Puppy Blues: When A New Puppy Isn’t Fun Anymore

sad shepherd puppy, highlighting the problem of puppy blues

Bringing home a new puppy is often envisioned as a joyful and fulfilling experience. However, many new puppy owners encounter an unexpected challenge known as “puppy blues,” a term gaining recognition for its description of the temporary emotional distress associated with puppy care.

While similar in name to “baby blues,” the postpartum affective disturbance experienced by new parents, puppy blues represents a unique set of challenges that deserve attention and understanding.

young girl hold a small puppy

Understanding Puppy Blues

Puppy blues involve feelings of stress, anxiety, frustration, and even regret shortly after bringing a new puppy home. These emotions can stem from the sudden changes in lifestyle, responsibilities, and the demands of caring for a young dog.

While the term “puppy blues” might be well known in the world of dogs and dog owners, you would be hard pressed to find the term in relation to mental health guidance and resources.

However, a recent study published in npj Mental Health Research has provided substantial evidence supporting the existence and impact of puppy blues, validating this phenomenon through the development and implementation of the Puppy Blues Scale.

In this study, researchers Aada Ståhl and colleagues conducted an in-depth study to create a reliable tool for measuring puppy blues. The study involved generating scale items from qualitative data gathered from dog owners who experienced distress during their puppy’s early stages.

The Puppy Blues Scale, validated through extensive surveys and factor analysis, identified three core factors: Frustration, Anxiety, and Weariness.

The findings revealed that nearly half of the participants experienced significant negative feelings during their puppy’s early months. These feelings often include worry about the puppy’s health, self-doubt regarding their capabilities as a dog owner, and a general sense of exhaustion.

The study demonstrated good internal consistency and reliability of the scale, underscoring the real and measurable nature of puppy blues.

bulldog puppy tearing up paper

Symptoms of Puppy Blues

The symptoms of puppy blues can vary in intensity and duration, but they generally encompass the following:

  1. Anxiety and Worry: New puppy owners often feel anxious about their ability to care for the puppy properly. Concerns about the puppy’s health, behavior, and well-being can dominate their thoughts.
  2. Frustration and Irritability: The demands of caring for a young dog can lead to feelings of frustration and irritability. Owners may find themselves getting annoyed with the puppy’s behavior or the constant attention it requires.
  3. Exhaustion: Lack of sleep and the constant need to be vigilant can result in physical and mental exhaustion. This weariness can make it difficult for owners to enjoy their time with the puppy.
  4. Feelings of Inadequacy: Many owners feel inadequate and doubt their ability to be good dog parents. This self-doubt can be overwhelming and contribute to the overall distress.
  5. Regret: Some owners may experience feelings of regret about their decision to get a puppy, questioning whether they made the right choice.

These symptoms can be worsened by a lack of preparation and unrealistic expectations about the puppy-raising experience. It’s important for new puppy owners to recognize these symptoms and understand that they are not alone in feeling this way.

Is Puppy Blues the Same as Baby Blues?

While the term “puppy blues” draws a parallel to “baby blues,” it’s important to understand both the similarities and differences between these conditions:


  1. Emotional Disturbance: Both conditions involve temporary emotional distress characterized by anxiety, irritability, and mood swings.
  2. Life Changes: Both are triggered by significant life changes—the arrival of a new baby or a new puppy—that demand substantial time, effort, and adjustment.
  3. Support Needs: Individuals experiencing either condition benefit from understanding, support, and strategies to manage stress and emotional strain.


  1. Intensity and Duration: Baby blues typically occur due to hormonal changes post-childbirth and can lead to more severe conditions like postpartum depression. Puppy blues, while impactful, are generally less intense and shorter in duration.
  2. Nature of Care: Caring for a baby involves physical, emotional, and developmental responsibilities that are more complex and prolonged than those required for a puppy.
  3. Social Perception: Baby blues are widely recognized and supported, while puppy blues remain less understood, often leaving new puppy owners feeling isolated or unprepared.
pretty woman holding two white large breed puppies

The Importance of Recognizing Puppy Blues

Experiencing puppy blues does not mean one is a bad pet owner; rather, it highlights the need for better preparation and planning for getting a new puppy, and making sure support systems are available for when mental health problems occur.

Recognizing puppy blues as a legitimate concern is the first step toward addressing it effectively. By acknowledging that these feelings are valid and not uncommon, new puppy owners can take steps to manage their emotions and seek support.

Strategies to Manage Puppy Blues

Here are some strategies to help manage and mitigate the impact of puppy blues:

  1. Education and Preparation: Prospective puppy owners should educate themselves about the demands of puppy care. Understanding the challenges ahead can help set realistic expectations. Resources like books, online courses, and conversations with experienced dog owners can provide valuable insights.
  2. Support Systems: Building a support network of friends, family, and fellow dog owners can provide emotional and practical support. Joining local dog groups or online communities can also offer a sense of belonging and understanding.
  3. Training and Routine: Establishing a consistent routine and investing in puppy training can reduce stress and improve the bonding experience. Training helps create a sense of order and predictability, which can help with feelings of frustration and anxiety.
  4. Self-Care: Owners should prioritize self-care, making sure they have time for rest, relaxation, and activities that help their mental and physical health. Taking breaks, engaging in hobbies, and practicing mindfulness can help manage stress levels.
  5. Professional Help: If feelings of distress persist, seeking advice from veterinarians, dog trainers, or mental health professionals can be beneficial. These professionals can offer guidance on managing puppy care and emotional well-being.

Puppy Blues are a Personal Experience

Many puppy owners have shared their experiences with puppy blues, highlighting the importance of recognizing and addressing this issue. For instance, Redditor u/hypersensitive described their experience as “full blown depressive/anxiety episode not specific to puppy related parts of my life”.

Other Redditors described feeling overwhelmed and questioning their decision to get a puppy after facing sleepless nights and constant demands, often citing the need for “constant vigilance” as a major factor in the development of depressive episodes and anxiety.

These personal stories emphasize that puppy blues are a common experience. Talking to someone and seeking support can make a significant difference. By sharing their experiences, owners can help normalize the conversation around puppy blues and encourage others to seek help when needed.

a person holding 3 dalmation puppies


Puppy blues is a real and significant mental health issue that affects many new puppy owners. By acknowledging its existence and understanding its nuances, we can better support those experiencing this form of emotional disturbance.

Through education, preparation, and support, puppy owners can navigate the challenges of puppyhood more effectively, ensuring a healthier and happier start for both the puppy and the owner.

Recognizing and addressing puppy blues not only improves the health of dog owners but also contributes to the overall health and happiness of their canine companions as well.

Understanding that puppy blues are not a reflection of one’s ability to care for a pet but rather a normal reaction to a significant life change is critical. With the right tools and support, new puppy owners can overcome these challenges and enjoy the rewarding experience of raising a happy, healthy dog.

[All images used with permission or under license]


  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins DVM PhD.

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.

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