National Puppy Day is on March 23 and it is a special day to celebrate themagic and unconditional love that puppies bring to our lives. But moreimportantly, it’s a day to help save homeless puppies across the globe andraise awareness about the horrors of puppy mills and backyard breedingpractices.

National Puppy Day was founded in 2006 by US Celebrity Pet Expert and Author,Colleen Paige – who is also the founder of National Dog Day. After 10 years,National Puppy Day is increasingly celebrated around the world.

So, what better time to show how to look after your new puppy

With their oversized paws, waggy tails and little pink tummies, there’s nodenying that these little creatures are just plain adorable. According to aJapanese study from 2012, looking at puppy pictures can improve your moodand boost your productivity.

If you’re thinking of adding a puppy to your family, check out the RSPCA SmartPuppy and Dog Buyer’s Guide.

Never cared for a puppy before? Here are four facts you need to know:

They need time with mum before they’re ready to find a new home

Puppies cannot be rehomed before they’ve weaned off their mother’s milk. Thismilk contains nutrients that are vital for normal puppy growth. Pups will weanat around 8-12 weeks of age. By this time, they’re ready to eat puppy food andwill already be spending most of their time playing, eating and sleeping.

If someone is trying to sell you a puppy that’s younger than that, you shouldbe concerned.

Socialising is super important

Between 3-17 weeks of age, puppies experience what is called a criticalsocialisation period. The experiences they have during this time of learningand development can shape their behaviour well into adulthood.

You can help your puppy grow into a well-adjusted adult by ensuring they haveplenty of opportunities for socialisation, as well as exposure to differentpeople, objects and environments. We recommend enrolling your pet in puppypreschool classes where you’ll get great advice as well as an opportunity tosocialise your pup.

Positive reinforcement is the way to go with training

When it comes to training – including toilet training – keep it positive andreward-based. This means encouraging, recognising and rewarding ‘good’behaviour, and ignoring (not punishing!) ‘bad’ behaviour. No yelling, anddefinitely no smacks!

For example, when it comes to toilet training, give your puppy plenty ofopportunities to go outside and reward them whenever they go where you wantthem to go. Make sure the reward (which can be in the form of praise, a pat, atreat or a toy) is offered immediately after your dog has gone to the toiletso that they will make the association between the reward and going in theright spot.

Positive reinforcement also means you have to ignore it when your puppy messesup and goes to the toilet in the wrong place. Try to display no reaction andjust clean the area thoroughly to reduce the chance your dog will use the sameplace again next time.

Begin with short walks

Before you even take your puppy for their first walk, make sure they’re up-to-date with all their vaccinations and comfortable with their collar/harness.

Once you’re ready to hit the pavement (and/or the park), keep your walksshort. If your pup sits down or lies down during the walk, allow them somerest time and wait until they’re ready to continue the adventure. You need toavoid over-exercising your puppy while they’re growing, as too much exertioncan affect their bone and muscle development.

Source: RSPCA Australia

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