Do you have a new puppy at home? If so, congratulations! Puppies are adorable and exciting and have the potential to be your family’s best friend for life. However, as with any new addition to your family, they can come with a unique set of challenges as each of you adjusts to life together—especially in the early days. One such challenge you may not expect is known as “the puppy blues.” Let’s discuss what this term means, what causes it, and how to manage the symptoms.
What are the Puppy Blues?
When preparing to bring your new puppy or dog home, you’re likely thinking of all the fun activities you’ll be able to do together as they learn and grow. However, there are a few growing pains you (and your puppy) will likely have to go through before life settles down again. While you may expect to deal with things like potty training, chewing, and bursts of puppy energy, something that often affects both new and seasoned puppy owners is known as “the puppy blues.”
“The puppy blues” is the state of feeling anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, sad, frustrated, resentful, or regretful after bringing home a new dog or puppy. It can be especially overwhelming when your emotions conflict with each other (“Why am I not happy when adopting a puppy is supposed to be exciting?”) and your anticipation turns out to be different than you expected. The puppy blues can lead you to ask yourself questions like, “Was this a good idea?”, “Why can’t I do anything right?”, “Why won’t he/she listen to me?”, “Does my dog even like me?”, and “Do I even like my dog?”
In most cases, the puppy blues are temporary and resolve after a few weeks or months as you and your puppy learn how to live together. However, the duration does not determine or diminish the severity of symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Puppy Blues
The signs and symptoms of puppy blues are similar to the symptoms that people experience with depression and anxiety disorders; the key difference, however, is that the symptoms appear just after bringing home a new dog or puppy. In addition to feeling anxious, overwhelmed, sad, frustrated, guilty, and/or regretful, other signs of the puppy blues include:
- Feeling unsupported or “on your own”
- Feeling helpless or like you can’t do anything right
- Feeling trapped with your decision to get a puppy
- Feeling ashamed for feeling trapped or regretful
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling tense or on edge
- Feeling distracted or unable to concentrate
- Feeling numb or depressed
- Feelings of panic about suddenly being responsible for another living being
- Increased headaches, nausea, or other feelings of sickness
- Heightened emotions and/or crying
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
Despite being temporary, the puppy blues can sometimes be debilitating and make daily life almost impossible. If you or someone you know is experiencing severe symptoms, reach out to someone in your support circle to ask for help. If those symptoms include suicidal ideations, talk to a trusted mental health professional right away. The importance of having a support system during this time cannot be overstated!
What Causes the Puppy Blues?
The puppy blues can be caused by many factors during the first few weeks of having your new puppy at home. Let’s go over a few of the most common.
Lack of Sleep
One of the most common causes of the puppy blues is sleep deprivation or changes in sleep quality. If your puppy is still being potty and/or crate trained, you might find yourself waking up periodically during the night to take them outside or soothe their whining. Even if your puppy is sleeping until morning, your sleep schedule has probably changed to cater more to your puppy’s habits, like waking up earlier to feed them or squeeze in a training session before you get ready for work. Whatever the reason for the change in sleep habits, the lack of quality sleep can drastically affect your mood and exaggerate the puppy blues.
Lack of Downtime
Another common cause of the puppy blues is the sudden change in routine and lack of consistent downtime. With the addition of a new puppy into your schedule, you suddenly have to make time for play and exercise, training, meals, and bathroom breaks—and you probably aren’t the one deciding when exactly these things happen. If your puppy decides it’s time for “zoomies” or to chew up the side of your couch, you have to deal with the disruptions whenever they happen. Constantly keeping an eye on your puppy so they stay out of trouble can be exhausting and contribute to the puppy blues.
Lack of Preparedness
Especially for first-time dog parents, it can be difficult to be ready for every possible new behavior and situation your puppy will present. Even if you puppy-proof your home, buy all the “right” toys and treats, and brush up on proper training techniques before bringing your new family member home, your puppy will probably still surprise you with a behavior or situation you weren’t prepared for. Not knowing what to do when your puppy won’t stop barking or is aggressive with their food can lead to feelings of overwhelm or impatience. It’s important to keep learning about training methods for a multitude of situations so you can be ready if the time comes!
How to Manage the Puppy Blues
The pressure of caring for a new dog or puppy can be stressful, overwhelming, and even scary. Luckily, there are a few ways to help you manage the symptoms.
Reach Out for Support
First and foremost, don’t shy away from asking for help from your support system and taking time for yourself. If you have friends or family in the area, ask them to come play with the puppy while you take a nap or make a meal for yourself. Taking a break—even if it’s just to take a shower or make yourself a hot meal while your puppy naps—can make all the difference. Be kind to yourself and know that raising a puppy is difficult business, but you’re doing it (and you’re probably doing better than you think)!
Next, you may want to reassess the expectations you have about your puppy. Your puppy isn’t going to learn the rules about everything right away, especially when it comes to nuisance behaviors like chewing. Adjusting your expectations can help curb disappointment and lead to extra-exciting milestones like learning commands and going a whole day without an accident in the house.
Connect with Other Puppy Parents
Whether you have friends who are also raising a puppy or you connect with other puppy parents on social media, talking to someone else who is experiencing the same thing can feel like a flood of relief and validation. If you’re in the same area, you may even be able to safely meet up for a puppy play date.
While the puppy blues can be isolating and difficult, you don’t have to go through them alone. Take the first step by reaching out to a partner, friend, or family member for support when you need it, and consider talking to a mental health professional to help you process the emotions surrounding this big life change. Remember—you’ve got this.