Bringing a new puppy home can be one of the most exciting events of your life. There are so many great rewards for having a dog as a member of your family.
I remember the day I chose and brought home each and every puppy I’ve ever had! There was so much excitement! So much love! So many puppy cuddles and kisses! But after the first few days when the excitement wears off, there was SOOOO MUCH WORK!!
So how much work is it to have a puppy? I polled new puppy parents to find out how much time they spent actively taking care of their puppies, as well as what the hardest part of puppy parenting was, and this is what they said.
Taking care of a puppy is hard work! One of the hardest parts is adjusting your schedule to the amount of time a new puppy requires. Training proper behavior takes commitment. For the first few months, you can expect to spend anywhere from 6-12 hours a day (or more) actively taking care of your puppy.
You will get less sleep, you will have to watch, play with, and teach your puppy constantly. It takes anywhere from 4-18 months for a puppy to mature and work through a lot of basic training before they become a well-trained dog that requires significantly less work.
Owners say once you make it through the difficult puppy stage owning a dog is well worth it!
Most puppy parents have told me that they knew in theory having a puppy would be a lot of work, but they didn’t really understand just HOW much work it would be and how completely exhausted it would make them. The good part is they also said once you make it past those first 3-6 months it’s totally worth all the sweat and tears!
We’ll take a closer look at what makes owning a puppy so hard, why some people just give up, and how to manage your expectations so that doesn’t happen to you!
What is the Hardest Part of Having a New Puppy?
I’ve recently brought home a new puppy (he’s 11 months old now)! I went into it knowing it would be a lot of work. In fact, my family has been wanting a puppy for many years, but raising young kids I knew that I did not have the amount of energy or time that I needed to take care of my kids and a new puppy without getting completely stressed out and overworked, so we waited…..
In fact, we waited so long that when my 11-year-old found out that we were getting a puppy she broke down in tears saying “I’ve been waiting 7 years for a puppy”! She is definitely the biggest animal lover of my family!
So what makes having a puppy sooooo hard!!!!!
I surveyed new puppy owners to get the cold hard truth! Here is what they said are the hardest things about having a new puppy in the home and some tips to help you get through it.
How long until it gets better
How much time or work is involved
Average, 4-6 months.
All hours of the day and night.
At 5-6 months old, you can expect to leave for 4-5 hours, if properly trained.
Constant supervision at first, but slowly decreases.
With proper training
Time to exercise. Constant redirection.
With training and redirection. Gets better around 6 months.
Stops when properly trained.
Constant monitoring and redirecting may need professional help.
Usually resolves around 4-6 months.
Spend time working to get them on a schedule. Make their sleep area comfortable and inviting.
Getting up early in the morning
Usually gets better around 3-6 months or as you train them.
Make sure your puppy gets enough exercise during the day.
Complete schedule adjustment
Slowly over time.
Prepare and clear your schedule for the first few months you have puppy home.
No social life
After vaccinations. Usually around 12-14 weeks old.
Schedule a vet visit ASAP. Reach out to others.
Most important in the first year but should be continued their whole life.
Takes a significant amount of time and training.
Keeping them safe. Watching them 24/7
Gets better with training.
Training sessions 10-60 min. a day depending on age.
This is one of the hardest parts for new pet parents. Housetraining your dog requires a lot of time and consistency!
You will want to start the very first day you have them home. Take them out every 30 min. to an hour the first few weeks (2-3 times during the night), then add 30 minutes each week until they can go 3-4 hours in between bathroom breaks.
I had a very small Maltese Chihuahua mix that was only just over 1 pound when we brought him home. I never used puppy pads. We started with training outside right away, but we did bring him home in the springtime when the weather was mild.
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Depending on how small your puppy is you might want to start them on puppy pads indoors, especially if there is harsh weather.
Tips for success
- Be Consistent
- Pick 1 spot (with limited distractions) to take them to every time
- Have them on a harness and leash
- Don’t play with them or give them any attention until they go
- Give lots of praise when they go in their spot
- Don’t give them freedom in your house until they have been going to the bathroom in their spot consistently for at least a week
- Only give them small amounts of added freedom at a time (make them earn it!)
- Make sure everyone involved knows this routine
Dogs are pack animals they want to be near each other! When you get a new puppy he’s just been taken from his mother and littermates. You are now his pack, but he won’t understand that right away. He will most likely cry for the first few days and nights. That’s normal.
You don’t want to do any training with your puppy (besides potty training) for the first few days until they have had time to settle in.
If you can, prepare before you bring your puppy home. It’s a great idea to take a blanket or shirt that smells like you to the breeder for them to give to your puppy. Getting used to your scent will help your puppy with the transition.
Another thing you can try is giving your puppy something to snuggle with I’ve had a lot of people report success with using this snuggle puppy from Amazon. It helps them feel more secure and like they are still near their mother. It can help to greatly reduce the separation anxiety your puppy might have the first few weeks with you.
Once your puppy is 9-12 weeks old and you know how they behave when you’re not close, you can start to leave them in their safe area (a crate, playpen, or closed-off area).
Never leave the puppy alone for more than 1 hour a day. Once they reach 3-6 months old then you can leave them for 1 hour a day for every 1 month old they are up to 4/5 hrs max. Start in small increments and work up to larger amounts of time.
It’s good to get your puppy used to being alone in the room even in small bits of time working up to longer amounts of time. Even if you are planning to be home all the time teaching your puppy to have some independence will help in the future when your schedule becomes more demanding.
This is one of the biggest complaints for new puppy owners. For kids who take my New Puppy Classes, “how do I get my new puppy to stop biting me?” tends to be one of the most asked questions.
Similar to human toddlers wanting to put everything in their mouths puppies naturally bite and nip as a way to explore their world.
When puppy siblings play together they will test their limits of biting and nipping in playtime. When their littermate yelps it says “hey that was too hard”. The puppy understands that and will try and bite with less force the next time.
It can be emotionally exhausting when you just want to cuddle and love on your sweet puppy but every time you get close they nip you with those razor-sharp teeth causing all sorts of sores and pain.
Here are some of the techniques I teach in my classes.
- Make a yelping sound when the puppy bites too hard.
- Praise them when they play bite very softly.
- Take away your skin, clothing, or anything else that they shouldn’t be biting and redirect to something that is ok for them to bite.
- Act like a statue, stand up, and turn away from your puppy completely ignoring them, giving them no attention until they calm down and stop biting you. (This is my favorite to teach to kids because if they can do it consistently then the puppy learns biting = playtime over!)
- Give the puppy some exercise (a walk or game of fetch, or something that requires less contact with your flesh).
- Put the puppy in their pen or crate to calm down or take a break.
- Provide them with plenty of safe things to chew on.
Chewing can be a very difficult thing for new puppy owners, especially when chewing becomes destructive. Making it through this part of puppy parenthood with a very aggressive chewer can be extremely challenging.
There’s nothing worse for a new puppy owner than to come home from a quick errand to find their couch, kitchen table, or door jam completely chewed to bits!
Not only has it destroyed your property it could be very dangerous for your new puppy.
The good thing is this chewing phase won’t last forever!
Nipping, chewing, biting start as soon as you get your puppy but gets worse around 3-4 months old when they are teething. They start to lose their baby teeth (they have about 28) then their adult teeth will come in (about 42) and it can be painful. Chewing is a way for puppies to relieve that pain.
Once puppies get their adult teeth around 6 months old the chewing should decrease.
The best way to combat this is going to be to control your puppy’s environment. You need to completely puppy-proof their area and DO NOT allow them access to other areas without supervision until this stage is over and you are confident they will not be chewing up your things.
This is a lot of work! Puppies are creative at finding ways to escape or things to chew that they shouldn’t. You will need to work towards keeping them occupied with safe chew toys as well as giving them enough stimulation and exercise so they don’t chew out of boredom.
You might also notice that your puppy will hide or bury their food. If this is happening this article can help a lot with that.
Barking is something that is not necessarily just a puppy problem, barking can get out of control with adult dogs just as easily. It will take consistent work and effort to train your dog to not bark incessantly.
The worst thing you can do is to let your puppy get away with barking non-stop when they are young. This teaches them that this is acceptable behavior and the problem will most likely get worse.
How much time and training does it take to teach your dog good barking habits? Intensive training can see results in just a few weeks, but it’s likely to be a bit slower than that. You need to be consistent. When your dog is barking and you want to train them not to, here are a few steps you can take.
- Figure out why they are barking. (See the resource guide with some helpful articles on how to do this.)
- Interrupt the barking (with a loud clap and their name, or a quick shake of a plastic jar with some coins in it). Don’t ever yell.
- Once you have their attention ask them for a command like lay down or settle. (This is when having good foundational training n place is super helpful!)
- Praise and reward them well.
- Try to keep the stimulus (the thing they are barking at) away from them, or out of view, or desensitize them to it.
Expect when you bring a puppy home you most likely will not be getting your regular amount of sleep. Besides missing their littermates and crying at night because of separation anxiety. Small dogs including puppies have small bladders. They can’t hold it all night and will need to go to the bathroom once or several times a night.
Being exhausted because you’re up all night with a puppy who just wants to play can be very challenging. It may take several weeks to 6 months before your puppy stops waking you up at night.
Before you decide if you should let your puppy sleep with you be sure to read this article.
Once our puppy Bear was about 6 months old we decided to let him sleep with us. He’s a small little guy weighing just under 7lbs. He’s almost a year old and still sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night needing to go out to potty. Luckily for me, he prefers to lick my husband’s face to alert him so I get to keep sleeping!
Early Morning Waking
If you are not an early riser this too can be a very challenging part of new puppy parenthood! There are many new puppy owners that lament “Oh how I miss my sleep!!”
Puppies are full of energy and can go from 0 -60 very quickly. They will most likely be getting up early. Usually, they get up early because they need to go to the bathroom, or they have stored up a lot of energy and want to play!
Regardless if you are a late sleeper, you’ll need to work on training your pup to be one too.
Some tips I have:
- Make sure your puppy gets plenty of exercise before bedtime.
- Stay on a consistent schedule.
- If your puppy doesn’t wake up at night to go potty, set an alarm and take them out in the middle of the night. (Only do this if you prefer to sleep in rather than sleep all night.)
- Keep their sleep area calm and free of light or startling noises.
- Add some white noise to their sleeping area.
Adjusting your Schedule
When you bring a new puppy home you will be on their schedule, not the other way around. It takes some time and patience to get your new puppy adjusted to your way of life!
The first 3-4 weeks can be very difficult to adjust to, especially if you have never had the experience of taking care of a new puppy or small child. Learning to put a helpless little puppy’s needs before our own can be a difficult life lesson. It will be very rewarding though.
Start on the puppy’s schedule as they get used to their new home then slowly work them towards a schedule that works for both of you. Luckily most puppies sleep a lot so you will have spurts of time throughout your day when you can get things done that you normally might do, but you won’t be able to leave them alone or be carefree with your calendar for a while.
Honestly the first month, you feel like you have no life, get no sleep, and your life revolves around puppy. I didn’t know that going in. But if you know it, it’s much easier. – Tina D.
No Social Life
When you get your new puppy, it’s going to be a big adjustment for you and your dog. You will need some time with just the two of you (or your immediate family that lives in your household) to get to know each other and adjust. That means you shouldn’t be inviting all your friends and extended family over right away to meet your puppy.
You need to wait until your puppy has had most of their vaccinations and gets the green flag from your vet that they are ok to be around other people and animals. This is usually around 12-14 weeks.
That means if you get your puppy at 8 weeks old like most people you’ll have 4-6 weeks at home with the puppy and very little contact with others.
Since I’m writing this article in the midst of a pandemic this point is probably pretty arbitrary right now, which is why so many people are getting puppies in 2020 and 2021 because most of us are working from home and have nothing but time on our hands!
If you are a very social person, however, and need time to go out every night to see your friends or get drinks with your buddies, this aspect may be very difficult for you! Many owners often talk about being socially isolated as they devote all their time to taking care of their new furry family member.
If you are feeling very isolated, remember to take time to reach out to others. You should not be taking on all the work of a new puppy by yourself. Involve other members of your household, or 1 or 2 close friends who are willing to spend some time with you and your puppy to lend a hand.
Even kids can get involved in being responsible for and helping take care of a new puppy.
Socializing your Puppy
Now we get to the other end of the spectrum. Once your puppy has had its vaccinations and your vet says it’s time you can get started on socializing your puppy with other people and animals.
Socializing your puppy can be a big chore and should really start from the first day that you have your puppy, and hopefully, the breeder has been working with your puppy even before that.
New sights, new sounds, new smells, should all be part of socializing your puppy. You want to focus on giving them as many new experiences in a positive way in their first year of life as you can. Even beyond the first year socialization should keep going throughout their life.
This will require you to spend a lot of time with your puppy incorporating them into your life, taking them places, working on training, doing puppy classes, and more.
The more time and effort you put into giving your dog new and positive experiences the more well-rounded and well-behaved your dog will be.
Keeping Your Puppy Safe / Constant Supervision
Puppies are notorious for getting into mischief. Often that mischief can be dangerous! This is the part of taking care of a puppy that can feel like a full-time job. If the puppy can get into something or destroy something they will!
Puppies will find any little thing lying around on the floor and try to chew it or eat it. It can be a lot of work to constantly be taking things away from your puppy and out of their mouth.
If you have young children then your work may be doubled or even tripled as they often don’t understand that they need to keep their toys and items away from a curious puppy.
Ideally, you will do a great job puppy proofing before you even bring your puppy home, but they will still need constant supervision.
The difficult work of keeping your puppy safe will get easier in time.
Work with your puppy every day on training them good behavior that will help them avoid the bad. Puppies should start with a short 5 min. training sessions a few times a day and work up to longer 20 min. or more sessions several times a day.
You will also need to have a good understanding of what foods your dog can and can’t have. How to properly groom them, when you should take them to the vet, and warning signs that they may be sick or something may be wrong.
Once you and your puppy are well trained this part of puppy parenting will get easier.
How Much Time Does a New Puppy Take?
I’m going to be totally realistic with you here. This answer can vary but when I originally looked this up on google and saw that the top post said 2-3 hours I was shocked!!
If you are lucky to get a very easy, well-behaved, puppy you might be able to only spend 2-3 hours, but when I asked REAL puppy owners the average amount of time was much higher! The majority of owners said you can expect to spend 5-6 hours a day caring for your puppy, but some even said plan on 24 hrs a day -7 days a week, (which would be more descriptive of the mental and physical time requirements). Even if you are not with your puppy they require constant thought and supervision until you can trust that they are well behaved enough to have some time on their own.
This timetable can be expected for the first 2-3 months or more depending on the breed and temperament of your puppy.
Of course, your puppy is going to sleep for a good part of the day, but even when your puppy sleeps for 18-20 hours a day like this AKC article states you will still be doing work while they are sleeping like contacting the vet to set up appointments or get information, cleaning up puppy messes, researching how to fix puppy problems, buying and setting up supplies for your puppy, etc.
You also need to keep an eye on your puppy so you can be right there when your puppy wakes up to take them to their bathroom spot, and work on playing and training them so they aren’t being destructive.
Puppies are awake approximately 6 hours a day but somehow consume 26 hours of your day. – Kaitlyn C.
In the beginning, you will have to adjust your schedule to fit your puppy, not the other way around. Over time that will change and your puppy will begin to fit into your schedule, but it will take a lot of effort and training (as well as some maturing for your puppy) before that happens.
for many people who work outside the home, they plan on taking plenty of time off or taking the puppy with them to work. A lot of the owners I talked to said to plan on it being like maternity leave with a human baby. Your main focus for the first 8-12 weeks should be your puppy!
Why Do Some People Give Up (The Puppy Blues Explained)
If you haven’t caught on yet, having a new puppy can be super exhausting! It puts your whole system into a sort of shock. There’s not a lot of scientific medical research to refer to on this, but if you read any dog forum or Facebook group puppy regret will be a significant topic of discussion.
Puppy blues are 100% real! Don’t let their cute innocent baby faces fool you they’re all little demons with razor teeth that just love driving you up the walls. I love my dog (now 6 months) more than anything but I would not turn back the clock to go back to those early puppy stages. -Mandy G. German Sheppard Owner
The puppy blues are when a new puppy owner starts feeling very depressed, bogged down, regretful, and maybe even resentful about taking on the responsibility of caring for their new puppy. What’s worse is they can feel incredibly guilty about feeling this way!
If you are feeling this way you are NOT alone!
I’ve seen a great many new puppy parents reach out on social media saying things like “I love my puppy but……
I can’t take it any longer!
I’m feeling so depressed!
What have I done!
Is this really what I want!
I miss my old life!
Some of the things that may be contributing to the puppy blues are:
- Feeling isolated from your former life or friends (puppies shouldn’t be around other people or pets until fully vaccinated)
- Sadness that your new dog isn’t like your previous one
- Feeling like you never get a break
- Thinking this is never going to end
- Hard puppy behaviors like biting, chewing, barking, peeing, and pooping all over things
- Not feeling bonded with your puppy
Most puppy parents never realize it would be this hard!
Please know that I’m not trying to scare you out of getting a puppy! Many people have the opposite experience and don’t feel this way at all. But if you are feeling this, PLEASE don’t give up!
You got a new puppy expecting a loving companion who will fit into your life and make it better! If that’s not happening right away, it’s ok. You just need to give it time!
When your new puppy is causing a lack of sleep, demanding all your attention, and making the other smooth parts of your life seem very chaotic (or in my case the chaotic parts even more so) then it’s no wonder you may start to feel this way! In fact, you can almost expect it.
When Does It Get Easier? (How Long do the Puppy Blues Last?)
This is a hard question, but I’ll do my best to answer it! Puppy blues can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. It gets easier as they grow and learn. The more your puppy is trained and behaves better the easier it will get for you, and you will slowly start to feel better. Some dog owners admit that things started to turn around after 3 -5 months and some even said that it took about a year.
If after a year things haven’t improved significantly then you should work on finding another more suitable home for your puppy. If you have given it all you can there is nothing shameful about doing what’s best for you and the dog.
If you are suffering from extreme depression you should seek help immediately, in fact, it’s a good idea to seek help and support even for mild to moderate puppy blues or depression. There could be other things going on in your life contributing to these feelings as well and it’s always best to talk with a professional.
What can you do to help the puppy blues go away faster?
- Go to puppy classes after about 12 weeks and when you get the go-ahead from your vet! (getting out will help both you and your puppy feel better).
- Play bonding and training games with your dog.
- Celebrate small accomplishments! Sometimes keeping track of your progress can help you realize how far you’ve come.
- Enlist help. There are many people who wouldn’t mind giving up some time to play with and care for a cute little puppy. Take some time to recharge and rest yourself so you can be the best for your dog.
- Manage expectations. Realizing that this stage isn’t going to last forever and with enough work you can have the calm loving dog that you desire. The rewards will be great, but you will get out of it as much as you are willing to put in.
How to Manage Your Expectations (When is the Best Time to Get a New Puppy)
Preparing beforehand and knowing what to expect will be your best ally when combatting puppy blues. That’s not to say that you still won’t get them, but the more you know beforehand the better off you will be.
Plan on spending the first 2-3 months completely focused on caring for and training your puppy.
Choose a time when you can be home. A lot of teachers and students would get a dog at the beginning of summer break for example.
If you can’t take time off work or be at home have a plan in place where someone can be with your dog to watch it and train it.
What if you Want a Dog but don’t Want the Hard Work a Puppy Requires
Adult dogs can be a lot easier to deal with than puppies. You do take a chance however when getting an older dog of inheriting problems or challenges caused by neglect or bad training at the beginning of their life.
If you decide to get an older dog to help bypass some of the hard work that comes with raising a puppy, make sure that you get your dog from a reputable rehoming place that provides additional support and training.
Having a puppy that you are able to raise into a well-balanced, loving, and loyal dog is 1000% worth all the hard work they require. Not all puppies are the same and most likely you will get a new puppy that struggles a lot with a few of the things listed in this article but is really easy in other aspects. It’s rarer to get a puppy that is super easy or really really hard.