My Pomeranian Luna is adorable. Everyone who meets her coos over her and tells me how beautiful she is.
She really is. She has beautiful markings, two different colored eyes, an infectious smile and a big floofy butt. She looks like a giant ball of cotton wool.
After I got her, I would nod and smile as everyone stopped me in the street and told me how lucky I was to have her.
But inside I held a secret…
I was depressed after getting a puppy.
Post puppy depression, it’s a thing
I have always loved dogs. When I was a child my mother told me I couldn’t get one because they cost money and I’d never walk it. As I grew up I proved her wrong, watching dogs through apps like Rover and DogBuddy. At one point I was watching five dogs at a time with my ex, running a doggy daycare at home through Rover. I had taken care of so many breeds that I felt like I knew almost everything there was to know about dogs.
Eventually it was time to get one of my own and it was something I’d been thinking about for a long time. I finally pulled the trigger after watching a Shih-Tzu called Bailey for two weeks over Christmas. After she was gone it felt like I was missing my sidekick and I wished I had a pup to cuddle.
By this point I knew exactly what breed I wanted – a Pomeranian. They’re small, confident, happy little dogs and I just really love the breed. I was going to get one from a breeder and contacted a few but it’s hard to shop for a dog online. Many breeders are far away from New York in other States, often in rural areas. The wait lists are long so you have to put deposits down and wait for a litter and a pup to come available. Aside from seeing some photos and videos of your pup, you don’t get to meet them first. You can go to visit the breeder but it’s difficult if you don’t have a car and they’re far away. The alternative is having your dog flown to you with a puppy nanny.
I was looking at breeders for a while and then randomly one day I was walking past a pet store in Manhattan and saw Luna in the window. I had always read that you shouldn’t buy from a pet store because it funds puppy mill breeding but I saw her and instantly fell in love with her. Unlike the other yappy Pomeranians in the store, Luna was calm, quiet, affectionate and cuddly. A woman came up to me saying she had also spotted Luna and I knew instantly I had to take her home or she’d go to someone else. When they gave me a sticker to put on the glass that said “I’m going home” I shed a little tear.
The pet store gave me a shopping list of all the things I needed to buy. Playpen. Check. Crate. Check. Toys. Check. Pee Pads. Check. I read everything I could on how to potty train and look after a puppy.
What they don’t tell you is that it doesn’t always go like they say it will in the books. I’d never raised a puppy before but I thought that if I did everything it said in the literature, it would all go to plan.
The truth is Luna was incredibly small and potty training was a nightmare. Blogs and books say that puppies are usually potty trained by about 6 months but this wasn’t the case with her. Crate training is the recommended method for potty training dogs since they say that dogs don’t like to lay in their own mess. Not Luna. She would just stand up, pee in her crate, then lay back down in it until I came to clean it up.
I was constantly tired because Luna would whine in the middle of the night needing to pee and then wake me up at 5am in the morning. Sometimes I set alarms but I would sleep through them and wake up to her laying in her pee, which made me feel terrible.
The vet recommended I let her sleep in the playpen with pee pads on the floor and then try again when she’s a bit older. That worked better and I always praised her and treated her whenever she went on the pad or outside. She got it for a while, but then she would seem to forget and start going on the floor again. She hated being in the playpen even with toys and treats to keep her busy, so she would whine and rattle the bars. If I let her out for even 15 minutes she would manage to pee somewhere in the house in the milisecond I checked my phone. Even when I was watching I couldn’t tell if she was sitting or peeing and by the time I caught her it was too late.
After many months of her just not seeming to get it I resolved to tether her to me using the umbilical cord method and only take her outside. It wasn’t easy; I lived in a walk-up apartment building and she would pee constantly. They say a dog can hold its bladder for the same number of hours as its age in months, but this wasn’t true for her. At 6 months old she peed every hour (sometimes even every 30 minutes) and she didn’t have a bladder infection. If I glanced away for just a few seconds in the house, she would pee when I wasn’t looking, even when she was tied to me. She hated being tethered to me because she wanted to get to things, so she would bark too.
So in the end, the pee pads remained, I let her have some freedom and I took her outside when I could. The closest grass was a 10 minute walk away, which was frustrating because she loves going on grass and hated going on concrete, which I think contributed to our problems. I tried various “indoor potties” to see if she would prefer those, including Fresh Patch and a fake grass potty from Amazon. It didn’t help. Sometimes she would go on the pads and sometimes I would still find puddles on the floor. I kept her in the same room as me and watched her when I could but it’s impossible to keep an eye on your dog every second when you have to work.
Feeling like a failure
When I think about it the main issue was not her puddles of pee in the house – I can easily wipe those up. It was the pressure I put on myself and also the pressure from other people. I would go to the dog park and tell other dog owners about my struggles to which they would say “Really? I took my dog outside once and she just understood to go outside from day 1!” That obviously didn’t make me feel better about my situation.
When everyone is telling you that dogs are usually potty trained by a certain age you become fixated on the fact that your dog isn’t. You’re trying your best and yet your dog just doesn’t seem to get it, which makes you feel like a failure.
When Luna was in her teenage phase she started to show signs of resource guarding things she found on the floor. If I tried to take them away she would snap at me and go mental. She resource guarded large treats and even her own harness when I tried to take it off. Friends would see her snap at me and tell me that I needed to be more strict with her, that I needed to “show her who’s boss” and boop her on the nose. They would tell me stories about their family dog (usually a Labrador or a bigger dog) and how it was super well behaved because their mother/father acted like a pack leader.
“But Luna isn’t a Labrador!” I would tell them. “She’s a Pomeranian!”
Small dogs are definitely different to big dogs. They have smaller bladders. Pomeranians in particular can be bitey and hyperactive. And of course, genetics play a part. All the information I read said not to yell or hit any type of dog but to train with positive reinforcement, giving treats and praise when the dog behaves in the way you want. Friends told me that’s all “soft new age stuff” and “there’s nothing wrong with the old school methods, it clearly worked”.
Another little quirk that Luna has is that she often refuses to walk. She’ll sit on the pavement or lay down. If I try to pull her I look like I’m being cruel because she just will not walk and ends up being dragged along the floor. If I give her treats she spits them out as if to say, “I don’t want your pity treats!”. Friends would say she was doing it on purpose just so she could be carried when in fact, I later realized, she is terrified of cars and sounds.
Over time I became increasingly frustrated, feeling criticized for my dog parenting skills and receiving conflicting information. I was tired and exhausted from lack of sleep and reading so many dog books. I started to resent the fact that I had a dog that didn’t like walks, refused to potty train and would snap at me if I tried to take something from her. Oh and we had another problem to add to the mix. Excitement pee every time she greeted a stranger.
Truth be told, I started to think about giving her up for adoption or giving her to a friend of a friend. I felt like I couldn’t cope because I just love my sleep too much. Even food was an issue – she’s such a picky eater that she would go for days without eating her food if it was a brand she didn’t like.
It gets better, trust me
I googled “post puppy depression” and read forums online where people said it gets better and not to give up. I didn’t believe them but trust me the I say, it does get better. At about one year old, Luna blossomed into the dog I’d always wanted.
I moved to an apartment building with a dog park and soon enough, she understood exactly where to go. At 11 months she stopped having accidents and started standing by the door whenever she needed to go potty. She now does a cute little double tap as if to say “Mom, open the door I need to go!” It took a year for her to be completely potty trained after I thought that it would never happen.
Luna communicates with me; I just had to learn her language. She may not be able to speak English but she’ll bark at the tap when she needs her water bowl refilling. I can tell if she’s scared because she’ll cower or start yawning. She likes to lay on top of me when I go to sleep and when I wake up in the morning. She knows how to sit, spin and high-five. And when I put her carrier down on the floor she hops right in so she can go on her next adventure. I can go near her now when she has something tasty in her mouth and even kiss her on the nose without her trying to snap at me. Food-wise I made meal times exciting for her and started adding meal toppers such as blueberries and cucumbers. I found a raw meat diet that she likes so we stuck with that. Her refusal to eat brands of food wasn’t her being stubborn, they were simply unhealthy or no good and so she didn’t like them.
She’s the sweetest thing and I no longer have to get up at 5am. She can sleep in till 11 on weekends quite happily and keep herself occupied if she wakes up any earlier. I can get my work done because she sleeps most of the day when we’re not playing together.
I love the dog I have now. She still has issues that we’re working on. She still doesn’t like to walk on city streets because of all the scary noises, so I often carry her. I have to “trade” with her if she finds something on the floor and I’m going to a trainer now to work on her excitement pee issue. But overall, at one year old something clicked. We bonded and I couldn’t imagine life without her.
So many people want to get a dog as a puppy but honestly, I don’t miss the puppy years at all. If I ever get another dog I’d rather adopt an adult dog than go through that stage again.
If you’re feeling depressed after getting a dog, know that it’s a real thing and you’re not alone. It gets better even though it may not feel like it now. Puppies are terrors and it does improve as they age, trust me on that. If after a year or so you really feel like you can’t cope and you haven’t bonded with your dog, I don’t think you should keep a dog if it means your mental health will suffer. But definitely give it some time before making any drastic decisions as eventually you will look back on the puppy phase as just another phase in your life.
As a final word, don’t do what I did and get a dog from a pet store, as tempting as it may be. There are plenty of adult dogs out there waiting to be adopted. Or if you plan to purchase a puppy, go to a reputable breeder that breeds with health and temperament in mind.