Puppy Blues with an Australian Shepherd Puppy:

For anyone who has ever endeavored to raise a puppy and has been fortunate enough to not experience the puppy blues, I applaud you. With Maple, I had a very serious case of the puppy blues! Maple is a typical puppy: bouncy, bitey, and bad, and after having well-behaved adult dogs for over ten years, I was not mentally prepared for how much work Maple is. I have had her for a little over 2 months now, and my puppy blues are basically gone. Here, I am going to talk about what the puppy blues are, what I experienced, and most importantly talk about the fact that the puppy blues do go away!

What are the Puppy Blues?

The puppy blues refer to the feelings of guilt, regret, dismay, depression, frustration, and sleep deprivation that come along with having a new puppy. Many people (like me) aren’t even sure they like their new family member. Puppies are baby animals with no impulse control and razor sharp needles for teeth who explore the world by biting everything. As such, many people become overwhelmed when a new puppy comes into the home, and experience many of the emotions listed above.

Don’t feel guilty about having some of these thoughts! Puppies are a ton of work. The day you bring your puppy home, your whole world changes, and that shift can make anyone feel down.

When Maple came home, I was surprised at how stressed and frustrated I was over the situation. I have cared for dogs for 15 years and have been through many ups and downs with them. Lady and Oscar had health conditions in their later years, and close to the end Lady required around the clock care. While giving her this care was tasking emotionally, I never felt frustrated with her. Being that I had cared for Lady, along with other sick pets over the years, I felt I was ready for the commitment of raising a puppy. It was shocking to experience feelings of wanted to get away from Maple. She was my new pet, and I had waited so long to get her, but once I had her I was always waiting for her to take a nap so I could just step away for a minute. I felt so guilty, why didn’t I like being around my own puppy?!

 I personally feel the hardest part of dealing with a new puppy’s antics is the fact that the bond isn’t established. Caring for a pet with tons of needs is easy when there is a deep love between owner and dog. But with a new puppy, it can be hard to bond. It is hard to love something who bites your hand each time you try to pet it but cries when you walk away. Some people might instantly bond with their new puppy, I just didn’t. Looking back, it took time to bond to most of my pets; the bond only instantly happened for me with Raina. So, if you feel as if you don’t like your new puppy, don’t worry, you are not a terrible human being! Bonding takes time, and it takes some people longer than others.

Bringing Home Maple:

As stated above, I was shocked by how much Maple May bites. Raina was the rare pup who never mouthed or chewed anything other than her toys. Also, I was not prepared to handle a puppy who didn’t know when she needed a nap. Maple gets overly-tired, and when that happens, she is impossible to deal with. For the first week, I had no idea why she would get into fits of chasing me, jumping on me, and biting my clothes and hands hard enough to tear and break skin. Then, I read a little bit of other people’s experiences, and discovered that she was probably not sleeping enough. Sure enough, next time she got in “alligator mode,” I popped her in her crate, and after five minutes of throwing a hissy fit, she crashed and slept for over an hour.

For the first month, I really didn’t like Maple. I know that sounds horrible, but it is not as bad as it sounds. I felt protective of her and I would have done anything for her if she was sick. In short, I didn’t dislike her, but I did not like being around her.

Does it get Better?

Yes! Maple is by no means a well-behaved dog yet, but I am not nearly as stressed as I was the first week she came home. While she has improved in some areas, the biggest change is that I am bonded to her now. I love her, and I am happy she is in my life.

As for how long it can take, it just depends on the owner and the puppy. I had Maple for over a month before one day I was playing with her and I realized I was actually playing with her because I enjoyed her company. Prior to this, I was counting down the minutes I spent interacting with her, ready for her to need to be put down for a nap.

Tips to Help it get Better:

  • Don’t compare your puppy to previous pets! This puppy is an individual, it’s not fair to expect them to be something they are not.
  • Forced naps! These are a life saver. Many puppies should only be up for an hour or two at a time, and then they should be taking a nap. Remember, puppies should be sleeping 14 – 18 hours a day.
  • Remember your puppy is just a baby. When I get really annoyed with Maple, I remind myself that she is just a puppy and that she hasn’t been on this planet very long. It really isn’t fair to expect a puppy to behave when they don’t even know what behaving is. When puppies bite, whine, and poop on the rug they are not being bad, they are just being puppies. It is up to us to teach them how to live in our world, and learning for them takes time.
  • Google “puppy blues” and read about what other people struggle with. It really helps to go on dog forums and read other people talk about the hard parts of bringing home a new dog.
  • Get away from you new dog. Remember to take time to get out a bit. Even leaving the house for an hour or two helped me so much. If you can, have a friend come over and spend time with the puppy while you take a break. Most people love puppies, so it is a win-win situation.
  • Crate Train. Once your puppy is crate trained, they are much easier to put down for a nap. When the puppy is in his/her crate, you can step away from them without worry that they will get into something bad.
  • Training classes. Puppy kindergarten is a great place to see that there is no such thing as a perfect puppy, and that you are not a failure of a pet parent. Most people in puppy school will be going through the same things you are, and not feeling alone is very powerful for changing your mood and emotions.

I hope these tips help. Adding a puppy to your life can be really difficult, but also incredibly rewarding. Stick it out, put the work in, take breaks, and someday your bad puppy will turn into a great dog!

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