“Before you get a dog, you can’t quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you can’t imagine living any other way”.
I’m going to let you into a little secret, there is a very little talked about phase of becoming a puppy owner that I wish somebody had told me beforehand. The puppy blues is a very real, common experience especially if you are a first-time owner and I think more awareness and less stigma surrounding this is very much needed.
In my last blog I talked about getting a puppy; what to research and prepare for, but what is often missed when you type in a google search of how to prepare for a new puppy, is the stage encountered very soon after your pup is brought home known as the “puppy blues”.
What Is The Puppy Blues?
After all the waiting, preparation and dreaming of life with your adorable furry bundle, they’re finally home and you are on a massive high. But with all big changes in life and new experiences, how you imagined the process of settling in your new addition to the family can be quite jarringly different in reality and well, quite frankly a big shock to the system. Puppy blues is the pretty accurate term used to describe the waves of regret, anxiety, grief, dismay, guilt, hopelessness and sleep deprivation experienced in the first weeks and months of becoming a pup parent.
The feelings of responsibility, loss of freedom as you revolve your days and nights around constant supervision, toilet breaks and entertaining your little fur baby quickly takes a toll on you physically and emotionally and it is quite normal to feel overwhelmed and cry “What have I done?!”
I am here to tell you not to feel bad for feeling this way because it is normal! I thought I had read all the guides, forums, and websites on what to expect and when it first hit me a couple of days in, I thought I must be really unusual to feel blue as even my friends who had dogs never mentioned feeling low getting their puppy’s home.
What Are The Main Triggers?
- Unrelenting disruptions to your routine, from mopping up toileting accidents, to taking them outside every hour.
- Keeping your eye on them constantly and making sure they are occupied and entertained
- Broken sleep repeatedly for toilet breaks and early starts
- Loss of your freedom
- Pre-existing mental health conditions can make you more susceptible
Does It Get Better?
Yes! It does pass and you will feel better and love the bond you have formed with your puppy, but don’t pressure yourself on how long that should take. Building a relationship takes time and commitment. You and your pooch are both learning how to live alongside each other and building a routine so cut yourself some slack!
Things To Keep Mindful Of
- Better days are coming, your pup will be toilet trained, sleep through the night and not need your constant attention
- Your puppy is not trying to annoy you
- Your pup will get the hang of training if you remain consistent
- Teething, chewing and nipping will pass
- I can vouch you will feel joy, love and excitement again and have many fun moments of companionship ahead
- It is so common, though rarely admitted
Things That Helped Me
- One of the best things I did was to admit to my family and friends that I was struggling and asked for breaks. Having that time out to myself really helped me to get through adapting to our new addition.
- Contacting my friends who had dogs and asking them if they had the puppy blues and hearing their experiences and relating to their struggles was a huge comfort and gave me hope that things would pass, and better times were ahead.
- I had a fantastic breeder and so contacting them and asking for advice on anything that was worrying me was a great support.
- Not looking too far ahead, taking things one day at a time and celebrating the achievements and progression helped too
- When my pup Cookie was allowed to go outside on walks, it made a massive difference and gave back the freedom we had lost and the chance to socialise with other dog owners and ask advice.
What To Do If Things Don’t Improve
It can take from a few weeks to several months to adapt to having a puppy and the scale is different for everyone. In my case it took me around 8 or 9 months to settle and feel completely bonded with Cookie, for other family members it was only a few weeks, so it can really vary.
However, there is a difference between the puppy blues and a genuine incompatibility that is not in the best interests for your or your puppy.
When To Rehome
- The puppy is not compatible with other pets or your children (and is showing signs of aggression)
- Your mental health is severely impacted and you do not feel you have the support or capacity to provide the best for your dog
- You are unable to devote the time needed to care and provide for you puppy
- You have gained control of the situation i.e., toilet training and sleeping but you are still experiencing difficulties coping
I hope that shining a light on this common but often unspoken experience has helped prepare you for your new arrival or comforted you if you’re in the midst of puppy blues.
A year on I can’t bear to be apart too long from Cookie and look forward to our walks, playtime and snuggles. He is an absolute ray of sunshine and I could not imagine life without him!