Selecting the right pet for your family

Adopting around the holidays may not be the best option

By Tara Evans - Executive Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - Every parent wants to see their child's face light up on Christmas morning, and for some children, that perfect gift is a puppy.

But before you head out and select a puppy for Christmas, the reality is, one in every ten pets gets returned to the shelter, according to the American Humane Society. The ASPCA has just released information saying adopting a pet for Christmas isn't quite as taboo anymore, but local shelters disagree, saying it's a problem that's even more likely over the holidays.

For Samantha Gomez, all she wants for Christmas is a puppy.

Her parents, Sam Gomez and Gloria Jordan-Gomez wanted to grant that wish, but wanted to make sure they found the right fit. So they turned to Local 6 for help.

Local 6 teamed up with the SPCA of Central Florida, and decided to surprise Samantha with a trip there to pick out her new furry friend.

Diane Anderson, an Animal Behaviorist with the SPCA met up with Local 6 to  guide us through the process. She said the first thing you need to do as you walk through the shelter is pay attention to the cards that are hanging on the dogs' kennels.

"Every dog is going to have a card, pink is girls, blue is boys," said Anderson. "It's going to have the name, how old they are, when they came, if they're spayed or not spayed yet, and important information in here. Obviously you have kids in the home so you're going to want to look and see if they're good with kids or not, it also tells you if they're good with other dogs, or housebroken, or other notes that."

The next step, she said, is to be honest with yourself on what you really plan to do with the dog-- and not just consider the prettiest faces.

"A lot of times these really beautiful dogs are super-duper high energy," said Anderson. "So maybe you wanted a couch potato and you came home with a border collie, whoops. So you want to ask yourself what you really want to do with the dog and look at the personality traits of the dog, because the worse case scenario for us is you bring the dog back."

After speaking with Samantha and her family, Anderson had just the dog in mind. Samantha said she wanted a young, small, dog that has enough energy to play with, but that can also sleep in her bed.

Anderson brought out Oreo to meet Samantha, a ten-month-old Terrier mix.

"He's only ten months old, so he's still just a baby," said Anderson. "He's a Terrier, which means he'll have a lot of energy and wants to play, he's good with kids, good with other dogs. It says he's almost housebroken, so you would need to train him a little bit."

For all of that information, Anderson consulted the profile papers Oreo's previous owner filled out. All animals at the SPCA are owner-surrendered, which means that this type of information is available on nearly all of them. That allows the adoption counselors to better pick the right match for your family.

Samantha thought Anderson made a great choice, because it didn't take her long to decide Oreo was going to be her new best friend.

The Gomez family was able to pick Oreo up the next day. With all adoptions, the animals are tested for heart worm, they receive their annual vaccinations, they are spayed and neutered and micro-chipped before they can go home, which is all included in the price.

Micro-chipping is important, because as long as you keep your contact information current, if the animal ever gets loose or goes missing and is found, they can be scanned for the chip and you can be contacted.

Now, though Oreo's adoption was easy, and the Gomez family told Local 6 he fits in just right at home, that's not always the case.

In order to ensure the smoothest transition, Anderson first recommends your whole family goes with you when you pick out your new pet. It's better not to surprise anyone at home, but rather have everyone in the home be a part of the event. That way, you can be sure the animal gets along with any children you may have as well as anyone else they'll see on a regular basis.

Also, your existing dogs don't need to go with you to the shelter, but don't forget to tell the adoption counselor about the personality of any dogs you already have. To introduce your new and old friends, Anderson said a neutral location is best.

"You want to go for a walk where everybody's smelling, everybody's sniffing, and everybody's getting to know each other," said Anderson. "You want the dogs to get tired, tongues-hanging-out-of-the-side-of-their-mouths tired. Everybody walks in the house together, we go find a cool spot on the tile to lay down, and when they finally wake up, it's like, 'oh, you're still here, you're old news, you've been here all day'."

And most importantly, be patient. It may take your new furry friend to adjust to its new surroundings.

"Don't give up, a lot of people give up really too quickly. They'll take a dog home and it eats the couch in a day and they'll bring it right back," said Anderson. "You can't expect a dog to adjust in a day or even a week. They had a family, they had a life and all the sudden that life was completely ripped away from them. We as people tend to think they're supposed to love us in a snap, 'why don't you love me yet, you're my dog now?' They don't know that yet, show them that you're their family and this is their home now."

For a list of questions you can ask at the shelter, plus the best ways to give a pet as a gift for the holidays, click here.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.