What are the puppy blues?

This is when a new puppy owner is feeling the weight of the responsibility that comes with raising a puppy. A point in time when the new owner feels that they may have made a mistake bringing a puppy home—that they have bitten off more than they can chew. They haven’t slept in 7 nights because the puppy barks his head off all night and every rug in the house has a stain. Puppies are A LOT of work, and it is understandable that, in our already busy lives, a hyper, barking, peeing puppy just might put us over the edge. If this is you, it’s okay. You are allowed to feel like this, and I am going to help you turn it around.

Causes of Puppy Chaos

Underestimation of a new puppy’s needs – It is important to do your research before bringing a puppy into your home. Find the type of breed that will fit your lifestyle and personality best. Learn about the specific needs and personality traits of the breed type that you have chosen.
Lack of preparation – It’s not a good idea to try and “wing it” when it comes to raising a puppy. Especially if you haven’t done it before, if it’s been a while, or if you didn’t do a great job of it last time you did it.
Too much freedom – When puppies have too much space and stimulation, they become uncertain and will act out.
Poor time management – Puppy’s need a lot of focus and time, especially when you first get them home. Trying to fit them into your already crazy schedule just adds stress to you and the puppy.
Lack of a structured daily routine – Not having a consistent daily schedule can cause uncertainty and confusion in your pup.

Eliminating Puppy Chaos

Prepare—Know what supplies you need to have in the house for your puppy, research which diet you will feed (not dry kibble), know what foods are toxic to your pup, and know the preventative vet care your puppy will require. Set up a tribe of pet professionals including a trusted veterinarian, groomer, dog trainer, dog sitter, etc. to use as a resource along the way. Know your dog type/breed and be prepared for what that brings.

You’re probably saying, “Okay, that’s great Lynda, but it’s too late. Puppy’s here and I didn’t prepare. I’m in the middle of the chaos and I need a life raft!” That’s cool, I got you.

Set firm boundaries—Puppies need boundaries to learn your expectations, develop confidence and to keep safe. The crate is the first boundary that will help immensely. The crate provides a den for your puppy to find comfort and quiet, and also a place to keep him out of trouble when you’re not watching. Make the crate an integral part of his daily and nightly routine. Set up a safe, puppy-proof space to hang out and play with your pup, such as a kitchen or exercise pen. Your puppy should not have access to the rest of the house—the expensive couches, the Persian rugs, the closets of shoes—until he is mature enough to handle it.

Develop a consistent, structured schedule—Puppies thrive with structure and consistency. This builds their confidence and makes your expectations clear to them.  Set your alarm 30-45 minutes earlier than you did pre-puppy. Make the space for puppy time without the stress of the rest of the morning chores. Use this time to set your pup up for a successful day and also to bond with him. Bonding time is very important, especially in the early days when everything seems hard. You have to be reminded of why you are doing this. That sweet little puppy is going to elevate the joy of your days. Be sure to make the time and space for you to experience it.

Set expectations and be consistent with them—Decide what you want from your puppy in the beginning. If you don’t want your puppy on the couches, then never let him on the couches. Don’t confuse him by letting him do these things sometimes, but not other times. Set goals for your puppy that you and your family can work towards. Use consistent commands for specific behaviors. Choose a couple of obedience commands per week and work on them for at least 15–20 minutes 1–2 times per day. Repetition, consistency, and reward will anchor these behaviors in your pup.

Breathe—Know this too shall pass. If you follow these guidelines, put in the time, and remain consistent, your puppy will grow into an awesome dog.

You don’t have to do this alone. Seek out credible resources. Take a puppy course (I happen to have one of those), join puppy groups online or in person, so you can get support from those who are raising puppies as well. Don’t submit to it just being a phase you have to survive. Instead, I encourage you to handle it with intention and enjoy this beautiful phase of your puppy’s life.  Laugh at his crazy antics, cuddle in the quiet morning hours, and build beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.