Puppies are tons of fun, and equally tons of work! They are fragile little beings, physically and emotionally. If you protect their emotional health, they can grow up to be social, friendly, and well-adjusted members of the family. Here are my top five tips for raising a happy, healthy dog:
1. Puppies need patience, not discipline. Puppies never know that they are doing something "wrong." They are only ever doing what is completely natural to them. If you get irritated with your puppy, do your very best to stay calm and self-regulate your emotions. Raising your voice or handling your puppy in a rough manner won't teach him anything, it will only make him afraid of you. Be patient and keep your puppy out of trouble by using a crate or pen inside the home. Always guide your puppy to do the thing you want him to do, and never punish him for doing the "wrong" thing. Puppies don't do things out of spite or stubbornness, they only do things that make them feel good.
2. Hand-feed your puppy everywhere you go. When you first put a leash on your puppy, he may have a difficult time walking without pulling forward or balking backward. Hand-feed your puppy wherever you go! Use food to guide him where you want him to go, and to encourage him to walk close to you. Feed him to kennel him and feed him to get him into the car. The more you feed and let your dog move forward by his own will, the better! Avoid yanking on the leash or dragging your puppy when he doesn't want to move. These actions create a bad experience for your puppy and he may become reactive or difficult to handle in the future.
3. Use a crate for house-training. Puppies are only babies... think of how long a baby wears diapers! And we expect our puppies to house-train as soon as we get them home. Using a crate will speed up this process exponentially. Puppies are much less likely to make a mess in their crates than when they are given free range of the house. That being said, be fair to your puppy and take him out every 1 to 2 hours to make sure he has ample opportunity to use the bathroom when he needs to. Puppies usually need to relieve themselves as soon as they wake up from any nap and after eating. They may also go to the bathroom more frequently the more active they are. If your puppy only experiences relieving himself outdoors, he should naturally ask to go outdoors for toileting. But be patient, accidents are totally normal. As they get older, you can slowly extend the amount of time they can "hold it" by using the crate.
4. Keep calm indoors and save play for outdoors. Giving your puppy lots of time to play outdoors will keep him happy and emotionally satisfied. Long walks in the woods or in natural areas are a great way to bond with your new dog. You can also practice recall outdoors by using a long line and lots of food. Indoors you should keep your puppy calm and relaxed by giving quiet time in a crate or pen, giving massage, and keeping him busy with recreational bones.
5. Only socialize your puppy with dogs who actually LIKE puppies. It's great to have your puppy in situations where he can get a chance to play with other dogs, but only if you know that those other dogs actually like puppies. The last thing you want is for someone's dog-reactive dog to scare, bully, or attack your pup. This can possibly leave a deep emotional scar and cause him to become dog-reactive as he grows up. Older dogs do not need to discipline your puppy, they need to tolerate his crazy behavior, or they can choose to leave (and should be given the space to do so). Remember, puppies need patience, not discipline, from dogs and people alike!
I actually have another tip, which is don't teach bite inhibition, but for more on that topic, I would ask you to visit these two articles: Teaching a Puppy Not to Bite, by Kevin Behan and An Exercise in Frustration: Why I never teach bite inhibition to puppies, by Meagan Karnes.
These concepts should get you started on the right path! I hope you have tons of fun with your new companion, but also realize the amount of time and level of emotional fortitude required to raise a puppy is enormous! In the end, it will all be worth it. If you have questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me.