I realised I had new puppy anxiety

September 16, 2019

For Helen Edwards, the early days with her new Zuchon puppy, Archie were difficult. After researching how she was feeling, Helen discovered she was experiencing new puppy anxiety – also known as the new puppy blues. Keen to help other first-time puppy parents, Helen has since written a book to share her experience.

I was so excited about getting a puppy, but just days after bringing Archie home, I thought I’d made a big mistake. I felt overwhelmed and I was more anxious than usual, worrying whether I was doing things the right way, and whether Archie was happy.

Because puppies, lovely as they are, are hard work. It was a very unrestful period of time: I was frequently checking what Archie was up to (quiet is not necessarily a good sign); retrieving things from his mouth that he really shouldn’t be chewing; clearing up his wee/poo/sick … The biting took its toll. I wondered whether I’d ever bond with Archie. 

“I’ve since heard the term, ‘new puppy blues’, and I think that sums up the way I was feeling perfectly.”

Cabin fever

I worked part-time and so I spent more time with Archie than my husband did. It felt like life revolved around Archie, and I got cabin fever being at home with him, not able to take him out for a walk before he’d had his second vaccination. I felt terrible for feeling the way I did and not being able to enjoy my puppy. I’ve since heard the term, “new puppy blues”, and I think that sums up the way I was feeling perfectly.

I remember having a meltdown over Archie’s dirty bottom on the first day I was left on my own with him. That was my lowest point. I was exhausted – I hadn’t been sleeping very well since Archie’s arrival – and little Archie did not want his bottom washed. He escaped, proceeding to drag his bum on the carpet! I can smile when I think about it now, but at the time it felt like the end of the world. Nowadays I don’t think anything of giving Archie a wash; I just scoop him up and put him in the shower – job done. 

Lovely moments

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. There were some lovely moments like when Archie dived on me and buried his face in the crook of my arm, and the way he followed me everywhere and I’d feel this little nose nudging my ankles. I didn’t make the most of those moments and I regret that. I wish I could go back, knowing what I do now. Archie grew so fast!

So, what helped? Although my husband also found Archie to be hard work, he wasn’t anxious about it, and so he was able to bolster me.

I also got some support from Anxiety UK’s infoline service. I emailed them, and the response I received was really encouraging.

Baby steps

There were lots of baby steps, like getting a trainer in for some one-to-one training. She gave me a much-needed confidence boost, as well as some helpful tips. 

The staff at the vets we signed up with were lovely and supportive, and I’ll always remember a man we met and chatted to for ages in Pets at Home. He’d had similar feelings to us when he first got his dog, and I left the shop feeling heartened.

Suddenly the weeks were flying by and the three of us were getting used to our new set up. I began to feel more confident in my ability to look after Archie and the gloom lifted. It helped being able to take him out once he’d had his second vaccination. 

I took some time off work to help get Archie settled in his new home and so going back to work for a morning meant a return to normality, and to feel like someone other than Archie’s carer. 

Passing each milestone also helped; first time in the car, first visit to the vets, first puppy party, first proper walk outside, first bath, and so on. I found I was coping and better than that – I was doing a good job. The bond between myself and Archie grew.

Cuddles helped

I want to point out that although getting a puppy made me more anxious, there was a flip side too. Archie helped me with the intermittent anxiety I felt over my job at the time. If I was worried about a meeting, for example, watching Archie toddle around took my mind off it, and if I was having a stressful day at work it helped to think about playing with Archie when I got home. Cuddles helped too.

Archie is now three and more gorgeous than ever in my humble opinion. I admit there are still days when I would like a break (Archie has got a lot of energy), but that’s what doggy daycare is for, ha ha. Seriously, I wouldn’t be without him for the world. I love him so much.

“None of the research I did prepared me for the way I felt those first few weeks with Archie.”

None of the research I did prepared me for the way I felt those first few weeks with Archie, and so I decided to write a book about my experiences in a bid to help other first-time puppy parents, or anyone considering whether to get a puppy or not. That was All About Archie: Bringing Up A Puppy. I later followed this up with More About Archie: The Post Puppy Years, and most recently I’ve combined the two books and added some new material. 

What next?

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