Fighting Puppy Depression
Concrete steps to regain a sense of control and build a positive, symbiotic relationship with your pup.
Puppy depression may feel all-consuming, but there are a number of approaches to help move you through the worst portions (and to reduce your the duration of your depression).
Make Crate Training a Priority
Perhaps the single most important asset any new dog owner has is a crate.
Knowing that your puppy is safe and secure—especially at night—provides the peace of mind you’ll need when running errands and trying to grab some precious hours of sleep. You can read the specifics of crate training here. If you haven’t already picked out a crate—or need a different size—we recommend taking a look at the Midwest iCrate series (linked here).
Invest in Training
When it comes to improving your relationship with a new puppy, there’s nothing more effective than positive training methods. Altogether, these sessions:
- Offer expert insight into questions you have
- Give you and your dog a chance to bond
- Help tire puppies (both mentally and physically, as they often get the chance to play with other dogs)
- Allow you to meet and socialize with those experiencing the same anxiety
- Improve dog behavior and prepare them for a happy life
Typically, classes run somewhere between $80 and $200 for a 6 week session, but the money is well spent (if the teacher carries any credentials and if owners work consistently with their dogs). In many cases, puppies can learn a new skill or two in a single night, and this progress alone is enough to prove to owners that there’s hope.
We believe strongly in a process called “Positive Reinforcement” (which we feel develops the best bond between you and your dog). You can find a great resource on Positive Reinforcement here.
When the Puppy Sleeps, You Sleep
This may not always be possible, depending on the particulars of your career and/or home life. However, all problems typically seem far worse when you haven’t been getting enough sleep (and this is almost a guarantee for the months after bringing home a new puppy).
One piece of advice often given to new mothers is that, “When the baby sleeps, you sleep.” The idea is simple: we know that babies need sleep (a lot of it), it’s just a question of their inability to clump long hours together. So, when the mother gets a chance to grab a few z’s, they should.
Puppies are the same way, and if your dog is comfortable in a crate while napping you won’t have anything to worry about. It’s a sleep cycle that takes some getting used to, but the mental clarity which accompanies a well-rested mind is definitely worth the change.
Set Realistic Expectations
Speaking broadly, depression is a realization that things aren’t as we’d like them to be. By controlling the expectations we have of a dog, we can help curb our natural inclination for disappointment and regret.
For instance, just because your neighbor potty-trained his dog in a week doesn’t mean your dog will be the same. This doesn’t make your dog “bad” or “stupid,” it just makes them different. How do you like being held to the same standard as friends and relatives?
Set Aside “You” Time
You should be able to enjoy a few hours each day on your own. Provided you’ve crate-trained your dog and taken the time to wear him/her out during the day, this shouldn’t be all that stressful of a situation.
A number of toys and treat receptacles can also grab—and hold—your puppy’s attention for long periods of time. We recommend the Kong line (found here); they’re a small rubber toy that can be filled with whipped cream, peanut butter (and then frozen!), or small dry treats which your dog will have to figure out how to retrieve. Very helpful if you need to produce some downtime.
Nylabones, too, provide a long-lasting option that teething puppies love (as they’re embedded with lots of good flavors). Find a variety pack on Amazon for under $10, here.
Additionally, it’s ok to ask for help. Friends and family are usually thrilled to provide a helping hand from time to time (it’s a cute puppy, who wouldn’t be?). Just beware of over-burdening others with too many (or too frequent) of request.
Celebrate Successes, No Matter How Small
We often get so overwhelmed by how much a puppy still needs to learn that we forget to mark time by what they have learned. Recognizing the small things—even if they aren’t 100% consistent yet—can do a lot to boost morale…both for you, and for your dog.
In fact, showing how happy you are when your pup behaves correctly will help speed training and build that inexplicable “bond” that makes dog ownership all the more rewarding.
Take Time to Do the Fun Stuff
You’ll sometimes get bogged down in training (and training, and training). This can be a challenging period for both you and your puppy. But remember, your dog won’t be a puppy for long so you need to take time to do things you both enjoy as well.
If there’s a game your puppy consistently loves to play, take time to play it together. This helps make your puppy’s day better, build a trust and friendship that aids training, and reminds you why getting a puppy was such a great idea.
Take some walks, too.