Like most carnivores, puppies are born blind and deaf, but with a perfect sense of smell, so that they can find the mother's teats and begin sucking milk immediately after birth.
The expert breeder knows that handling the puppies with due care and letting them sniff him is part of correct imprinting. This procedure allows the puppies to memorise sensations of contact and smells that do not belong to the mother and the rest of the litter.
In the early days, the bitch licks the puppies bellies to stimulate evacuation, since this is not spontaneous in the early days of life.
Ten to twelve days after birth the puppies' eyes will begin to open, but it will take two or three days for the eyelids to lift completely. The puppies' hearing will also develop gradually and it is advisable to talk to them so that they become used to the human voice.
For dogs play is an important part of their development, both physically and psychologically. Special toys or a rubber ball of a suitable size (it must not be possible for the dog to swallow it) should be available at all times, so that the puppies can play and run together. Typically puppies will pick something up and run before their siblings, inviting them to play. At times the puppy will take its owner's hand in its mouth, inviting him to play; the puppy should be encouraged to do so, but with moderation, in order to avoid promoting undesirable behaviour.
The litter should be gradually weaned just before they are thirty days old. However, the litter must not leave the breeding kennel before they are sixty days old, that is when lactation finishes naturally.
At this age the puppies should have been wormed and vaccinated and the separation from the mother and the litter will be totally natural. From this moment onwards it is essential to train the puppy in order to ensure mutual trust and an excellent relationship between the dog and its owner.
It is important to remember that a dog comes when we call because it respects us, therefore, when it carries out our orders it is essential to reward the dog with a pat and with our tone of voice.
Walking to heel is one of the first things to teach our new friend.
The collar can be leather, but for large dogs the most suitable choice is a chain collar that cannot fall off. When you put a collar on the puppy for the first time, pat and stroke it, reassure it verbally to limit the initial sense of annoyance. Attach the lead, still talking to the puppy in a reassuring voice and call it by name, inviting it to come to you.
The puppy's first reaction will be to run in the opposite direction, but with a little patience it will obey you. It is crucial not to tire the puppy; spend only a few minutes this simple but important exercise the first times you try it.
Progress will be rapid and once the dog walks with you on its lead, teach it to walk at heel without pulling; as soon as it pulls tug the lead and give a verbal command. The dog must walk on the master's left and when it is necessary to change direction, tell the dog calling it by name.