What to do when life with your new puppy is stressful
I don’t like my puppy!!! That is a difficult realisation to come to terms with and very common when you are experiencing the puppy blues.
And that was exactly how I felt in the first few weeks of living with my new puppy. I was finding life with her incredibly stressful and I couldn’t understand why. I am a dog behaviour expert – why was this so difficult?
I’d love to take this opportunity to share with you my first hand experiences with the ‘Puppy Blues’ and the lessons I took away from those first few months.
A bombshell named Cammy
She may have looked like a sweet and innocent Golden Retriever puppy but, we swear to this day, Cammy was also part crocodile and part tasmanian devil.
She arrived like a tornado, leaving nothing but destruction in her wake (or at least that was how it initially felt). She taught me very quickly that I had NO IDEA how to puppy proof ANYTHING successfully.
Her needle-like teeth would latch onto everything in sight – although mostly my husband’s feet!
But in truth, I was prepared for most of this. What I wasn’t prepared for was the anxiety that ran far deeper. The bits that don’t get discussed very often.
Disruption to routine
Turns out my husband and I really like routine. This was something we previously didn’t know about ourselves because nothing had rocked the status quo before Cammy.
We changed our schedules to ensure we were meeting all her needs. But in turn, this set off a bundle of anxiety for the both of us.
I had to learn to navigate new constraints on my time. I could no longer just ‘pop out’ whenever the whim took me. I had to consider if it was a good time to leave her. Would she settle? Had she already been left alone that day?
My whole world now revolved around her and it felt like I was losing a part of myself. I felt trapped and I was grieving for my freedom.
For all the stresses of raising a young puppy, it can be so easily outweighed by the snuffle of a nose in the ear or the scent of puppy breath. All I wanted was a puppy cuddle every now and again.
But Cammy was not a particularly affectionate puppy and this broke my heart. I could feel that we weren’t bonding and it was making everything else so much harder to deal with.
One saving grace was that Cammy slept through the night almost from the outset. Sadly – that didn’t mean that I slept well!
I found myself waking up frequently throughout the night worrying and the lack of good quality sleep made everything else that much harder to cope with. I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for those whose puppies struggle to settle overnight.
And then there were the additional pressures. The realisation that I was responsible for another creature’s life was suddenly very overwhelming to me. Puppies grow up so fast and I became acutely aware of how much there was for me to teach her in such a short space of time.
On top of that, I had a very unhappy husband who really wasn’t sure how he was going to cope if things didn’t improve. Would we have to rehome our puppy?
All the qualifications and expertise in the world couldn’t prepare me for how lost I felt in that moment. I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. And I berated myself with my unique brand of whipping stick – I’m a dog trainer – I can’t fail at this!
And this is probably the sentiment I see mirrored most when I visit puppy owners struggling with their new puppy. The not wanting to fail. The wanting to do everything right and then getting into a pickle because of the multiple sources of conflicting information.
So what advice do I have for new puppy owners who maybe recognise themselves in any of the above?
Be kind to yourself
The puppy blues are VERY REAL. They are perfectly normal. They do not make you a bad person. And they can affect absolutely anyone (even professional trainers are susceptible!).
It might feel overwhelming and like you aren’t getting anywhere, but know that you are doing the very best you can. If it helps, track and celebrate the little wins you have with your puppy (look for them and they will be there!). Trust that these feelings will pass with time.
Beware of social media
Social media often shows a warped view of reality. It can be so easy to look at the photos and videos posted online and believe that everyone is having an absolute blast with their new puppy – living life without a care in the world!
But for every adorable and cute moment captured on camera, you can guarantee that behind the scenes there are also plenty of ‘I am struggling!’ and ‘This is really hard!’ moments too.
Unfortunately social media can also provide a wealth of conflicting information and sometimes very bad advice.
Although it can be very tempting to reach out for free advice on local dog pages, it is important to remember that many people will base their responses on what worked for them and their own puppy.
What works for one puppy won’t always work for another. This is why it is so important to take individual differences into account.
Reach out to a trainer
If you are unsure what is reasonable to expect from your puppy, reach out to a trainer who can help and guide you whilst taking your puppy’s individual genetics, developmental stage and personality into account.
Puppy training classes can be a great start but may not always provide you with the tailored support you need to gain clarity so also consider getting some 1-2-1 support from an accredited trainer e.g. Puppy School certified trainer or Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) Registered Animal Training Instructor.
Consider other forms of support
Many of the symptoms of the Puppy Blues are similar to those of anxiety and depression. In most cases the symptoms disappear after a few weeks. But in some cases the Puppy Blues can exacerbate underlying or pre-existing mental health conditions.
1 in 4 people will experience a mental health condition of some kind and it is important to get additional support if you need it. This may mean reaching out to family and friends to talk or working with an accredited trainer for further guidance.
But if you need additional support, speaking to a trained counsellor or therapist may also help. You don’t need to wait until you cannot function before you get help.
Enjoy the ride
This is so easy to say and yet can be so difficult to do when you’re in the thick of it!
But my one regret is that I didn’t remain ‘present’ enough to enjoy Cammy as a puppy. They are puppies for such a short amount of time before they grow up into adolescents and beyond.
Blink and you’ll miss it. Try to enjoy the ride and not let puppyhood pass you by.
Please know that, although it wasn’t the case initially, now I love Cammy more than I ever thought I could love another being (perhaps even more than my husband).
The stress of bringing home a new puppy will come in many different flavours and these were just my experiences.
And while everyone’s experiences will be unique, know that you are not alone. Yes – it can suck. But it will pass and boy is it worth every moment!
If you are experiencing the puppy blues, don’t suffer alone. Get in touch so we can help guide you to a happier life with your puppy.