Animal shelters are full of lovable dogs of all breeds, sizes and ages deserving of a good home and ready to become your next four-legged family member. In fact, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, nearly 2 million dogs are adopted into new families each year.

However, choosing the right dog is just the beginning. The first weeks after bringing home an adopted pet are critical. It’s a time to get to know one another and build a lifelong connection. Here are some steps to help ease the transition:

Create a pet-friendly environment. Keep items that are unsafe, such as chemicals and certain house plants, out of reach. Cords and objects that invite chewing also should be tucked away. If certain areas will be off limits, use baby gates to block them.

Expect accidents. While house training a puppy is to be expected, you may find that an older dog needs help in this area as well. The stress of transitioning into a new household can lead to accidents, so keep this in mind and be sure to provide your new pet with lots of potty breaks, patience and instruction.

Start with smart nutrition. Providing your new dog with a high-quality diet from the beginning can contribute to a lifetime of whole body health. Chose a complete, balanced food with real meat as the No. 1 ingredient. Many pet foods can have many preservatives or additives including color that can cause allergies or skin issues.

Introduce a schedule. Providing dogs with a consistent routine right off the bat can help ease their stress during the transition. Set a schedule for walks, feeding time and training so he can settle into a routine that feels a bit more familiar.

Approach training with patience. Without knowing how your pet was trained, it can be difficult to predict how he will respond in his new environment. For example, he may be used to receiving treats for good behavior, while you prefer to reward with praise. Plan to be flexible, and soon you’ll come to a shared understanding.