PostPAWtum Depression: Mental Health for New Pet Parents – maxbone
PostPAWtum Depression: Mental Health for New Pet Parents | maxbone

PostPAWtum Depression: Mental Health for New Pet Parents

By: LaKisha Buie Read Time: 5 minutes Date: September 24, 2021

Hi friends, we are Kisha and Sonte. We are twin sisters and dog moms to Kingsley & Charlamagne, our giant schnauzer and goldendoodle. Though our dogs are two and four years old now, navigating a new experience of puppyhood came as no easy feat which we often discuss on our Instagram account @Kingsley_Charlamamgne_thadood. In fact, we had such a difficult time with our Giant Schnauzer Kingsley, that we ended up in a dark place where we considered whether we should take her back to the breeder. Luckily for us, we pushed through the struggle and found nothing but joy and love on the other end of it. It wasn’t easy, but if this is resonating with you, let me share our journey with Kingsley and how we got through postpawtum depression.

 

What is Postpawtum Depression

This was a mistake! If you’ve ever said this after bringing home a new furry family member, whether as a puppy or an adult adoptee, know that you are not alone. Postpawtum depression refers to an emotional state of feeling regret, anxiety, and sadness after bringing home your new pet. Similar to postpartum depression, there are universal difficulties with adjusting to life with a new baby of any species. It is actually very common to have these feelings and it can last anywhere from days to months. Often, when you’re getting a new pet, people will fill your head with all the joy and wonder of becoming a new pet parent. Even horror stories are told in jest as cute memories of a puppy eating your favorite shoes. You spend quite a bit of time searching breeders and rescues for the perfect pet. You’ve even named them before you’ve laid eyes on them, dreaming of the day you get to meet them. When that day comes, and your new pet is anything less than that beautiful dream, it can be easy to question your decision. The truth is, nothing prepares you, not even previous experience. Doing all the research ahead of time on potty training, acclimating a rescue, & setting house rules is a great foundation, but you really have no idea of what you’re getting yourself into until you’re in it. When the reality sets in and it doesn’t seem to be getting better you may feel like a failure, not bonded,  and that the pet will be better off with a different owner.

This is How We Felt

When we received our 15 lb. giant schnauzer puppy, regret set in from the moment we picked up this tall lanky rambunctious dog who vomited on us in the car on the way home. Immediately, it was a nightmare. We were tired from her crying all night, bruised from all the biting with puppy shark teeth, & It was the height of rain season in NC so potty training in non-stop torrential downpour was absolutely miserable. Kingsley didn’t listen to a word we said, she was not affectionate, and I often felt like she was scowling at me. We felt like she hated us, and we didn’t know how to make it better. Even more, we didn’t feel bonded. The frustration was so overwhelming that I cried…all day…every day. It was a lonely feeling. 

The Shame is Real

We went through the darkest moments our first few months with Kingsley. In fact, the first few weeks we didn’t even share with anyone that we got a new puppy. We were so worried that we were going to have to take her back to the breeder and we couldn’t bear the shame of answering questions from friends and family wondering what happened to our new pup. We had no one we felt we could talk to without judgement. Everyone assumes new pets are cute, loving and fun so how dare you not enjoy this time. Joining “support” groups on social media looking for help only made us feel worse. Instead of finding useful advice and motivation, we would most often see others who shared their frustrations getting torn down by people saying,  “they didn’t deserve to have a puppy,” “shame on you for feeling this way,” and even more vile,  “re-home your dog now!”.

Understanding the Causes of Postpawtum Depression

Postpawtum depression is often caused by a number of factors which make the perfect recipe for disaster. If you have a history of depression or any other major life stressors, you are at greater risk. Be patient, it will be months before your pup is reliably potty trained, months before those sharp puppy teeth fall out, and months before they fully understand you and your house rules. Below are some feelings associated with postpawtum depression. 

  • Overwhelm
  • Exhaustion
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Frustration
  • Doubts
  • Loneliness

Here’s How We Got Through It

People would often try to encourage us by saying it will all be over in a few months. Months!!! We didn’t think we could make it a few days. Months sounded like a lifetime. We knew we had to pull ourselves together and decide on what we were going to do. The truth was, we knew we were never going to go through with giving our puppy back. We committed to getting a puppy and now we had to commit to surviving puppyhood. First, we knew we needed to reframe our situation in a more positive light by changing our mindset. Every time she scowled at me, I said, “you’re going to love me!”. Every time she peed on the carpet as soon as we came back in from a walk I said, “we’re going to figure out a better strategy!” Secondly, we reset our expectations. We let go of everything we hoped our new puppy would be and allowed Kingsley to be authentically who she was. Next, we found ourselves good trainers. Working with a trainer really helped us figure out how to specifically meet Kingsley’s needs. Each pet is unique, and some strategies may work better than others for your pet. Training was a love language for Kingsley, and it truly helped us become more bonded. Seeking help was also a major thing for us. Finding friends and professionals that we could openly vent to was therapeutic. Lastly, realizing that none of this was Kingsley’s fault. This was an adjustment for both of us. We were both frustrated and lost in communication. 

Happy

The great news is, we got through it, and you can too. They always say you’ll have a perfect pup after a year, just stick with it. As hard as that might be to hear, it’s true. It took us about a year of working with our dog, bonding through training, learning her love language, and expecting her to only be herself before we were able to unearth that diamond in the rough, and oh what a beauty she was! I always tell people she is the best dog I’ve ever owned, and I’m so glad I decided to commit to loving her. She has truly enriched my life more than I could ever imagine. Today we can honestly say we’re HAPPY, and we have the Maxbone jumper to prove it!

 

Words of Encouragement

Nothing worth having comes easy, and that saying is true for pets as well. Remember that things always get worse before they get better, but they do get better. You just have to commit to sticking with it. Don’t wait to seek the help of a professional trainer, and don’t forget to set aside some much needed me-time in order to maintain your mental health! 

If you know someone who is struggling with a new pet, be kind. As an outsider our first thought is to save the dog, but we also need to remember to save the human too. Approach them with love. Ask them what  they’re going through and allow them space to speak freely. Instead of telling them they don’t deserve that puppy, try helping them find a good trainer to speak to. As pet parents we are more than just a community, we are a family. Let’s continue to help each other.

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