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Many people experience 'puppy blues' with a new pet

We’ve all watched those heartwarming videos: families presenting their kids with an adorable puppy, everyone giggling and showering affection as the little furry friend wags its tail and licks faces. But what comes next once the camera stops recording?

Turns out, bringing a puppy home isn’t always the continuous bundle of joy we picture. In reality, for many new dog owners, it can evoke emotions eerily similar to the “baby blues” new parents experience. This phenomenon is known as “puppy blues.”

Exploring the puppy blues

Researchers at the University of Helsinki have undertaken a study that sheds light on this rollercoaster of emotions: the puppy blues. The researchers concluded that this experience is more prevalent than anticipated.

“Just under half of owners report having had significant negative experiences during their dog’s puppyhood phase, with only about a tenth reporting the most severe levels of strain. This is in line with the prevalence of postnatal depression. However, the negative feelings fade relatively quickly,” said Professor Hannes Lohi, one of the lead researchers.

Why do people get puppy blues?

“The study found that these so-called ‘puppy blues’ manifest in three ways: anxiety, frustration and weariness. These often occur concurrently, but in some cases one or two of the three may be particularly prominent,” said psychologist and doctoral researcher Aada Ståhl.


Imagine this: you’ve just brought your new puppy home, and suddenly, you’re engulfed in worry. Is the puppy eating enough? Too much? Is that sneeze normal, or should you rush to the vet? This constant state of apprehension characterizes puppy-induced anxiety.

Anxious puppy owners often have their minds clouded by concerns about their furry friend’s health and growth.

However, it doesn’t end there – many owners also grapple with self-doubt, questioning their capability to look after their new pet. With things not going as planned (which is usual with puppies), these owners might find themselves shouldering the blame, heightening their anxiety further.


Remember those daydreams of leisurely strolling through the park with your well-behaved puppy?

Fast forward to reality: your shoes are chewed, your furniture scratched, and your once spotless carpet now a battleground. Welcome to the world of puppy-induced frustration.

Frustrated puppy owners often face unexpected hurdles and the hefty workload of raising a puppy. The stress can lead to discontent and tension, making it challenging to form that ideal bond with their new companion.

At times, owners might even contemplate if they made a mistake, considering rehoming their puppy.


If you thought having a newborn baby was exhausting, try dealing with a creature possessing the energy of a toddler and the attention span of a goldfish – all encased in a furry body that demands constant supervision.

For the weary puppy owner, the puppyhood phase signifies a period of both mental and physical fatigue. Sleep becomes a distant luxury as they navigate nighttime bathroom trips and early morning walks.

The incessant need for attention and activity can leave owners feeling depleted and anxious, questioning if they’ll ever feel refreshed again.

Evaluating the puppy blues

While dog owners have shared accounts of challenges in raising puppies for a while, this study marks the first scientific measurement and analysis of the phenomenon.

The researchers initially collected accounts from over 100 dog owners who experienced emotional strain after getting a puppy. Using this information, they designed a survey to gauge the puppy blues more broadly, collecting responses from over 2,000 dog owners.

This structured approach is critical. “Capturing the phenomenon in a measurable form is important if we are to better understand its characteristics, prevalence and duration. This will also allow us to improve understanding of the factors that may predispose owners to or protect them from the ‘puppy blues’, which will help us to develop prevention and support measures,” said Ståhl.

The bright side

Before you swear off puppies forever, there’s a silver lining on the horizon. The study indicates that for most owners, these negative sentiments tend to diminish relatively rapidly. Interestingly, the longer the time since the puppyhood phase, the more positively people reminisce about it.

Similar to human children, the trials of early puppyhood are often surpassed by the pleasure and companionship our four-legged friends bring us in the long haul.

Study significance

You might wonder why examining the ‘puppy blues’ matters. After all, don’t most people eventually navigate through it? While that is true, comprehending this phenomenon can yield extensive advantages.

Primarily, it validates the encounters of numerous dog owners who may have felt isolated or embarrassed about their negative emotions. By bringing these narratives into the open, we can nurture a more supportive environment for new pet owners.

Furthermore, the research unveils fresh opportunities for assisting dog owners. With an enhanced understanding of the influences that contribute to or safeguard against the puppy blues, tailored interventions and support systems can be developed.

This could lead to happier pet owners, well-adjusted dogs, and ultimately, fewer dogs being relinquished to shelters due to owner exhaustion.

Embracing the trials of puppy love

Welcoming a puppy into your home is certainly a life-altering occasion, filled with moments of pure delight and, as we now acknowledge, potential emotional hurdles. The ‘puppy blues’ stand as a genuine occurrence, impacting almost half of all new dog owners to a certain degree.

But similar to any worthwhile pursuit, the challenges of puppyhood are often outweighed by the rewards. As time goes by, those restless nights and chewed belongings transform into cherished memories, replaced by the unconditional love and companionship only a dog can offer.

So, if you find yourself grappling with the puppy blues, keep in mind: you’re not alone, it’s not your flaw, and things will improve. After all, every remarkable dog tale commences with a puppy – and a human courageous enough to sail through the storm of puppyhood.

The study is published in the journal Npj Mental Health Research.


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