It can be a challenge for some shelter dogs to find homes, regardless of breed. But for ones labeled “pit bull” dogs, the challenge is even greater. Once a person gets to know a dog as an individual, they quickly see that the stigma attached to these dogs is completely false. It’s really important that shelters set their dogs up for success so that a dog’s individual personality really shines.
Here are four ways to do that:
Instead of grouping all of your “pit bull” dogs in an isolated area, let them mingle on the adoption floor. Segregating them sends the public the message that “pit bull” dogs are different. That can make adopters fearful or suspicious.
Mix your “pit bull” dogs in among all of the available dogs. If you have puppies or small, fluffy dogs that tend to draw a lot of attention, consider placing a “pit bull” dog in the next kennel. They’ll benefit from the extra exposure and get a chance to dazzle adopters who pass by.
Recruit your most outgoing, well-behaved “pit bull” dog to act as the ‘greeter’ in the lobby. This gives visitors an immediate and positive experience with a dog they may have feared in the past.
Ask a trusted volunteer to work the crowd with your greeter dog or place your greeter behind a desk, gate, or in a crate, so the public can see them right away. This first impression, before they make their way into the kennels, is a great chance to introduce your visitors to “pit bull” dogs and help open their hearts and minds to other dogs in the shelter.
If dogs are bored or anxious in kennels, make Busy Buckets or frozen Kongs for them to work on while the potential adopters visit. This gives the dogs something to do besides jumping, barking and pacing, and helps them present better to the public. A happy, quiet dog is more likely to be adopted.
If a dog is highly aroused or reactive in his kennel, hang a sheet or other barrier on his kennel door. Keep it high enough to block his view, but low enough for adopters to see in. Then, hang a cheerful sign on the cage that says “I’m friendly, just enjoying some privacy. Can you toss me a treat?”
Also consider placing him in a different part of the shelter where he is relaxed, like an office or break area. Hang his photo on the empty kennel to let adopters know he’s available for adoption and looking forward to meeting visitors in his favorite spot!
For more ideas on how to relieve the stress of kenneling and improve the way dogs are shown to the public, see our Best Practices: Kennel Enrichment