If you’ve been thinking of becoming a pet parent, you might have come across the term “puppy blues” used to describe the negative feelings someone might experience after bringing home a new animal. While it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which you have anything other than good emotions with a new addition to the family, this phenomenon is more common than you might think.
Despite not being an official diagnosis, the puppy blues are a real thing (especially for first time dog owners). But there’s no need to despair! Needing some help to cope with a big change is nothing to be ashamed of, and it also doesn’t mean you are not suited to have a pet.
What are the signs of puppy blues?
Taking care of an animal can be a magical, rewarding experience, but it isn’t without challenge. Adding another living creature to your home will come with all new responsibilities that can take a toll on both your physical and mental health, and you shouldn’t expect to adapt to it immediately.
A few common signs that you might be experience the puppy blues include: feeling overwhelmed or anxious, regretting or second-guessing the decision to get a pet, difficulty bonding, and thoughts of giving them up–either by returning them to the breeder/shelter, or rehoming them.
How can you prevent it?
Realistically, there is no guarantee that you can stop yourself from feeling the puppy blues, but there are certainly ways to make it less likely that it will happen for you. One of the biggest reasons for it is a lack of research and preparation before getting the pet. This is easily preventable, and plays a major part in ensuring you don’t regret your decision later.
With dogs especially, many people will want a certain breed because of their looks, not realizing that they may take a lot more work than expected. If that’s the direction you’re planning on going toward, research the breeds you like to make sure they are a good fit for your lifestyle. You probably don’t want a highly energetic dog if you’re someone that prefers lounging when you get home from work, for example.
And if you’re adopting from a shelter, remember that you don’t know what that animal has gone through before coming home with you. It may need time to feel safe, causing it to lash out when scared or have other behavioral issues that will require more effort on your part to bond. Don’t be discouraged just because your pup might be skittish at first.
Consider the financial and time commitments, as every animal is different. Are you prepared to pay large vet bills if it turns out your new pet is ill or gets hurt? To take several long walks a day? To research how to fix behavior, or pay for someone else to do it for you? You’re less likely to feel the blues if you come at it well prepared, and with realistic expectations.
Coping with the puppy blues
Okay, your pet is here, you’re feeling it, and you want to know how to cope. First, take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. Then try these tips:
The puppy stage is temporary. We know that when they are barking, biting, destroying your belongings and peeing on the carpet it may be difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but whether you are dealing with an energetic pup or a shelter dog working through some trauma, this is a phase and you are both going to get through it.
Just give it some time, reinforce and reward positive behaviors (and ignore the bad), and focus on the progress. It’s a lot easier to just let yourself feel defeated when everything is overwhelming, but try shifting that mindset to one of positivity instead, and feeling grateful for every breakthrough. That just shows how well you’re bonding, even if it doesn’t feel like it yet.
Establishing a routine is also very important, and can be very helpful if your new pet suffers from anxiety, for instance. Not only that, but repetition is what is going to guarantee you instill the behaviors you want over time, and help you feel a little more grounded during this transition.
Any major life change goes a little smoother if you have a support network. This can be your friends and family, but it can also be strangers. Try making friends with other pet owners at your next visit to the dog park, or find an online community of people that are going through a similar experience.
And, while you’re at it, prioritize socialization. Behavioral issues can stem from a medical cause, but more often than not, “bad” behaviors like excessive biting and barking, potty training issues, resource guarding, growling and separation anxiety happen when a pet isn’t socialized enough, both with people other than their owners, and other animals. Start them as young as is safe to avoid bigger problems in the future.
If all else fails, it’s okay to seek professional help. Look for a therapist that can help you work through the big emotions that come with this change, and try to consult a behavioral expert if you can afford it and are committed to making things work.
Ultimately, the decision to get a new pet should not be a spontaneous one, especially if this is your first animal. It will likely pose behavioral and financial challenges, and you should know what to expect before jumping into it. Most dogs are at least a decade-long commitment, but if you do your research and manage your expectations, you’re going to be just fine.