How to combat the puppy blues
Feeling down after getting a new dog? Instead of being overwhelmed with puppy love, you may well have a case of the puppy blues – but do not panic, it is often completely normal.
What are the puppy blues?
You’ve been counting down the days until your little ball of fur and energy arrives. Everything is prepped, from the bed and food to the training schedule and first walking route.
Your heart melts when they sink into your lap and cuddle up to you for the first time. But a week in, you’re left feeling low and dejected. You may even be left wondering if you have done the right thing by welcoming a dog into your life.
Guide: Dog happiness top tips
But this isn’t how it’s meant to feel, is it? Well, it’s more common than you may think. For many new dog parents, this is the reality. But the good news is, it normally passes relatively quickly and, before you know it, you’ll be wondering what you ever did without your four-legged friend by your side.
Why am I feeling like this?
Perhaps it’s because you’ve barely slept since they arrived due to the dusk to dawn toilet breaks? Or the fact that this tiny creature is demanding every ounce of your attention and energy? Maybe it’s the constant worrying that you’re doing things wrong?
Puppies – just like babies – are a blank canvas and rely on you for absolutely everything, from entertainment to survival. When you look at it like that, it’s no wonder that this pressure, combined with sleep deprivation, can leave you feeling shattered, sad and a little tearful.
How can I improve things?
Giving it time is the answer here. But, good socialization and training, based on positive reinforcement (rewarding good behavior), teach your puppy right from wrong, and will eventually lead to a confident, well-behaved dog. Never chastise your pup for mistakes, as this is counterproductive and can lead to bigger problems.
There is a wealth of reputable books, information and puppy classes out there to help. But training a puppy is no proverbial walk in the dog park, and the amount of time it takes can vary.
If your little bundle of joy is constantly getting hold of things they shouldn’t, perhaps you haven’t quite ‘puppy-proofed’ your home well enough.
This doesn’t just set back training; it can also pose a real danger – and the last thing you want is a trip to the vet. Scan every corner of your home to ensure everything you don’t want your pup to lay their paws on is safely out of reach, from electric wires to human medication.
Also remember, that once your puppy is fully vaccinated (normally between 11 and 14 weeks), you can channel their energy into a couple of short walks a day (no more than five minutes for every month of life is recommended, to prevent joint problems).
Before that point, it’s risky to allow them to walk in areas where unvaccinated dogs may have been – but you can still carry them on trips out of the house, and this is an important part of the socialization period.
Seeing the big wide world in this way also provides mental stimulation and should hopefully help with energy levels when back at home.
Be kind to yourself
Make sure you take ample time off work to settle in your new arrival – trying to juggle an eight-week-old puppy, busy home life, and work in those early days is setting yourself up for an almighty crash.
If you are co-puppy parenting, then ensure you take it in turns to go out and do things you enjoy. With children, set boundaries on play and training. If you live alone, would a sympathetic friend or relative pop round for a couple of hours to give you a little break from the pressures of puppy dependency?
This is also helpful in terms of getting your dog used to visitors and spending time away from you. You’ll need to carefully build up the amount of time they’re alone to prevent separation issues in the future when leaving them for short periods.
What if the feeling doesn’t pass?
Ultimately, there’s no easy fix for this difficult phase, but it will invariably pass with time. Go easy on yourself and remember that it’s perfectly normal to feel a little down and exhausted.
But, if you don’t start to see an improvement, or ever find yourself struggling, it might be time to get help. And never feel judged or ashamed if you seek it. There are plenty of accredited behavior experts that can help you overcome many problems and animal rescue charities that can provide support. There are so many people out there who understand and want to help. But if you feel there is no other option than to rehome your dog, always contact your local pet shelter to ensure they’re still loved and cared for.
If you need to speak to someone about feelings of despair, visit Mental Health America if you’re in the US or Samaritans if you’re in the UK. Your doctor can also help and always seek medical care in an emergency.