Puppy blues? 12 survival tips from Redditors

January 31, 2023 - 7 min read
puppy with black ears and white body with a pink shoe in its jaws

Whether you just got your puppy yesterday or have had it for several months, puppy behaviors — and the reality that everything in your life has now changed — can take a mental toll.

We recently surveyed 601 pet owners experiencing anxiety or depression related to puppy parenthood — symptoms commonly dubbed the “Puppy Blues.” We discovered the struggle is especially prominent in the first three months of ownership.

So, where do puppy parents seek relief? About 21% told us they head to Reddit and other online forums — so we decided to head there too. ManyPets asked the Redditors of /r/puppy-101, a community of 275,000 Redditors and counting, how they coped with the Puppy Blues. Here’s a roundup of their suggestions.*

1. Keep Doing What You Love

Remember when you had time to yourself? Some Redditors pointed out that new puppy parents need to keep doing what they loved before, like leaving their homes. You might even find you miss your puppy more when you’re out.

“Whether it’s to work out, take a walk alone, or hang out with your friends, do it. It’s been helping my wife and [me] just to get a little reprieve.” - theflightofporter

“Maybe for you, it's a significant other, or a weekly D&D game, or cooking elaborate dinners. Once I figured out a way to get my full workout in every day until my puppy got over her instinctual ‘separation anxiety’ (got a family member to pet sit), I started to feel a little more human.” - velvetvalet

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2. Get a Sitter or Trainer

On that note, invest in a sitter, trainer, or puppy daycare — or ask a dog-loving friend or neighbor to watch your dog. Even a couple of hours can help.

“If you are raising your puppy with a partner, I recommend giving each other time to be away from the puppy. It’s hard. You feel like you’re doing everything wrong, and cleaning up is annoying.” - theflightofporter

“Getting the third vaccination, daycare, and training all helped. Letting her socialize and getting the energy out meant I didn’t have to entertain her myself, and she got used to other dogs and being in the car. Daycare and training helped because they did the same, with the added benefit of a professional trainer.” - Tommy_Wisseau_burner

“Short-term solution: A little help from a pet sitter, daycare, or trusted friend. Give yourself some me-time!” - kowowdough

3. Enforce Nap Time

Your puppy might seem like she can shred baskets and pull undies out of the hamper all day long, but she also needs sleep to grow and develop. Penciling in structured time for naps might be good for both of you.

“My pup was chronically over-tired. Enforced naps improved his mood and gave me a break.” - Last_Abbreviations29

“Nap when your puppy naps.” - Ill-Ad-8432

4. Use a Crate or Playpen

Our Puppy Blues survey found that “leaving the puppy home alone” was a trigger for 55% of owners experiencing anxiety related to puppy ownership. Crates and playpens can be lifesavers when you don’t want to puppy-proof your entire house, including when you need to run out.

“If you feel like you’re becoming frustrated, it’s perfectly okay to crate your dog and take a time-out. It’s better for you and your puppy!” - __she__wolf

“I used a crate/playpens to get things done so I didn't have to worry about the puppy.” - Last_Abbreviations29

5. Channel Energy Into Activities

As your slobber-coated Nintendo Switch painfully demonstrates, puppies can turn anything into a toy. But occupying their minds will take more than a simple chew toy. Enter: puzzle toys.

“Puzzle toys helped — specifically Kongs and this ball.” - Last_Abbreviations29

“Whenever my pup gets a little nuts, I take out his food puzzle, and after he spends a few minutes with it, he calms down.” - BeautifulDiscount422

6. Journal the Wins

If you haven’t kept a journal since 4th grade, it’s time to start it up again. Redditors note that journaling can be a therapeutic way to reflect on hard-won gains along the puppy-raising journey.

“Keeping a training journal and jotting down the little wins or specific things we had to work on. It was easier to remind myself that even if some things needed more work or even a total restart, other things were getting better or had come such a long way.” - kowowdough

“I keep track of the time I spend engaging with her versus near her while she sleeps. I spent A LOT less time actively engaged with her than it had seemed. Once I realized I had fairly significant blocks of time on my own, everything seemed so much less overwhelming.” - velvetvalet

7. Find Your Community

Being the only puppy parent in your household can feel overwhelming. In our survey, 73% of sole caretakers reported symptoms of anxiety or depression (or both), compared to only 63% of joint caretakers. Support is essential wherever you can find it.

“It helped to vent on this sub and check in daily with my partner. He would say, ‘on a scale of 1-10, how much do you regret the dog,’ and there were some bad days. But eventually, I wanted to keep the puppy more and more until getting rid of him wasn't an option.” - Last_Abbreviations29

“Vent, b****, and moan! Get the negativity out.” - Ill-Ad-8432

8. Adjust Your Expectations (of Yourself AND Your Dog)

Puppies grow fast, but it can feel like they’ll NEVER be able to walk nicely on a leash. Take a moment to slow down and remember that your dog is still a baby.

“It helped to remember that my puppy was literally a baby and think about how unrealistic our expectations of dogs are compared to our expectations of human babies.” - Last_Abbreviations29

“I am not the perfect puppy owner, and I need to stop trying. She does not need to have a 100% no-accident record at three months, even if people online say they've achieved that. She doesn't have to know sit, down, touch, leave it, and drop it at nine weeks, even if people online say they've achieved that.” - velvetvalet

9. Take Time Outs

If you’ve already struggled with taking time for yourself, now’s a good time to practice. As one Redditor points out, “everything will go downhill” when your physical and mental needs aren’t met.

“Always make sure your needs are met first. Everything will go downhill if you are starving, tired, stressed, and frustrated. Feed and bathe yourself. Hide in the tub and sob if you need. The puppy isn't gonna die in that short period.” - h-e-d-i-t--i-o-n

“Give yourself short breaks. That also trains your dog to be without you for short bursts.” - Ill-Ad-8432

“I learned very quickly that when I’m frustrated, I MUST step away. Otherwise, it will have a snowball effect and make things worse. For example, I yell or cry, and then my puppy acts out, and his behavior worsens, and my reaction to the bad behavior is not proactive.” - __she__wolf

10. Talk to Your Puppy

Is someone chopping onions? The advice to “talk to your puppy” and focus on bonding is especially poignant and a great reminder to cherish the little fluffball you have right now — even if they just pooped in the corner RIGHT after you took them on a walk.

“Talk to your puppy. Tell them how proud you are of them. Talk about the challenges you are having with them. Talk about your future plans. Tell them why you wanted a puppy. Tell them about your non-puppy problems. Tell them how much you love them. Tell them how lucky you are to have them. Do it in a calm voice when the puppy is calm. Hand-feed some kibble while you talk. It will do you and your furry friend a world of good.” - msspider66

"Build that bond, and don't be afraid to show your puppy your feelings. They're smarter than we give them credit for.” - Ill-Ad-8432

11. Give It Time

Time doesn’t heal ALL wounds, but it can help. At the very least, you can remind yourself that putting the effort in now will eventually pay off.

“I sometimes forget that the puppy phase will end and life won’t be this difficult, stressful, or quite as crazy once my puppy matures and becomes an adult.” - glowvie

“So many puppy behaviors are just developmental stages they will grow out of. Just because your dog is a menace now doesn't mean it will continue into adulthood.” - Last_Abbreviations29

"[Give it] time. They just need to grow up a bit." - Id10tB0x

12. Focus on the Pawsitives

Despite the overwhelming challenges of puppy parenthood, some moments make it all worth it. Focus on those!

“When your pup is asleep or plays really well, and maybe just this once didn't leave a mark on your hands with those razor puppy teeth, remember this is what you are working towards.” - Cool_beans56

“My dog was a demon pup. I was really scared he would be ruined and regretted getting him every day. But now he's such a good dog.” - Last_Abbreviations29

“I know it's hard when you're breaking apart, but your pup will grow up too fast. Enjoy their little toesies and their sharp voice, and their soft fur, and their little tongue that sticks out when they sleep, and their clumsiness and their dream-running (they do it a lot less when they're older).” - Ill-Ad-8432

“All we can do is lay positive foundations and try to manage things the best we can.” - glowvie

*Quotes have been edited for clarity and grammar.

Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.