You’ve dreamed of bringing your new fluffy bundle home for months or even years. Endless cuddles and countless games of fetch are your promised rewards.
But when your puppy arrives and the initial excitement fades, you’re overwhelmed. With all the sleepless nights, potty training accidents, and walks that feel more like sled runs, you may start to question your sanity.
Is puppy angst a thing?
Yup. Despite all the rosy Instagram feeds you’ve seen, puppies are a source of anxiety and depression for many new owners. We know because we asked them. (We also spoke to Redditors of r/puppy101 for advice.)
In January 2023, ManyPets surveyed 857 new puppy owners using the consumer research platform Attest. And 601 of them—a whopping 70%—reported symptoms of anxiety, depression, or both.
So if you’re struggling with what’s been semi-officially dubbed the “Puppy Blues,” you’re not alone. Fortunately, our research taught us a thing or two about how you can cope—even thrive.
Let’s dive into the results.
What are the Puppy Blues?
The phrase “Puppy Blues” refers to feelings of anxiety, depression, or both related to acquiring a dog under the age of one.
Symptom severity may change daily, but overall, these feelings interfere with your ability to function daily.
Nearly 70% of puppy owners reported symptoms of anxiety, depression, or both.
These emotions are very common, very real, and can be disruptive daily.
For puppy owners with anxiety symptoms related to dog ownership:
45% experienced anxiety symptoms “every day (16.8%)” or “most days (28.6%)”
70% said their symptoms were more than “mild” (moderate, moderately severe, severe)
Of those puppy owners experiencing depression related to dog ownership:
47% reported feeling depression symptoms “every day (14%)” or “most days (33%)”
71% rated their depression symptoms as more than “mild” (moderate, moderately severe, severe)
Not exactly the endorphin rush that most new puppy owners are hoping for.
(Quick note: All remaining survey results include only the 70% of respondents — 601 total — who reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression unless otherwise specified.)
Which Dog Owners are Most Prone to the Puppy Blues?
The puppy blues can strike anyone at any time in puppy ownership. But there are some commonalities among those owners who are most at risk of developing postpartum puppy blues.
Puppy ownership is rough — especially if you carry it yourself, which many people do. 73% of the puppy owners who responded to our survey reported being sole caretakers. (Only 23% said they were joint caretakers.). 73% of sole caretakers reported symptoms of anxiety or depression (or both), compared to only 63% of joint caretakers.
Even amongst puppy owners who do say they’re experiencing puppy blues, the sole caretakers have it worse: 50% say they experience symptoms “most days” or “every day” as opposed to just “some days.” For joint caretakers, only 32% report feeling symptoms this frequently.
Additionally, 30% of the sole caretakers who have experienced anxiety or depression say they’ve at least considered rehoming their puppy. For joint caretakers, the number was only 23%.
Owners With Multiple Dogs
Of all survey respondents who say they’re experiencing anxiety and/or depression, 37% reported having two or more dogs in addition to their new puppy (brave owners!). Not only that, but 49% said they had one other dog. Just 14% said they only had one puppy!
Perhaps not surprisingly, plans to rehome the new puppy increased with owners who already have other dogs. Sometimes, a new puppy isn’t the right fit with your preexisting pups, and it compounds an already overwhelming situation. One owner pointed to the difficulty of “acclimating two large breed dogs with a new small breed puppy.”
Male Dog Owners
Out of all 857 puppy owners we surveyed, Males were significantly more likely than females to say they were experiencing anxiety and/or depression (76% vs. 66%).
On top of this, our survey revealed a correlation between gender and having second thoughts about puppy ownership. 23% of males reported they “regret getting a puppy,” compared to only 6% of women. Men were also more likely to report that they were either considering or planning to rehome their dog (37%, compared to 15% of females).
Gender aside, there’s a chance that some puppy owners are reluctant to admit they regret their decision — it’s a difficult feeling to come to terms with. If that’s the case, our data might not capture the whole story.
How Long Do the Puppy Blues Last?
Puppy Blues peak in the first month — and tail off by year’s end.
Respondents surveyed in the first month surveyed reported the following ranges of symptoms (for comparison, we’ll show respondents from the 10-12 month segment for the same stats):
10% rated anxiety as “severe” (3.8% for 10-12 months)
24% rated depression as “severe” (8.8% for 10-12 months)
38% are considering or planning on rehoming or returning their puppy (18% for 10-12 months)
27% replied “yes,” they regret getting a puppy (4% for 10-12 months)
These are different survey respondents at different stages, so they aren’t an apples-to-apples comparison. But there is an overall decline in symptoms across the board.
What Triggers the Puppy Blues?
If the thought of leaving your puppy behind gives you hives, you’re not the only one.
“Leaving the puppy home alone” was one of the most significant sources of anxiety (55%) and depression (46%).
Other top triggers include:
potty training (50%)
jumping/excess energy (39%)
Those respondents who adopted their dog from a shelter were more likely to report anxiety around leaving the puppy home — roughly 68%.
And in the first three months, “crate training” rated significantly higher as an anxiety-inducing trigger than it did later.
How to Treat the Puppy Blues
So, how do you get relief?
Here are some coping tactics that have worked for some of the puppy owners in our survey.
Using Online Training Videos
Paging Doctor Youtube! Nearly 40% of respondents reported that “watching training videos online” helped alleviate symptoms of anxiety or depression related to their puppy.
Employing a Dog Trainer
Paging Doctor Youtube! About 25% of respondents invested in working with a dog trainer or courses to make their journey to dog adulthood smoother.
Reading Puppy Training Blogs
25% reported reading “dog/puppy blogs” has been helpful in raising their puppy. (Not to brag, but we offer pretty good advice about puppy-raising on the ManyPets blog.)
“Alexa, can my dog eat beets??”
Many new puppy owners asked Alexa or another voice assistant puppy-related questions, and 22% said she delivered. (Yes to beets, by the way.)
What Do New Puppy Parents Regret?
Kicking yourself for not researching your puppy’s breed more? Wishing you brushed up on training tactics before the puppy arrived? You’re not alone.
Almost half of our survey respondents (48%) wish they had “done more research/preparation” before bringing the new puppy home.
27% wish they had waited longer, and 26% wish they’d gotten an older dog.
Should You Rehome Your Puppy?
The most important thing to remember while amidst puppy chaos is that puppies do eventually grow up.
Whether or not you rehome your puppy is up to you (and your family or co-pet-parent, if applicable). Sometimes owners feel they’ve exhausted all possible resources and still can’t see themselves living with their puppy long term.
In such a situation, don’t let guilt cloud your judgment: It’s not worth it for you OR the puppy if your mental health goes down the drain. If you’re not the right fit for your puppy, the most responsible thing you can do is find them a family that is. Your puppy will thank you (at least, they would if they could talk).
But before you commit to going down that path, remember: Many of the behaviors that trigger the most anxiety and depression in new owners can be trained out of your puppy. In time, some of these behaviors may even moderate on their own.
And it looks like many puppy owners are banking on just that. Out of all survey respondents who say they’re already experiencing anxiety, depression, or both, 72% fully intend to stick things out and keep their puppy.
Call us optimists, but we think they won’t regret it.
* Our survey defined depression as “persistent feelings of sadness and depressed mood, loss of interest, and loss of feelings of pleasure” and anxiety as“excessive worry/apprehensive expectations and difficulty controlling the worry.”