Tips on Raising a Puppy


Puppies are irresistible! This is Ben, my Golden Retriever at 10 weeks old, getting his first brushing.  How cute is he?!?!  And while all puppies are as cute as can be, there are guidelines to avoid setbacks of naughty puppy behavior and recommendations for raising a well-behaved and well-mannered young dog.

Raising a puppy requires an abundance of time, patience and consistency for success in teaching good behavior.


The First Few Days

During the first few days of bringing home your puppy, it is essential to establish a feeling of security and belonging for your new addition. Warmly welcome and invite them into their new home. Dedicate a comfortable and safe space for them, perhaps a crate or pen, to help them calmly settle in. Make this time a positive experience for your puppy.

Familiarize them to the location of their food and water bowls. As they gain confidence in their new surroundings, introduce them to other areas of the home as well as the other inhabitants, both human and animal.

Soon after your puppy has adjusted to their new life and surroundings, it is an ideal time for their first visit to the veterinarian. Your puppy will be examined, weighed, begin vaccinations, tested for worms and treated if necessary. Your veterinarian can answer your questions and provide information regarding your puppy’s health and upkeep, such as diet recommendations.


Good Diet and Exercise

Your veterinarian can provide a good recommendation for a food formulated for puppies and portion size. Puppies should be fed three meals a day until four months of age. It is best to feed your puppy frequent, smaller sized meals rather than large meals, less often. After four months of age, their feedings can be reduced to twice daily. Daily routine provides your puppy with a sense of stability.  Therefore, maintaining a set schedule for feeding times is recommended.

For large breed puppies (weighing more than 50 pounds as an adult) and breeds, such as Labrador and Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, at risk for hip or elbow dysplasia and other growth abnormalities, it is recommended that you feed a diet specially formulated for large breed puppies. These specially formulated diets have the optimal ratio of proteins and calcium for moderating rapid bone growth which could result in joint disorders.

Exercise, both mental and physical, is important for healthy puppy development. Provide them with stimulating toys, challenging games and ample physical exercise. This will prevent them from becoming bored or physically wound up resulting in unwanted behavior such as digging and unnecessary barking.



Like babies, puppies need plenty of sleep. In their first four months, puppies can sleep for up to 15 hours a day. Encourage them to sleep in a comfortable designated place such as a crate or penned area. Not only will this ensure ample sleep time, but it will also get them accustomed to being on their own in a designated area, not requiring constant attention throughout the day.  Your puppy will be well rested, well-adjusted in a routine and more independent.

House Training

House training is the most common puppy behavioral challenge. Always keep in mind that time, patience and consistency is crucial when house training your puppy.

Expect that your puppy will make mistakes. Plan your house training attempts after meals, naps and play times when your puppy will likely have to go potty. It is recommended that you introduce and consistently remind your puppy of a designated potty area to reinforce routine and promote good household hygiene. Reward and praise your dog generously for successful potty episodes. Remember your puppy is trying to please you. Repeated positive acknowledgment of good behavior leads to success. Avoid reacting to a potty accident with anger, frustration or punishment. Remain calm to avoid confusing or frightening your puppy.

It is necessary to be observant and respond quickly to certain behaviors that signal your puppy’s wanting to relieve themselves. These include pacing in circles, barking or scratching at the door, sniffing the floor or antsy/anxious behavior. Immediately take your puppy to their special potty area. Enthusiastically praise and reward them for each and every successful potty episode. At first, anticipate having to spend time taking your puppy to the potty area often. This will minimize accidents and encourage your puppy to get into the routine of peeing and pooping in the designated area.  When accidents occur, clean the area well and treat with an odor remover.  This will minimize another accident from occurring in the same spot.

If you notice your puppy wanting to go but unable to take them to the potty area quickly enough, calmly take them there anyway even after an accident occurs. This will help to create the correct association with the potty area. If you have a securely enclosed yard, it is advantageous to install a doggie door to provide them with convenient and safe outdoor access for their potty breaks.



Basic Training and Commands

There are basic commands that a puppy should be taught. “Stay”, “Come”, “Stop”, “Down”, “No” are among the basic commands that your puppy should master early on. Positive reinforcement such as “Good boy/girl” and “Good job” should also be used frequently whenever appropriate to praise your puppy for good behavior. Keep in mind that puppies seek our approval. They rely on our calm and consistent guidance during puppy training.

Once again, time, patience and consistency are key for your puppy to understand and master a skill. Once your puppy realizes that you are trying to guide them to learn a new behavior, they will likely be more alert and attentive to your commands. Whenever they behave correctly, reward and praise your puppy generously for good behavior reinforcement.

When your puppy misbehaves, calmly correct them.  Scolding, yelling or punishing your puppy will defeat any learning opportunity. This will frighten, confuse or frustrate your puppy resulting in an inability or unwillingness to learn the desired behavior.

As your puppy gains an increased willingness and confidence in learning new skills, they are then in a favorable position to successfully understand and complete more complex training.

The time, patience and consistency spent in training your puppy will not only result in a well-mannered and well-behaved pet. You are also investing in a deepening emotional bond and a relationship based on respect and trust with your puppy.


Leash Walking

Leash walking is a necessary skill for your puppy to learn. It allows you and your puppy to share safe and enjoyable walks together. You should commence with this training soon after you bring your puppy home.

Initially, introduce your puppy to the collar/harness and leash. Let them sniff the collar and leash before putting it on. Once they are familiarized, gently attach the collar while speaking encouragingly. This is an entirely new experience for your puppy. You want your puppy to remain calm and comfortable.  When your puppy appears comfortable wearing their collar, attach the leash.  Allow them to simply drag the leash around the house to get accustomed to it.

Keep your training sessions short and in familiar areas where new, distracting sights and smells are minimized. Your puppy is less distracted and can more fully focus on proper leash walking instruction. Encourage them to stay by your side using a short lead.

Put your puppy in a sitting position next to you, take a step forward, give command “Heel”, pull your puppy forward towards you, stop.  Give praise and reward.  Repeat this process one step at a time.  Each time your puppy does this correctly, praise and reward them.     If your puppy starts pulling on the leash, stop immediately while saying “Stop” or “No pull”. When the leash slackens, immediately start walking again while praising your puppy. “Good job!”  This is a slow training process taking one step at a time.

Be calm and patient while teaching this new skill to your puppy. Have treats conveniently accessible in a pouch.  When they walk properly, praise and reward them immediately and consistently. As they learn to walk properly on the short leash by your side, gradually extend more leash length while maintaining a loose leash.  Stop when the lease tightens, only move forward when it loosens.  This skill is “loose leash walking”.

Set a pace comfortable for both you and your puppy.  Your goal is to master “Structured Walking” where the only activity is loose leash walking in a “Heel” position.  This is the only behavior allowed for your puppy. . .in other words, no sniffing, no peeing/pooping (allow your puppy to do this before starting this walk), no stopping to observe distractions, etc. This requires concentration and focus on your puppy’s part and is mentally very challenging.  To master this skill requires time, patience and consistency.

When your puppy masters this skill, then introduce “Free Walking” which allows your puppy more flexibility during the walk.  Pulling on the leash is the only behavior not allowed.  Other than that, they can stop and sniff, pee/poop, socialize, etc.  Make certain you convey, and your dog understands the difference of what kind of walk (Structured -vs-Free) you are going on.  They must discern what behavior is allowed.

There is a good selection of effective “no pull harnesses” available to assist with loose leash training.

Along with treats, also bring poop/waste bags. In warmer weather or on longer walks, bring water to keep you and your puppy hydrated.  This is my favorite convenient, leak free and attachable dog water dispenser bottle.


The key to raising a well-behaved and well-mannered puppy is time, patience and consistency.

This encourages a successful and rewarding bonding experience for you and your puppy.  Afterall, this is a team effort.  By following these tips, your puppy is well on its way to becoming a well-mannered and enjoyable companion!