Puppies are supposed to bring you hours of joy and companionship, so what are all these emotions that feel like “puppy blues”?
Bringing a new puppy into your home can be a very exciting time for you as you adjust to having a new, furry ball of energy taking over your life and your couch.
But it can be a lot of work too — maybe even more than you expected — and it can lead to some less-than-happy feelings.
It’s OK to regret getting a puppy. Pets can be a hefty commitment, especially when they’re young and require training and guidance.
The “post-puppy blues” or simply “puppy blues” are a natural response to the sudden lack of freedom and increase of responsibilities that can come with a new dog.
People love puppies.
In fact, approximately 69 million households in the United States have a dog. Each year, pet owners spend billions of dollars on their furry friends, buying everything from fancy food to squeaky toys and dog collars.
For many people, owning a dog feels like a natural next step, especially if they’ve been admiring dogs for a long time. But the shift from dog admirer to dog owner can come with some unexpected costs, and not all of them are financial.
Puppies tend to require constant supervision and guidance. They chew, bite, lick, and get into almost everything as they learn about their environment. This might mean you can’t leave your puppy unattended for too long, and suddenly, your social life may screech to a halt.
Plus, most new dogs aren’t calm and obedient (yet) when you first bring them home — and training can be hard work.
Behavioral challenges, such as barking and separation anxiety, can compound the post-puppy blues.
What is post-puppy depression?
Post-puppy depression, another term for puppy blues, isn’t a formal diagnosis. It’s a term used to describe feelings of regret, disappointment, and dismay that can occur after getting a new dog.
It may come as a surprise that a puppy can leave you feeling so overwhelmed, especially when it’s a popular assumption that pet ownership is good for mental health. But getting a new puppy can be as overwhelming as bringing home a newborn baby.
For example, a 2015 survey of U.S. adults found single men who owned a pet generally reported higher depressive symptoms than single women who owned a pet. The survey also concluded that single men may feel more burdened by taking care of a pet, whereas single women often benefitted from their pet’s companionship.
A 2019 study from South Korea, meanwhile, noted a significant association between a dog owner’s depressive symptoms and their negative attitudes or feelings toward their dogs.
Feelings of post-puppy depression can stem from a number of reasons, including:
- concern about the puppy’s well-being
- lack of sleep due to puppy antics
- the puppy’s destructiveness
- the inability to leave the puppy unsupervised
- the burden of puppy-related responsibilities and obligations, like frequent bathroom walks, feeding, and bathing
Puppy blues vs. clinical depression
Feeling the puppy blues doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing clinical depression.
Usually, the puppy blues are directly tied to your new pup, and your symptoms are generally milder than clinical depression.
However, if you think your symptoms are severe or last for a long period of time, you might want to consider speaking with a mental health professional who can help.
Symptoms of puppy blues
Puppy blues may not be a diagnosable condition, but that doesn’t mean what you’re feeling isn’t real or frustrating. Symptoms may include:
You may find you don’t like your puppy at times, or you wish you had never made the decision to get a puppy in the first place.
You’re not a bad dog parent for having these thoughts. Just because there are moments when it’s a challenge to enjoy your puppy, that doesn’t mean you don’t love them.
Q: How long will puppy blues last?
A: Puppy blues don’t have a timeline. They can last for days, weeks, or even months and you might even experience them every time you introduce a new dog to your household.
For many people, the feelings of puppy depression resolve once you settle into a routine and your puppy has made progress with basic training.
Every dog is different and some breeds might not be as suited for certain lifestyles. A high energy herding breed, for example, may not adjust as well to the inner-city apartment life. Meanwhile, some puppies are more vocal or take longer to become trained.
Q: How do I cope with puppy stress at home?
A: Like human children, puppies are in the primary learning phase of their lives.
Many of the behaviors they display are a part of how they are processing the world. Those shoes they chewed up? It wasn’t because they wanted to upset you — they were exploring scents and textures in the only way they knew how.
One way you can cope with your puppy blues is to remind yourself:
- This is often a temporary phase.
- My puppy isn’t doing it to upset me.
- Most dogs respond well to training and building a routine.
That being said, early challenges, like chewing and barking, can become long-term issues if they aren’t addressed. For this reason, educating yourself and speaking with a professional dog trainer can provide important insight.
If you’re not sure where to turn, your veterinary office may have a list of canine professionals that they recommend.
In addition to doing what you can to support your puppy and establish household rules, focusing on your own stress reduction can also help. Puppy-proofing an area of your home can allow you to go for a walk, take a moment in the garden, or disengage from the constant bombardment of puppy energy.
Q: Is crate training helpful or just stress-inducing?
When practiced as intended, crate training is a way to provide your puppy with a safe space that they can go to feel comfortable and secure. It can be used as an anxiety-reducing tool and a way to help calm your dog.
But crate training isn’t about forcing your dog to hold their bladder or about locking them away for “time-outs.”
Puppies may not understand the crate at first. So, if they often get banished to crates to keep them out of the way or out of trouble, it can cause temper tantrums or barking. Some dogs can even destroy the crates they’re confined in.
Crates don’t have to be a source of strife for puppies and owners, though. If you’re unsure of how to use them, consider speaking to your veterinarian or a dog trainer.
You’re not a bad pet owner for feeling the puppy blues. Any animal brings with it a host of responsibilities. They require food, water, exercise, and lots of attention, along with many other life necessities.
The puppy blues often disappear as your puppy learns and grows. If, however, you feel extreme levels of despair or hopelessness even after your puppy has established manners, you might have something more serious than post-puppy depression.
Either way, a mental health professional can also help you, whether that’s by guiding you through puppy blues or treating any mental health conditions that could be impacting your daily life.