|For Shelters &
|Notes on Language|
|Labels & Language|
|For Dog Owners|
Organizations that view dogs and adopters as individuals, rather than relying on blanket policies or generalizations, have more successful adoptions. But how do you determine if adopters are the right match for the “pit bull” dogs in your care?
Get to know them through open ended questions and friendly conversation. Avoid asking closed questions that have a “right” answer. This makes adopters feel like they’re taking a test and they may give you the answer they think you want to hear, rather than the truth. Instead, try asking open ended questions, such as, “What are you looking forward to doing with your new dog?” There’s no correct answer here. The goal is to open up a respectful dialogue where you can learn more and they can reflect on their lifestyle and needs without fear of judgment.
Remember that the “perfect” adopter rarely exists! A good adoption counselor tries to determine if the “not so perfect” adopter is the right match.
One way to do this is by using FIRM/FLEXIBLE Guidelines.
What can I be flexible on? What is a suggestion but can be changed, depending on the individuals involved? If a dog is very energetic and has no manners, you may be tempted to assign the label: no kids or no kids under a particular age. Determine if that is realistic or helpful, and then decide if you can be flexible. Do you know for sure that a dog savvy 8 year old isn’t a good fit? What if the parents feel they can handle the challenges presented to them and are willing to work with the dog? Consider being flexible and opening up the pool of potential adopters.
Show more, Tell less. Don’t list all the potential negatives before the family even meets the dog. Allow them to meet the dog they are interested in and then let the dog’s behavior speak for itself. With the dog’s behavior think: More SHOW, less TELL.
Check your own fears or prejudices. If watching a large dog play with a small dog during a meet and greet scares you, be aware that your personal fears might be influencing your ability to make a match based on this individual dog and its ability to socialize with smaller friends. Call in another counselor if needed.
Educate adopters about caring for dogs and dog behavior, rather than focusing on “breed challenges” that may be inaccurate. Instead of warning adopters about worse case scenarios and perpetuating myths, describe what was observed about each individual dog. Set each dog up for success by arming new adopters with accurate, helpful information about dog care and management, so they are prepared to be responsible dog guardians.
Determine if you can help the “not ideal” adopter become a good match through education and support. With the right tools, will they be the right home? If so, say “yes” and send your dogs to their new homes!
But don’t overwhelm them with verbal information. It can be tempting to try to tell the adopters everything you want them to know, but there are limits to how much information humans can process in a short period of time. Try to give them information in various forms in addition to talking with them, such as: written handouts that explain training techniques or solutions to common behavior problems (like housetraining or cat introductions) and show them how to do things, such as putting on an Easy Walk Harness. Have them put the harness on the dog themselves as practice.
Reward their choice to rescue. There are many options for acquiring a pet, such as: breeders, pet stores, and “free to a good home” ads. Acknowledge that your potential adopters made a good decision in choosing to come to your shelter to adopt. Reward them by treating them politely and looking for ways to make adoptions work, rather than turning them away to acquire a pet from another source.
Next up: Increasing Adoptions