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Post Puppy Depression

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Post Puppy DepressionWhen people think of getting a puppy, they always think of all the good stuff, the cute little face, hilarious antics, walks in the sun, cuddles on the sofa.  The bad stuff, well it isn’t that bad is it?  You know loads of people that have had puppies and they did fine!  Recently I’ve met a few new puppy owners who haven’t quite been having as much fun as they thought they might have with their puppy and so I thought it was finally time to come clean about about my own experiences with ‘post puppy depression’ (and yes I know this is NOT the same as post natal depression, but its the best description I have)… 

It first dawned on me that things might not go as well as I’d hoped on my IMDT assessment weekend - 1 week before we were due to pick up our little bundle of mischief!  I’d done my homework both for the assessment and for bringing home Lexie and I was convinced that we would be fine.  I scoffed at the time limits for accomplishing the various puppy training requirements like chew toy training, bite inhibition and toilet training - we’d be done in weeks, not months!  But at some point on the assessment weekend, it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t going to be as easy as that and a little feeling of uneasiness started creeping in.  The day after the assessment weekend, I got home and our flat was packed up in boxes - the day after that, we moved to our new house and 2 days later (with minimal unpacking done!) we set off to pick up Lexie, staying overnight before getting her and starting the 3.5 hour journey home.  

On that first day, we spent 1.5 hours out in the garden with Lexie, waiting for her to wee so that I could follow up with 3 treats (I was prepared!) but nothing happened.  Lexie explored a lot, but clearly didn’t feel the urge to wee.  So we went back inside resolving to ‘keep an eye on her’ and take her outside at the first hint of any of the usual toilet warning behaviours.  As soon as she ran in she squatted on the carpet and weed - laws of puppy toiletting don’t lie, at that point she was desperate and went as soon as she was in ‘familiar territory’!  And so it began.  As I’ve already blogged about the UTI that left us frazzled and poor Lexie going for a wee 3 times an hour, I won’t drag out this story - suffice to say, it got sorted, but it took 3 weeks, a couple of courses of antibiotics and we had to replace the carpet in our dining room with lino.

Incidentally, that lino didn’t last very long… Two weeks later, one morning when I was at work and she was home alone, Lexie was scrabbling at it and managed to pull it up away from by the door and tore a huge chunk out of it.  So we paid out for laminate, which thankfully lasted, but it was an expensive lesson in ‘false economies’!

Puppy SocialisationWhilst this was going on, we were doing our best to socialise Lexie, taking her out in her little ‘pram’ before her vaccinations were done, but every single time we did, without fail, she would wee and poo in the back of the car en route.  We got clever and tried to wait until she’d just been - but somehow she seemed to have reserves and would go again!  We got to the point where we dreaded taking her out (not good during those first 16 weeks!) as we knew we’d have to pull over within minutes to clean up the car.  I’ll never forget my first ill-fated trip to ringcraft class - Lexie managed to do a number 2 in the back of the car and I had to break suddenly, she fell INTO the poo and we were both covered in it as I tried to clean us up!  Beautiful!

I remember living for the moments when she went to sleep, when I could get some work done on the business, which was in it’s first 6 months.  When she slept I worked like a demon, when she was awake I tried to work (ever tried NOT keeping an eye on an energetic awake 10 week old puppy!?) failed miserably and had to run around doing damage control.  If one of my owners came to me with this problem, I would usually discuss and help them implement proactive ways to prevent the damage and create good habits, but at this point we were both so frazzled we couldn’t do anything but react!  One of her favourite games was emptying the water bowl with her front paws and looking thirsty so we had to refill it, only for her to empty it again.  One day I came down and Pete had taken his eye off of her for a moment and the phone extension had been ‘disconnected’.  Sofa cushions exploded.  My desk stool was ‘destuffed’ - twice.  

Just weeks into having our new puppy I think both myself and Pete felt like huge failures, Pete was exhausted and I’d spent a fair amount of time walking out of the room to cry, clinging to two reasons to keep going.  Firstly, that the breeder had put a lot of faith in myself and Pete to manage as we were first time dog owners with a very energetic breed - I didn’t want to let her, or the gorgeous puppy she’d bred us down.  Secondly, how could I give up on our puppy and call myself a dog trainer?  So we soldiered on, trying not to talk about how frazzled we were, sticking to the advice we read from trainers I respect, but feeling dejected that it didn’t seem to be working. 

It’s not always easy asking owners to stick with rules and techniques that don’t always appear to be working very quickly, having had the experience I did with Lexie, I can see why they are often tempted to try more punitive techniques to teach their puppy not to do things they don’t like.  Often it seems the opportunities to reinforce the right behaviours are few and far between and you feel so emotionally shattered that trying to proactively create these opportunities seems impossible.  I think we often assume, when we see our neighbour’s perfectly behaved adult dog, that the dog was ‘born perfect’ and that they didn’t have to go through all this.  Or we remember the dog we had in our childhood that was perfect, forgetting or possibly being too young to remember the training our parents put in.  We forget that dogs are a completely separate species, who operate on basis of ‘the world is my toilet’, ‘all things are chew toys’, ‘all trouser legs are tug toys’ etc.  They do not come pre-programmed with how to live with humans, we have to teach them, and like any lesson or habit, learning takes time. 

So - how are we now?  Amazingly after just a few months these problems disappeared.  It was refreshing to suddenly realise that Lexie hadn’t had an accident for days, she was only chewing her toys and had learned to be awake and not cause damage to something valuable!  Although I’m not going to lie, it took us quite a while to recover, possibly leaving full time employment, starting a full time new business venture, moving, raising a puppy and getting married within a 10 month period wasn’t the best laid plan!!! So we threw out the idea that we were failures as dog owners (and a trainer) if we didn’t have the best behaved dog and decided we would aim for the happiest dog who thought it’s owners were awesome and we concentrated on scentwork games, trick training and fun agility!  The pay off to the bond we have with our gorgeous and lovely dog is amazing - all of that frustration and upset are thankfully long gone.  But we’ll never be finished, Lexie will forever be ‘work in progress’, just like her ‘mum’, me! 

So if you’re reading this because you feel blue with your new puppy - take comfort, you’re not alone and it will pass.  If the force free ‘happy clappy’ techniques that your trainer is advising make sense, but don’t seem to work, hang in there, they will click in soon.  Maybe give your trainer a call - they should be happy to listen and just reassure you that you are doing the right thing.  I know I would rather my owners call me, than feel they have to deal with this alone.  

If you’ve not yet signed up to a class but are struggling with your dog or puppy, then have a look at the training classes and options that we offer - we’d love to meet you and help you build the bond with your puppy that you both deserve.

Oh, and if you ARE thinking of getting a puppy, perhaps don’t if you are getting married and/or moving and/or starting your own business at any point soon?

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Comments

  1. Karen

    I cried daily for the first 4 weeks. A much longed for puppy exhausted me. My arms looked like I was self harming, I was constantly taking him in the garden for toilet time. Standing in the dark, rain, early morning, late nights. I have seen some lively sunrises though. My constant thought was regret, what have I done, how can I cope with this firever. Its bern 8 weeks now and I am seeing changes. Biting has stopped, my trousers and socks are still a target but thats getting better too. The occasional pee in the house but I blame myself for not being more vigilant. I only cry once a week now.... Puppy training classes start this week. Hes healthy, happy and growing fast. I think I am starting to see a rosier future. It's really tough though but we are learning together.

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  2. Christie

    Thank you for honesty with this blog. It made me feel better. After reading it I realise that we don't have it that bad. I get a full nights sleep and we have two puppy proof places where our little one can't do that much damage. I work from home seeing clients so it is important that she is quiet and apart frm the odd little wuff (to let me know she wants to go toilet) she is. She sleeps just inside the door of my clinic so she can hear and smell me and that has been how it is since day one, so I suppose she learnt very early on in the piece that this is the routine. On an evening it is less calm and that seems to collate with my husband being home. I think she sees him as a big toy! Last night he didn't get in until 10pm which is very unusual. As soon as he came in she wasn't interested in sleeping - just being around him, so there was a little bit of whimpering when I put her into her crate. This is very unusual for her. In the beginning when she whimpered slightly I used to go lay next to her crate on a large cushion for 1/2 hour - I never said a word, just laid next to her, with the lights off and then I would eventually get up and slowly walk away to go to bed. It seemed to settle her and she was fine for the night. Toilet training is going well but I have the advantage of being at home to be able to take her out regularly and go straight to her when she does the now recognisable "I need to pee/poo wuff". So I really shouldn't complain but I do feel depressed. I just feel as if life will never be mine again. The walks aren't pleasant - constant pulling and distractions and half the dogs in our area run to their fences and bark as we walk past. The other day one jumped the fence and it wasn't a small dog! I also feel like I walk round with this constant set serious face on me because for the most part that is the face I have adopted when I want her to do something. followed by my over enthusiastic good girl voice when she does something right. Its my serious, I'm being assertive look but I find myself doing it even when I'm not with her. I just feel like this stern person that isn't fun anymore and I've kind of lost who I am. She is 14 weeks old on Friday. I feel so guilty for thinking that I shouldn't have got her but the thought of this for the next 12 months makes me so depressed!

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  3. Ariel

    Oh my goodness, I seriously bawled my eyes out reading this blog. I just adopted a 9 week old Pitbull golden retriever mix from a private couple, and for the most part she is a really good dog. I don't crate her at night, I let her sleep with me because it helps not only me with my anxiety, PTSD, and nightmares while I sleep, but she also doesn't cry during the night and lets me know when she has to go potty. Now, for some strange reason she won't do this during the day. So I'm taking her out every hr or she'll just pop a squat and I'm running her out the back door. It doesn't help that I've been suffering from a cold since the second day I got her, so all I want to do is sleep. I'm a medically retired Air force Vet, so I wanted a dog to help with that secure feeling when I'm home alone but holy cow, I feel so overwhelmed. I'm also a college student, and feel bad when I have to create her for 1-3 hrs when I'm at school. I feel so bad for my regretting getting her, and I hope it passes because I already have a bond with her. I love her, I'm just ready for the puppy phase to be gone. I'm hoping taking her to doggy day care once I get all her shots will help along with obedience training. Until then, I guess I'll just cry it out.

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  4. Julia

    Hi there! Me and my boyfriend just adopted a 5 months old English Bulldog 2 weeks ago...and what can I say, I haven't felt so down and depressed in a long while. Please don't get me wrong - our puppy is all we ever wanted and is sooooo adorable, but I cant help being unhappy. We are crate training him at the moment, but it just seems like he likes pooing in the cage and then gets overexcited and steps in it! We walk him 3 times a day (40 min in the morning, 1 hour - afternoon, 1-2 hours in the evening) and play with him in the mornings and evenings (we both have full-time jobs), and even hired a dog walker who would come over in mid day and walk him/ play with him so he doesn't get lonely. I was ready for commitment long before we got a dog, but I guess I just couldn't expect that I would be so overwhelmed. I just want to cry!!! I have zero time to myself and it seems that all *I do during the day besides work is contanly watching over our pup so he doesn't poo/wee or destroy something! My only hope is to reduce the size of his crate, because apparently it is way to big for him now and he has plenty of room to do his business at the other end. However my major concern what if he doesn't realize that the carte is his den not a toilet? What if he continues the same way as it is now? What am I go do then? I'm so frustrated... Will appreciate any advise or word of wisdom or just a simple encouragement! (I don't want to share the full size of my despair with my boyfriend, because he might think I am crazy and not capable of loving this cute little creature.... So as the result,I'm just keeping all these feelings inside and get more and more stressed out).

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  5. Julia

    Hi there! Me and my boyfriend just adopted a 5 months old English Bulldog 2 weeks ago...and what can I say, I haven't felt so down and depressed in a long while. Please don't get me wrong - our puppy is all we ever wanted and is sooooo adorable, but I cant help being unhappy. We are crate training him at the moment, but it just seems like he likes pooing in the cage and then gets overexcited and steps in it! We walk him 3 times a day (40 min in the morning, 1 hour - afternoon, 1-2 hours in the evening) and play with him in the mornings and evenings (we both have full-time jobs), and even hired a dog walker who would come over in mid day and walk him/ play with him so he doesn't get lonely. I was ready for commitment long before we got a dog, but I guess I just couldn't expect that I would be so overwhelmed. I just want to cry!!! I have zero time to myself and it seems that all *I do during the day besides work is contanly watching over our pup so he doesn't poo/wee or destroy something! My only hope is to reduce the size of his crate, because apparently it is way to big for him now and he has plenty of room to do his business at the other end. However my major concern what if he doesn't realize that the carte is his den not a toilet? What if he continues the same way as it is now? What am I go do then? I'm so frustrated... Will appreciate any advise or word of wisdom or just a simple encouragement! (I don't want to share the full size of my despair with my boyfriend, because he might think I am crazy and not capable of loving this cute little creature.... So as the result,I'm just keeping all these feelings inside and get more and more stressed out).

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  6. Corrine

    Hi Dawn It's a really tough time - sorry for not replying earlier, I've been on holiday! My best advice to you is management. You need to find a safe space to leave him and for you to have some rest and R&R. Many people use crates and these are wonderful safe spaces to leave your pup where they can't do any damage and so you can get on with your day. Alternatively a puppy safe room, like the kitchen or utility room. If you let him have free reign everywhere you will never have a moments peace! Also look up crate training for toilet training, this enhances the chance he will go outside, generally I find it's best to take them out on lead, go to quiet spot and stand rooted to the ground with them able to only sniff that spot. Do not allow yourself to get pulled around by him sniffing everything and try to ignore him and just watch out the corner of your eye so you don't distract him. Hopefully he will wee and then you can let him off and have a play in the garden as a reward. If he doesn't go within 3 mins, back inside and into his crate, then try again in 20 mins. Good luck!!!

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  7. Dawn Marsh

    Love this article. Actually googled 'Post Puppy Depression' s I feel so low since our little chap came into our lives only 4 days ago. I feel anxious about being left alone with him as, when he's awake, I constantly seem to be following him around the house and garden to either praise him for doing is 'business' outside or cursing him for doing it inside when he's been outside for 20 mins! He's wreaking the plants in my garden and the carpet in the lounge and my cat has been home for days. I just feel like crying. I seem to be constantly telling him not to do things and not enjoying having him around much. Iknow this period will pass but what can I do in the meantime?

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