First off, don't feel overwhelmed! The LM can sound rather on the complex side, but if you take it bit by bit it's really very manageable
As was said above me, your quickslot/skillbar layout is something that you should have setup that works best for you. But if you're curious, I dug up a fairly recent screenshot I have of my LM's UI (I really snagged it for the idiocy of my bear, but I digress).
Personally, I always (without exception) have my pet on passive. Not to assist, guard, or anything else. For me, I like to have complete control over my pet, and because of this I keep skills and commands for my pets on my quickslot bar for ease of use (and to keep it rather clutter-free). Otherwise, I try to keep my skills grouped based on attack, debuff, buff, cc, etc. Starting with my most used skills in rotation and moving left to right based on overall use with my "oh sh**" skills occupying the far right side of my bars (so I don't bump them accidentally).
In regards to pets, you'll definitely want to use them to your advantage as you're leveling. The added dps is a great benefit until you can start standing up on your own and putting out shiny numbers. I'm not a personal fan of the bear, but I find him to be quite useful when I'm getting overwhelmed. Always send him in first and if you need to, allow the pet a few seconds to get a little aggro. The same can work with the lynx in terms of the dps it can put out. Raven is a good option as well, and honestly one of the most beneficial (and end-game appropriate) pets that we get, so don't think it's poor simply because it's what you started with!
Traits. These are important to consider. When I was leveling my LM and working through early levels, I found myself slotting a good mix of the Keeper of Animals (blue) and Master of Nature's Fury (red). Master of the Staff I find is a must in 99% of situations, another personal must-have while working on leveling I find is Hardy Companion. It allows your pet to withstand more of a beating, and therefore be more of a benefit to you in your leveling process. Flame of Arnor will be a good one to slot as well once you finish your class quest at level 30, as the majority of your skills are Fire-damage based and any increase to this is good in the long run. Harmony with Nature and Awareness of Body will be good ones to consider as well, as they allow you to focus less on how much morale you're expending when fighting (the latter is really not very necessary at later levels, your morale pool later on will really mitigate the morale costs), not to mention the decrease in induction times for your skills (faster they go off the better, after all!).
In the same vein as traits would be your virtues. As early levels, I'd try to slot what you can that ups your survivability. So virtues that afford you mitigation (physical and tactical - mainly the former for landscape mobs), more raw morale, and will are good options to consider.
Above all, don't be afraid to pause and read, investigate your tool tips, experiment and see what your skills do, etc. The down time currently is actually an excellent opportunity for you to check out the LM entry in the LotRO Wiki as well as browsing Casual Stroll to Mordor for some helpful articles and all around fun reads.
Hopefully some of this helps more than confusing tl;dr, lol. Well wishes! And Happy hunting!
[center][color=#CC3300]Lieutenant Sersi Niflhel[/color] [color=#666699]· [i]Retired[/i][/color]
[color=#993333]"I will give you no quarter, and I will take none."[/color][/center]