Most of us have heard of the ‘baby blues’, but have you heard of ‘puppy blues’? Bringing a new life into your home is a massive change. And some degree of post puppy depression is not unusual No matter how prepared you may be. And it has a significant effect on every member of the family.
Sometimes, after the excitement of the first few days has worn off, and tiredness has set in. We can find ourselves feeling a bit down. Of course, with a puppy, your body isn’t awash with hormones like it is after giving birth, and the enormity of the responsibility is not on the same scale. But for many people nevertheless, there can come a period after the arrival of a puppy when all is not well.
The Puppy Blues
The first few days have passed. ‘His cuddliness’ has got his feet firmly under the table, and maybe things are not quite how you imagined they’d be. You no longer want to drift away on the heavenly smell of puppy fur. In fact, the only place you want to drift away to, is your bed, which has not seen much ‘sleeping’ lately.
Tiredness is often part and parcel of the first few days with a new puppy in the house. And it always feels worse than you thought it was going to. When it goes on for more than a few days, the effects can be insidious. To add to your stress, the chances are the whole housetraining thing is not going to plan AT ALL, and your puppy’s behavior is not what you expected. You may find yourself wondering if your puppy is ‘normal’.
Is he a problem puppy?
If your puppy repeatedly takes a perverse delight in emptying his bladder in your kitchen, within five seconds of ‘supposedly’ emptying it outdoors, your patience may be wearing thin. You may even suspect that he is deliberately saving a bit, with which to decorate your carpets. If he pees in his own bed, and eats his own poop, you may wonder which way to turn. This was definitely not what you signed up for. And then there’s the biting, and the growling…
I don’t love my puppy
By the end of week one, you may be getting a little concerned. You had expected to fall madly in love with your puppy, yet right now, you are not even sure if you like him.
Friends have no sympathy. They think you are ungrateful. “Give him to us” they demand, half seriously “We’d love him”. And you are secretly tempted to do just that. Only your determination not to be a ‘failed puppy owner’ prevents you.
Actually, you do love your puppy. He isn’t a problem puppy, he’s normal. And if you feel like this, you are probably just experiencing a touch of the ‘puppy blues’.
Puppies grow up quite quickly. But whilst the trials and tribulations of life with a puppy are soon a thing of the past, it is not unusual for some new owners to feel quite depressed during these early weeks.
If you feel this way, if you secretly wish you had never bought a puppy home, remember this. You are not a bad person. Not even slightly. In fact, your feelings are quite common, its just that other people don’t talk much about them. It is a natural response to a big shift in your lifestyle. So hang on in there, because you will adjust, and help is at hand.
Getting your expectations in line
Your priority right now is to grab as much information as you can lay your hands on. You need to set aside some time for reading up to date, accurate, information and advice about puppies. Getting your expectations in line with reality is a key part of this. You need to know what is normal for puppies, and what is not.
House training takes weeks, not days. Puppies eat everything that they can fit in their mouths, bite like crocodiles and growl like tigers. And puppies don’t listen to anything anyone says. This is all normal. Knowing that your puppy is just like all other puppies, can be a great relief. So is knowing that your puppy won’t stay this way forever.
Getting some information
To discover how you can change your piddling, biting, bundle of naughtiness, into a ‘real’ dog you just need some information, some time, and a bit of support. We’ve left some links at the end of this guide to help you get started.
Getting some sleep
Your next priority is to get a good nights sleep. Lack of sleep makes everyone miserable so don’t plan on being immune to the effects. Many new puppy owners suffer badly from sleep deprivation, and there really is no need for this. Most importantly, sleep deprived people make terrible decisions.
If you are tempted to return the puppy to his breeder or give him away to your next door neighbour, this is not a decision to make on two hours and forty minutes of sleep snatched between visits to the garden. Sleep first, decisions later.
How to get some sleep
You cannot sleep if you can hear a puppy yelling. If your puppy is terrified to sleep alone, or hates being shut in his crate, it is ok to have him sleep in a box by your bed for the first few nights. If your house is big enough and your neighbours far enough away, you may prefer to have him sleep alone at the other end of the house, where no-one can hear him cry.
The truth is, he will come to no harm being left to cry for a few nights. You don’t need to sleep fitfully by his crate for the next fortnight. Nor will it spoil him rotten if he spends his first few nights in your bedroom, right next to your bed. If you leave him in a large pen with newspaper down for him to relieve himself, you won’t have to get up during the night. There are disadvantages to this as a long term strategy, but right now, if you are feeling miserable, you need to sleep.
Just get some sleep! OK? Then make a start on housetraining, and on getting those tiny teeth under control.
Get some help
Finally, but most importantly – get some help! You can do this alone, but you don’t need to! There is an entire community of Labrador owners waiting to comfort and advise you. Join them. And when you have got through the next few months, you may find yourself dishing out sympathy and advice to the next batch of shell-shocked puppy owners.
Many people get their whole world turned upside down by a puppy. And find it all just ‘too much’. There’s no need for this. You don’t have to train your puppy to ‘sit’, ‘lie down’ and ‘walk to heel’ in the first week.
Forget about obedience for the moment, focus on what’s important. Concentrate on what matters. Get your puppy’s housetraining and socialisation under way. Learn how his little puppy mind works, and find out how to change his behavior using modern, effective and fun methods. Read up a little on the theory, before rushing to put it into practice.
Everything you need to know is right here, on this website. And there is a superb support network just waiting to welcome you aboard. Don’t struggle on alone. We’ll help you get through it, together – and it’ll actually be fun
More help and information
If you enjoy Pippa’s articles, you will love her book: The Happy Puppy Handbook published in 2014. Now available in most countries, the handbook is already a bestseller in the UK.
You can buy The Happy Puppy Handbook from Amazon by following this link. If you do, The Labrador Site will receive a small commission which is greatly appreciated and won’t affect the cost to you!
If you prefer to do your reading online, you can get a great deal of the advice/information that is in the book, on this website, absolutely free. Just dive into the puppies section, and start reading.
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The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website
I could’ve written this article! It is exactly how I’ve been feeling. Regret, wanting to bring THEM (we brought home 2 pups) back to the breeder, thoughts of rehoming, and offering them to the neighbors! And they are pretty good! Sleep the night in their crates and doing fairly well in the potty training. We do have messes time to time, And I’m thinking why did I do this? I had all the time in the world to come and go as I pleased. My 17 yr. old dog passed in Nov., and I missed him terribly. My husband and daughter have worried about me as I have been a mess. It is starting to get better 2 1/2 weeks in. This article made me feel a tad bit normal. The stress and anxiety have been debilitating. They aren’t labs, they are small breeds at about 5 lbs. each now. Thanks so much for a great article.
I’m so relieved to know I’m not the only one. I have a 12 year old lab I got as a puppy and it’s hard to remember what it was like – although I do remember considering taking him back to the breeder at one point. Well I just got a new lab puppy last week and the first couple days he was shy and calm and now I’m on day 6 and I think he might just kill me. He’s (thankfully) sleeping right now but he’s a howler and a barker and a biter and very ornery! We also just found out he has Giardia and Coccidia – ughh… send help! I love him so much but he’s a maniac!
My dog of 16 yrs passed away we were and are heart broken. I had her from 5 months old. Well as a family we decided to adopt a 2 month old puppy. Oh my gosh the excessive biting is so bad. She’s giving me a run for my money. I was feeling down but I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way. I love her though I dont want to give up. But this feeling I wish it would go away.
Wesley is 8 months. A sweet Maltese. Sometimes I feel crazy, anxious and exhausted. I spoiled him. Now I am trying to let him be more independent. He is a handful. He is potty trained, playful and exhausting. I don’t want to rehome him but how do I get a little of my life back. I feel guilty but its the truth. We moved into a new home. I think my 1st step should be to leave him home alone for at least 2 hours. Any suggestions. Just to let you know, lots of people tell me” Tanya he’s a dog”. Yeah but he’s my baby. Help!!!!
I have a 10 week old lab puppy and a 16 month old toddler and trying to train them both not to get overexcited with each other is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Pup sleeps really well and is mostly very good but always seems to play up at weekends when my other half is home, I’m not sure why. Very useful article, thank you.
I bought my 8 week staffie pup home 5 days ago. He’s not my first pup, but I have forgotten how hard it is to raise a puppy! They are absolutely exhausting! This article has really helped, I thought I had a problem pup, but he isn’t at all, he’s just behaving as a normal pup would behave.
He’s asleep now, looking ridiculously cute, so I’m going to take this opportunity to sit back and rest, before the next onslaught begins!
I am relieved that I am not alone, this feeling. I have a 12 week old German Shepherd, my boyfriend surprised for me for Christmas. Even thought it was a cute surprise, I have active (and painful) lupus that sends me to the ER or doctors regularly. The lack of sleep and stress of her teething on my arthritic hands and feet, made me feel resentful on both of them (my boyfriend and puppy). Even though my parents (who I live with) help me time to time, the depression and resentment of all of it is still there.
I don’t have a lab but this article and everyone’s comments are so great. I have a five year old Italian Greyhound and just bought home a 10 week old Italian Greyhound. We are two days in. I can’t eat, can’t stop crying, feel so stressed. He cries in his crate in bursts through the night and day (when we put him in there for short periods in the hope he will get used to it). We just went out for two hours and he ripped his pen apart completely. I remember this stage from the first time around and it sucks. It’s super hard when you already have another dog and they are both figuring out who is the alpha.
I totally relate to your comments about wanting to give him back. This stage is making me question why I ever wanted two and how I will cope with them both.
So many friends have two and say it is easier having two than one. I am just not sure I have it in me.
This period is so hard. I wish time would fast forward. And I’m so worried about what happens when I go back to work.
I’m going through the same thing right now! On day 3. Wondering how you’re doing a couple of weeks out now?
I’m one week in and my sanity is almost gone. This is our first puppy. She is 9-weeks old. Today I just keep crying and can’t understand it. Feels like when my son was a newborn and I went through PPD. I’m with the puppy all day alone and it’s wearing on me. I feel all the responsibility to train her is on me.
Hi Lisa, I’m sorry to hear you are having a tough time – why not pop over to our forums? There are lots of dog owners there who felt just the same way and will be happy to give you support and advice. See you there! Best wishes, Lucy
It’s a learning thing this puppy training that’s for sure!
My Puppy Merlin is 10 weeks old and was doing well ….I made the mistake of not having one definite place to toilet him ..just my deck . He prefers the gravel on the front garden but I didn’t want to go out there at 4 am so he takes ages finding his spot .
Also I moved him to a big crate too soon overnight and he wees in it so I’m going back upsateirs with a smaller crate tonightband we will start again . Tired out that’s for sure but he is wonderful all the same .
Oh my goodness, THANK YOU! I have been in such a deep funk ever since we got our puppy and went through all the emotions mentioned. I’ve never owned a dog before and had no idea what to expect, and on top of all that, I had bought him to be a companion for my disabled grandson and right off the bat he was way too aggressive and scared my grandson, which was a major let down. Thank you again for letting me know I’m not alone.
I definitely suffered puppy blues after bringing our 8 week old black lab boy home – toilet training seemed to be a case of one step forward, two back and his play biting was getting me down because I could never play with him. He is now 2 weeks away from his 6 month ‘birthday’ and is totally house trained. He has never ever woken us at night and is a joy apart from his crocodile teeth, but even his biting is turning more to mouthing. The only trouble with him now is he cannot greet strangers without buying their hands or ripping their clothes but I’m hopeful it won’t go on too much longer. Puppies are definitely not for the faint hearted and I will never get another one but I am so glad I persevered because he brings more joy than grief now X
I hope I will feel the same one day…in regard to my puppy bringing more joy than grief. She’s 9 weeks old going onto 10…
I’m in the same boat with Tina right now. I felt like I was going insane. Hopefully things will change for the better.
We got our puppy 9th December 2015, and yes it was hard at first, but after 1 week he was going out to the toilet and after 3 weeks he was going outside to wee. He loves to swim so everyday I take him to the beach in the mornings and that is his major exercise for the day. He will sit and wait for his food, will chase a ball and bring it back. He will run off to socialise at the beach but when called will return. He is now 17 weeks old and sleeps on the floor in my room with the door open, he takes himself to the toilet at night and remembers all his no’s of course he can be a little naughty at digging but he has never been given any treats is not caged and never will be! He does not wreck any of our shoes or clothing as they are put out of reach or the doors are closed and most of all he is not left alone for longer than 1hr. per day. Maybe this is the answer.
Hi everyone am ritam and i have recently bought a lab pup and he is just 10 weeks old… he is doing well with the poop training but two things are troubling me 1. He pees here and there in our home and 2. He is not comfortable in crate except at night or while he feels sleepy, otherwise everytime i try to put him in crate he starts barking and keeps on continuing this until i take him out… pls help asap.
HI. My pup is now 7 months and we had issues crate training. The only advice us that you have to ignore it for as long as it takes off him to stop barking. If you let him out when he is barking or walk towards him when he us, you are training him that barking will get him out. If you can’t let him bark it put due to neighbours then you won’t be able to train him and may need to reconsider the crate for now.
I know people do it and some dogs are fine but if you are creating at night and all day then that could be the problem. Mine hates being created during the day and loves her Crete at night. In the end we got an X pen and attached it to the crate and that is her space in the day when we go out. Even at 7 months she is still a major chewer so can’t be left out unsupervised but she loves her pen as it gives her more room to play while we are out.
Also with the peeing, well he’s very young so for my pup she needed to go every 5-20 minutes until she was 4 months and it was 6 months before she held it two hours in the day even though she held it 9 hours overnight. I don’t know your home setup but my advice is to use baby gates and close off an area you spend most of your time in and keep him there. If you give him Too much space he will pee, st least if you reduce the space you don’t need to worry as it will be contained to a small area. My pup took until 4.5 months before she was toilet trained.
If you Go with the pen then make sure you ignore him when he barks and give him a stuffed Kong when you put him in there and at no other time. It has to be made special for him.
we have survived the first 10 months with our yellow lab puppy. she is almost 13 months now.
Damages to walls, doors, eating my purse (incl money and credit and debit cards), clothes, dozens of toys etc…..I have had some miserable days, but I try not to dwell.on it for too long…I ignore her, the worse the offence,the longer i ignore her, usually we are friends the day after again).
It is hard being mad at something so precious and cute and adorable for long. She is always so happy ? My little lovebug.
Thank you for this article Pippa, it has made me feel less like a failure than I did 10mins ago. My 9 week old labrador hates being left on her own. She is doing well with toilet training but have had 2 accidents today, one when I took a short break to go to the loo myself and the other when I left her briefly as I needed a minute away from her as she was biting me and my clothes like a crocodile. We have been waiting to get a puppy for over a year and I have read 4 books (2 of yours) and almost every article on this website. But even with all of the preparation I found myself in tears in my kitchen when faced with another puddle and the pup running around and walking it all over the floor. It’s good to know that this is normal and that things will get better.
Hang on in there Natasha 🙂 And don’t forget to join the forum! Lots of new puppy parents there to share your troubles with
We are exactly where you were now. Peeing everytime I go out of sight.
Please please tell me it gets better?
Thank you very much for writing this article, we have not had our puppy a week yet but I can fully sympathize with what you say about “what have I done” and “do i take him back to the breeder”. I was so worn down by the end of day three that i could not face him without breaking into tear. Thankfully things are slowly getting better. My wife and I are looking forward to reading your book to hopefully get through this.
I’ve just read this fantastic article, can’t believe I didn’t find it earlier. I have planned for 18 months to have a little puppy. Read as much information as I could find I was so shocked and upset with myself when after a week of exhaustion felt like I’d made the biggest mistake in the world and didn’t like her. I do love her so much, that was the problem thought I wasn’t good enough. She is now 14 weeks old and a darling normal puppy. Who has just fallen asleep on my kitchen floor. Thank you Pippa for all your common sense articles. I’ve also joined the Labrador forum. Brilliant. Gareth I also cried a lot during the first two weeks. Now if I cry it’s sheer joy at the funny things she does.
We went through this with our pup. Spent the first three weeks crying and arguing and all we talked about was taking her back. Now she is 7 months and I couldn’t imagine not having her. She has been hard work and my advice us take her puppy classes and then basic obedience, start 5 mins of training on basic commands twice a day and don’t give her too hard a task at this age.
I felt awful as it took me until she was 3.5 months to feel I bonded with her but you wouldn’t know that now. I will never get a puppy again though as the toilet training was a nightmare. Ours did not live up to the ‘one hour for each month’ rule, it was only at night that she could go this. She was worth it and I was lucky to be at home for the first 4 months so did a lot of training with her and I’m glad I had that time. She is a lovely dog, she is naughty and we are going through an independent phase now where she seems to have forgotten all her training but we are taking a deep breath and being consistent with her training, my last bit if advice is know it will get better and quickly so try to enjoy the puppy phase as I didn’t at all and now regret that.
I count myself lucky. I fell head over heals in love with the little bundle of fur we brought home 2 1/2 year ago and adore every little bit of him still – even after cheering a large hole in my new wool trousers only last week!
I spent hours during one of the wettest summers ever with sitting on the kitchen floor, the back door wide open with rain pouring in watching him sleep.
Puppy days are tough. I was lucky and he went to bed in the evening quit happily after his 9 to 10 pm manic hour. He had numerous trips yo the vet with tummy trouble and I held my nose and cleaned out his cage after he had had a rather nasty diarrhoea incident when we had finally felt brave enough to leave him for a quick meal out.
If I breath in hard enough I to his fur I still smell a hint of that glorious puppy smell.
All the hard work is absolutely worth it.
I wanted to say how HELPFUL this article is and I don’t think I can actually express how much better it made me feel. My husband and I just got a puppy a week ago. He is 9 weeks tomorrow. Fretting and worrying about him has driven me bonkers and so has the total 4 hours sleep I had in the first 3 days. My husband works afternoons and nights so looking after my puppy is mostly on me and I was stressing about everything – his health, his demeanor, the nipping and biting, whether he is eating enough etc. I still do worry and at times feel a bit stressed but this puppy is magic, even when doing all the ‘normal’ (and frustrating!!) puppy things. Pippa, I’m sure this article has helped countless new lab puppy owners – and just like you said, most people won’t admit it. But I was soothed by reading this and anyone reading my comment, please know that I have felt the puppy blues too. I’m not as anxious now as I was before. But I know it’ll get better. It takes a special person to raise such special dogs.
Hi Lana, so pleased you found the article helpful. 🙂
Oh my gosh I feel so much better for reading this! We’ve had Barkley since he was 3 months as previous owners couldn’t cope and he’s just turned 6 months. I thought I was crazy thinking I must be the only person worrying daily about illness and whether he’d ever stop biting us and whether I’d ever sleep in past 8am at weekends again so it’s refreshing to know I’m not the only one xx