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What are ‘Puppy Blues’? Dealing with overwhelm of a new puppy

Updated 11 June 2024
Read time: 10 mins
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Written by Corinne Homer
Copywriter
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Reviewed by Elle Padgham
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The lead up to getting a new puppy is always exciting - you may have dreamed about this for years and are finally bringing home that fuzzy bundle! 

However, once a puppy becomes part of your daily routine, it can inevitably bring about challenges. Pups are cute, but a lot of work - they can be destructive, unpredictable and needy, not to mention the effort it takes to get them to sleep at night. In these early stages, you might be overwhelmed in a way that you didn’t expect. 

This sensation, called ‘Puppy Blues’ is completely normal, and something almost every new puppy owner experiences. In this article, we’ll go into what it means to get puppy blues, how to manage it, and tips to bond with your puppy, despite these (temporary) feelings.


Understanding the concept of puppy blues

Puppy blues is a sensation of shock or overwhelm that occurs usually in the first few weeks of looking after a puppy, often due to the big responsibilities and sacrifices that puppy-rearing brings. 


A puppy is a baby - you’ll need to feed, clean and play with them, take them for walks, train them and develop a sleep routine - so of course, this can be all encompassing at first.

The emotional impact of bringing home a new puppy

The huge responsibility of puppy rearing can be very emotionally trying on new puppy parents. 

  • You might be shocked at how your regular routine has been turned upside down by this noisy, energetic whirlwind that needs constant attention. 
  • As you don’t have the freedom you once had, this can lead to sadness or resentment – almost like a sense of grief for the life you had before. 
  • There’s anxiety that might arise each time you have to leave your pup alone at home, or do something important like give them medication.  
  • You might be surprised or disappointed if your pup doesn’t behave how you expected. Maybe they don’t like cuddles yet, aren’t as affectionate as you thought, or they’re nipping you all the time. 
  • This frustration might come with enormous guilt - because you thought you’d love being a puppy parent, and you don’t want to feel negatively towards your new family member. 

If this resonates, don’t worry! It’s important to remember these feelings are completely normal. It doesn’t mean you hate your puppy or you’re a bad puppy mum or dad. This is an adjustment period to what is definitely a big change in your life.  

The Puppy Stage

Raising a puppy is so full of joy, love and excitement, but it can be hard work, too. By understanding the reality of what’s to come, you’ll feel more confident in handling it should the puppy blues creep in. 

The challenges of the puppy stage

Let’s go into some of the trickier aspects of caring for a new puppy…


Toilet training. This is the most critical stage for teaching your pup to pee and poop outside, and there will be a lot of household accidents!

Nipping or biting. Puppies are teething, and that means they’ll bite anything they can get their little snouts around - including your hands, feet and ankles. 

Destruction. If left alone, pups often dispense their energy by tearing something to shreds. This extends to your pillows, books, clothes or plants! 

Training/Behavioural issues. You may have issues getting your pup to do things on command. They may not want to walk when you take them, or could growl or show aggression to other dogs or people. 

Barking, crying. Just like human babies, puppies bark and cry out a lot when they want attention. This can happen throughout the day and night.  

Disturbed sleeping. Puppies sleep a lot - around 18-20 hours a day! However, they usually wake up multiple times through the night. When you suffer a lack of sleep, it translates to lower patience, difficulty focusing and a low mood, so this can really make things harder when caring for the puppy during the day. 


Recognizing and Addressing Puppy Blues

So how will you recognise that your low mood is ‘Puppy Blues’? 

Identifying symptoms of puppy blues

Identifying that you’re going through puppy blues is the first step to feeling better. Pay attention if, after you’ve brought a puppy home, you find yourself with any of the following symptoms for an extended period : 


  • Preoccupation/worry. Anxiety over your puppy’s behaviour or wellbeing is overwhelming you and taking up a lot of mental space. 
  • Despondency to your pup. You’re starting to feel detached from your puppy, or even feel that you don’t like them. 
  • Developing a short temper. Perhaps due to a lack of sleep, you find yourself with less and less patience towards your puppy’s behaviour.
  • Wanting to return the puppy. You’ve considered that maybe owning a puppy isn’t for you and whether to give them back.
  • General low mood. You don’t feel as happy as you used to, and would even describe yourself as depressed at times. 
  • Exhaustion. Feelings of burnout from managing your puppy’s routines and tasks, and a lack of sleep, have left you feeling exhausted. 
  • Changes in appetite. You might be comfort eating or find that you aren’t hungry due to the stress. 
  • Tearfulness. You might feel you’re on the verge of crying quite often, and can easily go to pieces when your puppy has another routine issue or accident. 

  • Managing feelings of overwhelm during the puppy stage

    When you sense yourself becoming stressed and overwhelmed with caring for your pup and the challenges it brings, don’t try to push those feelings down. Forgiving yourself these emotions and allowing breathing space is key in order to bond with your puppy and move through the more exhausting times.

    Self-care strategies to cope with puppy blues

    Remember, when your new identity as a puppy parent is getting you down, you have to take time for yourself and retain some sense of normality among the chaos. Some self-care strategies, such as below, can lead you back to a more relaxed and contented mentality: 

    Keep a routine for yourself. Your pup is dominating your time, but that doesn’t mean you should give up your schedule, especially eating nutritious meals, having baths or long showers, taking exercise, listening to music or watching shows you enjoy. 

    Share sleeping responsibilities. If lack of sleep is a big issue, ask if someone will take your puppy for a night so you can catch up on shut-eye. If you share a puppy, take shifts seeing to them throughout the night. 

    Keep active. Exercise is super important to kicking feel-good endorphins and instigating a sense of calm. Just a walk outdoors can do the world of good. 

    Take some time away from the pup. Reach out to a friend or family member who might take over puppy-sitting duties for an evening or day while you do something you enjoy. 

    Chat to trusted friends and family. A long talk to get things off your chest is sure to make you feel good and remind you that you have support. 


    Seeking support from professionals or puppy parenting communities

    There’s lots of help available if you’re finding your puppy blues particularly hard to manage. Puppy parenting communities online are a great resource for posting about your experiences or reading about others, so you don’t feel so isolated. 

    Try talking to your vet for reassurance. They can potentially point you towards in-person puppy support groups, puppy training classes, or help you with further resources.

    Of course, it’s vital to speak up about your struggle to your own personal support network such as friends and family, particularly if you’re looking after a puppy on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; taking on a new puppy is tough and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. 


    Bonding with your puppy

    This is a key time for building that pooch-to-parent relationship, but puppy blues can get in the way of fostering a loving connection with your puppy. No matter how tired you feel, intentionally making time to bond can help to balance out those negative feelings and remind you why having a new pup is so special.  

    Establishing an emotional bond with your puppy

    They might be driving you up the wall, but keep doing the following in order to nurture the bond between you and your puppy: 

    • Spend quality time. Play interactive games like ‘tug of war’ and ‘fetch’, cuddle lots, and get down to your pup’s level as much as possible. Speak to them as you do things around the house, and engage and respond to their actions. This will deepen their familiarity with you and build trust.
    • Give your pup loving attention. Smile at your puppy, hold them, cuddle and pet them, and spend time in the same space as them. 
    • Communicate clearly. Keep a positive, friendly tone when chatting or giving positive feedback to your pooch, and a clear, firm tone during commands or discipline. Don’t mumble or mix up your tones to avoid confusing them. 
    • Use positive reinforcement. When your puppy does something well, like learns to sit or lets you know they need to pee, be sure to reward them with affection, praise or a treat. 
    • Keep routine. Dogs love routine, and to know that you are the instigator of regular events in their day will strengthen your puppy’s trust in you.

    Managing feelings of regret

    Remember that it’s completely normal to struggle to bond with your puppy sometimes, and even regret getting a puppy at all. Don’t act rashly when you get these feelings - they will likely be temporary, and are just a part of being overwhelmed. Be sure to talk to someone about your stress and ask for help whenever possible, even delegating some puppy-sitting to friends or family so you can get a breather. The likelihood is, you won’t want to return your puppy for long.

     

    Training and Behavioural issues

    For some new dog owners, it’s the process of training a puppy that can create frustration. All puppies are somewhat of a challenge to train but some are trickier than others, and an unruly puppy that seems resistant to training can cause a lot of stress and burnout. 


    Perhaps your new pooch has shown progression in training but then starts to revert back to old misbehaviours; or you feel you can’t take them on walks without chaos when they meet other dogs. If this happens, each day can feel exhausting and make puppy blues much worse. 


    Easing your puppy’s behavioural problems 

    If your puppy is being naughty more often or seems to have extra aggression or energy, consider whether a different training method might work better. Remember to use positive reinforcement and clear communication, as well as keep a regular feeding, sleeping and walking routine. The structure should have your pup feeling calmer. 


    If nothing seems to be working, take your puppy to a vet - they can do some check-ups on your pup and point you to professional training services who will be happy to help.


    FAQs

    Hopefully you feel more at ease over how common it is to get puppy blues, and are now equipped to get through the toughest waves! To finish off, here are some answers to some final questions. 

    How long do puppy blues last?

    The duration of puppy blues varies between owners and puppies. It can last only a few days after getting the puppy, to a month, a few months, or in extreme cases even up to a year. Be aware of your feelings if you find the blues are lasting over a month, and definitely seek some support to improve your situation. 

    How to deal with puppy blues?

    The key to dealing with puppy blues is ideally preparation, acknowledging the symptoms and reaching out for help with puppy-rearing. Remember to keep some semblance of normality in your life, and make time for things you enjoy around looking after your new pup.

    Why do I have anxiety after getting a puppy?

    It’s completely normal to have feelings of anxiety after getting a puppy. Suddenly you have responsibility for this tiny, furry baby who is completely dependent on you! Many new pooch parents feel anxiety, especially the first few times they leave their pup at home alone. Forgive yourself for these worrying thoughts, but definitely seek support if you find the anxiety is interrupting your life.

    At what age do puppies get easier?

    Some pooch parents will adapt to a new puppy relatively quickly, however, a puppy goes through many stages until they reach adulthood (they even go through doggy adolescence!) – so there will be lots of change for the first two years or so. Take each stage as it comes, do lots of research and seek help from your friends, family, puppy support groups and your vet if you’re finding things particularly difficult. Your pooch will eventually settle into their grown self and be more chilled out, and you’ll look back fondly on this time when they were a crazy pup!

    References

    1. ‘Puppy Blues’ Study of 857 puppy owners, 2023 -ManyPets.

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