I Got the “Puppy Blues” After Adopting a Dog, and I Never Saw It Coming

published May 17, 2024
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Beautiful small chihuahua puppy standing on the bed curious and happy, healthy cute babby dog at home
Credit: Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock

Crying, I sat on the stairs, completely overcome with overwhelm, guilt, sadness, and utter helplessness as our 8-week-old, 4-pound Maltipoo named Betty whined in the living room. My hands were covered in welts from her nips, my sleeves had holes in them from her constant biting, and I was exhausted, running on just a few hours of sleep after taking her out for middle of the night potty breaks

While my husband and I knew a puppy would be a lot of work, nothing prepared us for the way she completely turned our life at home upside down. I had anticipated more cuddles and games of fetch than bloody hands and torn-up sleeves. Slowly, my sadness turned into anxiety and depression, my self-care habits began to slip as my disappointment settled, and I sought out a therapist. It turns out I had a major case of the puppy blues, a very common, but seldom talked about experience many puppy owners go through. 

What Are the Puppy Blues?

According to Manypets.com, the puppy blues are feelings of anxiety and depression related to caring for a dog under the age of 1. Mary Cahilly, a mental health and wellness therapist at Canyon Ranch, recognizes that bringing home a new puppy requires an enormous amount of energy and effort, which can be jarring and overwhelming.

“Although delightful, puppies have many needs that new owners may have failed to consider when adopting,” she says. “Like, have I ever owned a dog before? Each breed and puppy have unique temperaments — does the energy of this breed match my lifestyle? Can my schedule accommodate multiple daily walks? Can I afford feeding and veterinary costs? How might I feel when I need to leave my new puppy alone for periods of time, while I work or travel?”

But even if you’ve done your research and are thoroughly prepared for your new pup, the puppy blues can strike. Though we’d had a dog before, Betty was our first puppy. We had answered all of those questions, but still we were surprised by how much our little puppy turned our life on its head. I was taken aback by the depression that crept over me, and I felt embarrassed for feeling that way. She’s just a dog, I’d tell myself. Why am I feeling like this?

I’ve since learned there’s no need for me to downplay my feelings, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of — bringing home a new puppy is a layered experience with very high highs and low lows. 

Credit: Inna Skaldutska

How to Cope with Puppy Blues

Puppy blues can last anywhere from weeks to months, and reaching out for support is key. Betty is now 5 months old, and though things have gotten easier as she’s gotten older, I’m still in the midst of my own puppy blues. The past few months have been incredibly challenging, but with my own team of support, I’m happy to say things are on the up. Here are a few tips that have helped me and my own puppy blues.

Ask for Help

Taking care of Betty has taught me the value of asking for help when I need it. I thankfully have a partner who can tag team walks and playtime, and we’ve recently started taking Betty to doggy day care once a week. While I resisted it at first — I felt guilty for not being able to handle her all by myself — it’s been such a game-changer. Now, she has a place she loves to go, and I have some uninterrupted time to get work done at home. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out for support with your puppy, whether it’s friends or family, or doggy day care. Take a well-deserved break when you can.

Enroll in Puppy School

Betty’s been in and out of puppy classes since the first week we brought her home, which Cahilly says is a great way to get support. “When you learn how to implement consistent behavior training, you and your puppy will have a greater chance of relaxing and enjoying each other,” she says.

It’s also a fantastic way to connect with other puppy owners going through the same thing. My husband and I feel so much relief when our trainers say that Betty is doing well, or when we’re able to commiserate with other dog owners who are struggling. 

Stay Connected to Your Routines as Much as You Can

Adopting a puppy completely changed our daily routines. Still, doing everything you can to prioritize the rituals that make you feel like yourself is so important. “Remember to connect with other adult humans — keep your coffee dates, lunches, time with friends,” Cahilly says. 

Creating these pockets of time for yourself will lift your spirits and keep your mood up. I’ve made time for friends at least once a month since adopting our puppy, and they truly have been a balm for my tired spirit.

Focus on the Good

It’s hard when someone tells me to enjoy the puppy stage, since I’ve struggled through so much of it. But focusing on the good moments helps me keep things in perspective. Though these past few months have been rough, Betty has brought so much joy into our lives, too. She’s happy and healthy, everyone loves her, and we’ve created a small community around our little dog that never existed before she was ours. If you’re struggling with your own puppy blues, remember to celebrate the wins each day, no matter how small.

Practice Self-Compassion

Before our tiny tornado entered our lives, I imagined days filled with puppy cuddles and playtime. But the day Betty came home, she peed on our rug within 10 minutes and then started biting everything in sight, including my husband and I. 

I blamed myself for not being able to control Betty, until I realized she was just being a puppy — all puppies go through teething and need weeks (or months!) of consistent training. I needed to take Cahilly’s advice: “Be gentle and kind with yourself,” she says. “There is a learning curve as you and your puppy adapt to each other.”

I wasn’t able to practice self-compassion until I made peace with my current reality: That my house was a mess,  and I was destined to wear the same old hoodies day after day as I encouraged my land shark to bite her dozens of chew toys and treats instead of my forearms. The truth is, I’m doing the best that I can, and so is Betty, and that’s all we can ask.