A new puppy can be life-changing and at first, it may not always feel like it’s in the best way. We’ve asked dog owners what were their biggest puppy problems during the first few months so you can know what to expect.
Without fail, almost every new puppy owner has hit a point when they despairingly wonder, ‘what on earth have I done?’ and may even think ‘this is all a huge mistake’.
Do these puppy problems sound familiar? If it’s where you are right now, don’t worry. Virtually everyone feels like that – and it’s actually a very good sign. It means that you’re taking the responsibilities of puppy-ownership seriously, and are doing everything possible to ensure your dog gets the very best start in life; but the journey can be exhausting, and is certainly life-changing.
Some psychologists think that new dog owners go through a similar period to new parents when it comes to the ‘baby blues.’ Whilst there isn’t the huge hormonal shift that having a baby brings, all new owners have a vision in their minds of what having a puppy will be like, and picture the joys of their new arrival with anticipation. Often when their puppy arrives, the reality isn’t anything like the dream; and suddenly they are 100% responsible for this unexpectedly demanding new family member, who needs them 24 hours a day, without a break. That’s when the puppy blues so often kick in.
You’re not alone with this feeling, here at Purina, we understand these puppy problems and the stresses that come with it. We’ve asked members of our team what the biggest challenges were during puppyhood, from toilet training to separation anxiety. Keep reading to discover how they felt about raising a pup.
Struggling to cope
"After about a week, I just felt like a complete failure. I was so tired I couldn’t think straight and everything seemed to be going wrong. Monty was still peeing and pooing in the house, he’d chew anything that he could find, and any time I turned my back, he’d be doing something he shouldn’t. This was causing conflict in the family and I couldn’t even leave him to go to the shops to get away from it all. I hadn’t realised that having a puppy was so difficult and twenty times a day I nearly picked up the phone to his breeder to ask her to take him back because I couldn’t cope. I’m so glad I didn’t though as he’s now my best friend and I couldn’t ever imagine life without him."
The challenges of toilet training
"My biggest challenge was toilet training – particularly with a miniature dachshund! I don’t think I anticipated just how difficult, frustrating or time-consuming it would be, and how much patience it would take to get it right! It made me feel completely helpless and I sometimes lost my temper and just felt overwhelmed like we’d take one step forwards and two steps back.
A lot of time and a lot of patience, however, and we finally got there in the end…and I have to say, once we really cracked it, I was more elated about my puppy going for wees outside than I thought would ever be possible!"
- Ellie, Purina Vet and owner of Evie, now a 1-year-old Miniature Dachshund
Separation anxiety struggles
"Separation anxiety was the hardest thing for me. I was very worried and concerned, not only about how the puppy felt being left alone and how guilty I felt, but also the potential barking and howling disturbing the neighbours and Pickle possibly destroying the house.
I feel so much better now and less worried; although she is still a puppy, she is used to the environment (my home) and knows to relax until I come back. It is all about time."
- Haelee, Purina Brand Manager and owner of Pickle, now a 10-month-old Cockerpoo
The first week with a new puppy
These feelings usually come in the first week with a new puppy when owners are toilet training and so aren’t getting enough sleep. Their entire waking moments are spent watching their puppy to make sure they don’t have toileting accidents, chew anything they shouldn’t or get into trouble, and they can’t go anywhere or do anything (including go to the bathroom) without taking their new dog into consideration.
"Lily had a habit of finding the odd table leg or flip flop to chew when left on her own for short periods!
This meant that, when coming back home, we were apprehensive about what she may have chewed next and then dealing with the stress of tidying up the mess she’d made when we got back, rather than enjoying the play and cuddles!"
- Becky, Purina Brand Manager and owner of Lily, a 13-month-old Yorkiepoo
This is a time when owners are trying hard to do everything right for their puppy, but it can sometimes be overwhelming and not at all what they had expected. For some this can be combined with a sense of grieving for their old, carefree, pre-puppy days!
The good news is that these feelings and puppy problems are only temporary. Soon the puppy begins to settle, life starts to become far more relaxed again (although never back to how it was) and the relationship you build with your new dog and the unconditional love you get back in return replaces the previous feelings of panic and worry. You won’t be able to imagine life without your dog – and nor would you want to.
Time and perseverance are key
"I wasn’t prepared for feeling so out of control, or for the emotional toll it can take either – the worry that she’s not ok, not happy, not eating, not drinking, not sleeping, is this normal, is that normal, am I being a terrible dog owner.
Worries can spiral out of control quite quickly. The lack of sleep is killer, and sometimes you take steps back and it would feel like everything we’d worked on had been undone. Essentially – a lot of heightened emotions! Luckily time and perseverance really are the answer. Once she started sleeping through the night everything calmed down. Now I can’t imagine my life without her."
- Martina, Purina Experience Lead and owner of Luna, now a 1-year-old Miniature Dachshund
How to handle the initial puppy problems:
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re dealing with puppy problems.
- This will pass. Your puppy will settle, they will get the hang of toilet training, you will get the hang of dog ownership, and your world will go back to (a new!) normal.
- It’s OK to feel scared – everyone does. New owners worry about whether their puppy is healthy and happy, whether they are doing things right, and ultimately if they are going to be any good at being a dog owner. You are out of your comfort zone and everything is new so these feelings are totally natural.
- Ask for help. If you’re worried about your puppy’s health, talk to a vet and if you are worried about their behaviour, training or settling in, find a qualified behaviourist you can run your worries by. All good puppy breeders will be very willing to give you some back up too. Sometimes it helps just to talk to friends who have dogs. They will tell you their own stories, reassure you, give you a fresh perspective – and remind you of the joys of dog ownership.
- Take time out. Try puppy day-care for a few hours and run away and have some ‘me’ time. You’ll come back refreshed and full of love for your puppy again.
- Never forget your new dog is just a baby. They are not being naughty or difficult – they are just trying to fit into this new life and will take time to learn how to do this. They need your patience and your love. They don’t come toilet trained and pre-programmed to do as you ask them. You have to spend time teaching them and building your relationship.
- What you are doing now however is investing in your new dog. All this work, time and energy is building the foundations of your life together so you can build your relationship and have the dog you have always dreamed of.
Watch to see how new puppy parents in Purina survived their puppy's settling-in phase.
Puppyhood really is a joy and it goes by so fast – but it can be a challenge. Expect that, plan for that – and enjoy it!
Want to find out about the next stages of puppy ownership? Learn what to expect from puppy adolescence.