I Have A Bad Case Of Puppy Brain

I’m suffering from a serious condition. It’s called infantem canis cerebrum.

Otherwise known as Puppy Brain.

And I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever get my regular brain back.

Honey is a puppy rebel.

Hard to believe anyone so cute could be an infectious disease carrier.

How To Catch Puppy Brain

You need two conditions to cultivate a severe case of Puppy Brain.

First, you need a puppy.

Second, you need an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and an unwillingness to clean up pee or poop.

With both these things you’re guaranteed to develop puppy brain.

Zoe the foster puppy chills out on her pillow.

I’m just chillin’ in my puppy condo. Okay, that’s long enough. Let’s play.

Puppy Brain Symptoms

People with Puppy Brain may seem normal to people outside their homes. It’s their family members who suffer the most from dealing with the sufferer’s symptoms, which include

  • shifting eye gaze as the Puppy Brain sufferer constantly turns her attention back to the puppy to make sure she doesn’t need to go outside yet again
  • paranoia caused by the puppy’s inconsistent behavior because, well, she’s a puppy
  • hyper-alert hearing that can distinguish between the sound of chewing a Nylabone compared to chewing the zipper on a dog bed
  • argumentiveness which results in petty statements like “What do you mean you had to go to the bathroom? You can’t go to the bathroom while you’re watching the puppy.”
  • an insane adherence to a schedule of walks, meals, naps, and training sessions

Fortunately the symptoms lessen as the months go on.

Zoe the foster puppy sits in the snow.

Why do you keep calling me snowy Zoe? Rhyming names are ridiculous. And I’m not moving an inch until you stop it.

My Struggle With Puppy Brain

I should recover from Puppy Brain in a little over a week, when our foster puppy, Zoe, returns to the Tompkins County SPCA adoption center to find her forever home.

In some ways, this case of Puppy Brain has been worse because Zoe is such a good puppy.

Zoe the puppy sniffs the snow with Honey the golden retriever.

Look, I’m just like Honey. Uh, Honey? What are we looking for?

What do I mean?

She’s read the book on house training. If I take her out every time she eats, finishes playing, or wakes up from a nap and watch her like a hawk when she’s not in her exercise pen, she’ll have no accidents in the house.

Which means on the rare occasions she does pee in the house, it’s all my fault.

Unfortunately, Zoe only naps for an hour before she needs to go outside. Which means that every hour I’m taking her outside for a pee break. Or more often if I move enough to wake up her vigilant herding self.

No wonder I have Puppy Brain.

I’ve had previous puppies who didn’t know the rules. They’d come back from a long walk just to pee on the welcome mat outside the front door. After a while, you become resigned to cleaning up so the Puppy Brain symptoms are less severe.

Luckily, a short case of Puppy Brain is worth it because it totally results in a wonderful adult dog.

This Is Your Brain On Zoe

It was obvious from the first moment I met her that Zoe is a very special pup.

She’s incredibly smart. She bonds quickly to people. And she uses her attachment to the people and dogs she loves to give her courage to explore the world.

She’s a normal puppy—curious, active, and occasionally annoying (just ask Honey whose tail looks like a floofie tug toy). But Zoe is quite mature as well.

Zoe sleeps most of the night through. But her Australian cattle dog genes show through when play time with Honey, followed by a walk and a short training session only makes her tired enough for a 45 minute nap before she’s up and ready to go again.

Zoe the foster puppy jumps on Honey the golden retriever.

I got you right where I want you. Now don’t move.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Australian cattle dogs have dingo genes after all.

The SPCA staff and volunteers will work hard to find the right adoptive home for Zoe. But I’d love to see her adopted by someone able to give this smart and active girl a job. I suspect she’d make a wonderful agility competitor (at 3 months old, she’s nearly as fast a runner as Honey).

The SPCA has occasionally approved out-of-area adoptions in the right circumstances. So if you’re reading this and have room in your heart and your home for a smart, active girl and don’t mind suffering briefly from Puppy Brain, drop me a line. I’ll be glad to pass your information on to the SPCA.

Zoe the foster puppy waits for her walk.

Let’s go for an adventure. I’m ready if you are.

The Cure For Puppy Brain

There are two cures for Puppy Brain. The case I had with Honey disappeared as she grew up.

With Zoe, all my Puppy Brain symptoms will wash away with the tears I shed when she leaves us in little over a week.

I guess I’ll be glad to have my brain back. Or not.

Puppy Brain is a small price to pay for meeting such a special girl.

Your Turn: Am I crazy or is there really such a thing as Puppy Brain? Have you experienced it?



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  1. I think there is such a thing and have suffered from it. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the Guide Dogs for the Blind and in the course of the research I discovered they had a puppy cam on their site with a new batch of puppies. Do you want to know how many hours I spent watching a PUPPY CAM??? I blame puppy brain.

  2. You’re not alone, Pamela! I’ve had puppy brain ever since we adopted Ducky! The symptoms have lessened somewhat over the 2+ years but I still have it. And yes it’s worth every nanosecond because she’s so darned cute!

  3. I think I’ve definitely had puppy brain – especially with Laika. Though she probably wasn’t quite as driven as an ACD pup it was pretty bad. But I think the more severe your case of PB the better your chances of having a quickly trained pup will be. New puppy owners look at me in shock when I ask “are you letting him out ever hour?” I don’t think people realize how much effort it is to prevent accidents to begin with. Zoe is adorable; and I’m glad I get to admire her here – rather than in my own home :)

    • Zoe is the best puppy I’ve ever fostered. But she certainly has a higher energy level than Honey did.

      People say of puppies, “it’s a good thing they’re cute.” But I think it’s more important to think of the adult dog they’ll grow into to. If only you could have seen the dog Laika would grow into, maybe puppy time would have been easier. :)

  4. We had a serious case last year when Bailie arrived. She still has tons of puppy in her, so we don’t miss those first days just yet. I mean, she is potty trained, but she is just a wild one. It would be so hard to work so hard for a week or two with a little one and then give it up. You are remarkable for doing that.

  5. I could put up with taking care of a puppy for about a week, which is longer than I could take care of a human baby. I prefer getting my puppy and baby fix without any actual involvement or responsibility on my part.

    • Fostering puppy has its rewards. But both my husband and I have said the same thing several times this week–it’s a good thing we never had kids.

  6. I’ve had puppy brain quite a few times in the past and it’s totally worth it. But hard work non the less! Zoe looks and sounds wonderful. I hope the perfect home for her is reading this blog post :)

    • It is worth it. But the more puppies I foster, the more I appreciate guide dog puppy raisers. They do it for 18 months at a time and over and over again.

  7. Ahh! The pic of Zoe and Honey in the snow! Swoon! She is so precious. I’m sure she’ll get adopted quickly! What a lucky girl to spend the interim with you!

  8. She is seriously cute . .and so lucky to have spent time with you, Mike and Honey!! :)

    • The crazy thing is I haven’t yet gotten a nice picture of her that shows her total cuteness. If I managed to capture her total cuteness, your computer would explode. :)

  9. Ah yes, I remember having Puppy brain when I fostered Linus. If it weren’t for Blueberry’s excellent maternal instincts and dedicated Puppy sitting skills, I would have lost my mind. Honey seems just as great at putting up with Zoe as B was with Linus. The first thing B and I did to celebrate Linus being adopted was to sleep in.

    • Honey is pretty good with our foster pups. But she’s also glad to see them go home.

      We’ll have to plan something special for Honey too, when the little snickerdoodle goes back.

      Glad Blueberry helped you survive fostering Linus. She is a good girl.

  10. I have puppy brain and I have a puppy clock. Puppy brain happens when I’m caring for 2 puppies. I’ve always taken the lead during this time, because my boyfriend on little to no sleep is not a pretty site. When the puppies reach a year old, my puppy clock starts ticking quietly. By age 2, it’ll be a making more noise. Whenever I see pictures of puppies being rescued (a friend runs a rescue) my clock starts beeping like crazy.

  11. If you do keep the puppy….the puppy brain symptoms just continue. I still know the sound of a romping one year old puppy who has something in his mouth that he is not supposed to have.
    And I still need to know where he is at all times!

  12. I made sure that my bipeds had puppy brain! I laughed at “You can’t go to the bathroom while you’re watching the puppy.” because that has been said in our house – it was more than enough time for me to cause chaos!

    • Isn’t amazing how fast puppies can get into trouble. You’d think a 30 second potty break is never long enough. But somehow young puppies figure out how to cause maximum mischief in minimum time. :)

  13. She is so lovely!!

  14. I have puppy heart. It’s starting to really beat fast these days….

  15. Margaret T says:

    When Annie had her litter of eight, I really found out what puppy brain is. Puppy brain is sleeping in the same room as the whelping box on a love seat so you can hear a tiny puppy squeal if his mom rolls over on him. (She didn’t.) Puppy brain is jumping up each time she nurses to make sure that the tiniest puppy is getting first dibs instead of wasting energy looking for a nipple. It’s waking up every time the mom wants to nurse, once she has decided the whelping box is too small and warm, so you can remove the door so she doesn’t bump her undercarriage jumping in. Evidence of severe puppy brain is that you don’t put any gasoline in your car for nearly two months because you haven’t gone anywhere.
    And then you get to take care of the one puppy, with the ear tuned, as you said, so you know the difference between an antler chew and rung of the chair chew. Luckily for me, her naps were longer than 45 minutes!

    • Margaret, that isn’t Puppy Brain. That’s Puppy Insanity. :)

      What a great start you gave Annie’s litter, though. I know that Honey’s breeder was the same way, even down to sleeping on the sofa beside the whelping box. I can only assume it was a big part of why Honey is such a great dog today.