5 Things to Consider Before Bringing Home a Shelter Dog This Holiday Season

Holidays are all about spending quality time with the people you love so why not bring home a new member of the family by adopting a shelter dog?

Sadly, there are countless dogs throughout the country that have been lost or abandoned and have nobody to go home to. In fact, 6 to 8 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year according to the Human Society. These shelter dogs are good pets that deserve to be part of a loving family. If you've been thinking about getting a new dog, why not give a local shelter dog the ultimate gift this holiday season: a new home!

Before bringing your new furry friend home for the holidays, please make sure to review our "5 Things To Consider Before Bringing Home a Shelter Dog This Holiday Season" to help make the transition seamless for both you and Fido:

1. Will I be able to give my dog the attention it needs to adjust to its new home?

All dogs need to feel loved and secure. For the first week, set aside extra time to get to know your new dog by doing fun activities together like playing fetch at the park, taking long walks around your neighborhood and playing games at home.

Don't forget that shelter dogs were abandoned at one point or another, so they may be reluctant to warm up to new owners for fear of being left again. On average, it takes dogs around 30 days to adjust to a new home. If you are welcoming and spending quality time with your new furry family member, your dog may adjust more quickly.

This is also the best time to set boundaries like no begging for food at the table or jumping on people. Having a clear set of boundaries not only helps with training but also creates a safe home environment.

2. Is it safe to bring a shelter dog into a home with other pets?

Shelter dogs are not inherently more dangerous than dogs you buy from a breeder or pet store. Before bringing a dog into a home with other pets, take the time to research your potential dog's breed and consult with the shelter staff about how he or she gets along with other animals.

If you have small pets at home, you will want to avoid breeds of dogs with high "prey drives." Usually dogs that were bred for hunting and tracking are more likely to "hunt" small animals, which could include your cat or Maltese puppy. Examples of breeds with high prey drives include Greyhounds, Cattle Dogs, Airedale Terriers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. However, any breed can have high prey drive depending on their personality. Always consult with the shelter staff first about your particular needs and home environment so they can point you in the right direction.

3. What questions should I ask the shelter before adopting to make sure the dog is the right fit for me?

For any dog, you want to make sure the breed matches your activity level, lifestyle and budget. For example, dogs with long or curly hair, such as a Goldendoodle, may need to be groomed frequently, which is costly. High-energy dogs, such as Boxers, Pitbull Terriers and Vizslas, should be paired with active owners that have time to exercise and engage them.

We frequently see high energy and intelligent breeds paired with owners that work long hours. If you're not around to engage and stimulate these types of dogs, they will become frustrated, bored, anxious, depressed or angry, all resulting in behavioral issues. For those working parents, we recommend low energy, independent breeds like Yorkshire Terriers, Greyhounds (yes -- they are couch potatoes most of the time!), Shih Tzus and Beagles.

Of course, in the shelter environment, around 60% of the dogs will not be purebred, but you can look for characteristics of their breed mix. If you are not familiar with breeds, consult the shelter staff.

4. Can I rename a shelter dog after adopting? What about training?

Yes! Don't pass on a great dog because you don't like the name the shelter or previous owner gave him or her. Dogs are smart and will adjust to a new name quickly.

The same goes for training -- with time and work, any dog can learn new tricks. Always ask the shelter if your potential dog has any issues, behavioral or otherwise, before bringing him or her home. Don't adopt unless you know you can handle their special needs, both from a financial and attention standpoint.

5. Above all else, how do I know if my new dog and I will get along?

From my personal experience, you know instantly. He will look into your eyes, and you will know in your heart that this is your dog. But like any good relationship, it takes work and commitment. The more time you spend together, the more you will love each other.

Bringing home a new dog, especially one from a shelter, is a major decision. However, the above tips will help you decide if it's the right move for you and your family. Consider celebrating this holiday season with a new dog and visit your local shelter to find a new furry friend. For a list of shelters in your area, please visit Petfinder.