is really important, after all, when was the last time you lived with someone who you didn’t have to tell “Can you at least put the toilet roll up the right way?” (or similar, you know… just an example that’s definitely not what I tell Mr. Rebarkable… often…)
Problem #1 – The Sleeplessness
Feeling tired is a huge component of low moods, it makes you less tolerant and it makes you snappier (generally!), which often means that when puppy does a thing, that you react harsher than you might if you were well-rested.
Eventually, I’ll put a thing here that has tips for making puppy sleep easier, but for now? It’s all about acing your puppy’s crate training!
The quicker your pup starts sleeping through the night, the quicker this will abate, the quicker this goes? The quicker you will get back on schedule and this element of the puppy blues risk factors will diminish…
Tip #1 – Change The Track
Yep, all things that feed into your own frustration.
They’re each a natural progression from one another as your terse-ness mounts.
Instead of saying no all the time, try changing the track. Say the following as many times a day as you possibly can
– Well done!
– Great choice!
– Good boy/Good girl
– You’re being so good right now.
And reward them for doing the right thing.
This could be something small, it could be as simple as offering a really pretty sit before dinner, or asking to go out, or whatever it is. But it will encourage more of this behaviour, time after time.
By doing this? You’re taking a new perspective on your puppy, and it should help to change a downward spiral, into an upward spiral – which is what you really need right now!!
Problem #2 – The Biting
Puppies need to chew for 4hrs a day. Which means at 8 weeks old? Your puppy is either asleep. Or Chewing.
Yep. That’s no exaggeration either. So, its a bit of a pain. And more than a bit if I’m honest…
But you have to deal with it. Ignoring it, is not an option. Ignoring the biting just won’t work.
You have to understand the biting to resolve the biting, because biting is the only way your puppy knows to communicate and learn.
They bite, the thing they bit either reacts or it doesn’t, and they know quickly if the item is alive or not.
They bite to play.
They bite to explore textures and surfaces.
They bite to express frustration.
They bite to relieve the pain of teething!
They bite to say they need the bathroom, or that they’re overtired, or over stimulated!
Yep, it’s a pickle, huh?
Luckily, all of your biting woes can be solved with knowledge, consistency and time (and maybe some oven mitts! I am joking there…) – and I’ve already got the knowledge wrapped up for you in All About Painful Biting Puppy; The Why, The Do’s & The Don’ts
Remember! The quicker you get this one under control? The quicker the puppy blues will go away.
Tip #2 – Redirect
Redirection is often the thing you need. And now. I’m going to let you in on a secret.
It doesn’t work straight away. Nothing you do with your puppy will ever work straight away.
It’s about ironing out the creases between puppy’s natural instincts, what’s most rewarding for puppy, and what is an acceptable way of doing what they want to do, or communicating that that’s what they want to do.
For play, which is one of the most common reasons for puppy biting. We teach that they can play so long as play is with a toy, and not human skin.
Does It Ever Get Better?
Like every day is unpredictable?
Like you don’t know what’s right?
Let me make it easier.
Problem #3 – Communication Frustration
“I just don’t understand what you want. Just tell me… what? What is it?”
A common quote from a frustrated new puppy parent. You’ve said it too, huh? Me too.
Dogs don’t speak english. We don’t speak dog. So how do you communicate properly? Especially when the one trying to communicate is a young dog…?
Well, I mean you could get a trainer to regularly interpret for you and train you to speak more dog (because that’s kind of what we do), or you can work it out slowly, over time, with research and patience, or reference books like Lili Chin’s doggie language.
Frustration is usually a consequence of a number of things, but if you can try and understand as opposed to getting het up? It will help abate the puppy blues.
Tip #3 – Breathe
Before you lose your temper? Inhale deeply, hold it, and release, woosah… whatever helps, right? That deep breath, the moderation of your spike in frustration will keep you going through this. I promise.
Problem #4 – Revolving Around Puppy
And that’s all.
That’s all there is about you. You turn from your normal, every day life, to this… puppy parent. And that’s your entire identity at the moment. Toilet break, train, adapt, overcome, learn, change, crate, uncrate, google this (why’re you googling again? Just check the blog), and come to conclusions, trial and error (lots of error) and cleaning up poop whilst keeping your pup away from nanna’s antique persian rug.
This is not what you had accounted for is it?
Well, suffice to say it won’t last forever.
Tip #4 – Keep A Diary.
Now, this doesn’t have to be the emotional one you kept with your poetry and song lyrics at 14, but instead go for a training/puppy emotion diary (this is my favourite notebook ever by the way)
Detail the accidents, the biting – score it if it helps! The emotions, how much sleep you had (or didn’t have), so that the next time you hit a low? You can look back and see how far you’ve come. Progress gives perspective. And it can make you feel like you’re not just wasting your time.
My Biggest Tip….
A lot of the puppy blues is a mixture of emotion, the unknown, and the responsibility.
I can actually take the unknown away from you.
Sign up for pupdates. Seriously. I created these to fill the void of information out there, they are the only product you will find that normalises the experience of puppyhood, explains what you are to expect, why you should expect it, and keep you on track, and feel more in control of the direction your relationship is going with your puppy.
It gives you the answers before you need them, it structures their life and delivers it in small, digestible chunks, week by week.
Solving and explaining your problems before they become problems.
It’s the single best investment you’ll make in your puppy, to make them into the Rebarkable Dog you know they can be.
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 the worlds best pet blog!