Chances are you’re on this page because you need help with rehoming – whether it be your own pet or your foster pet with a rescue group. The below is some tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years in our rescue work that tend to open more doors for pets, giving them more adoptions prospects. Sometimes we can be so emotionally attached to the pets in our care that we can unknowingly close off options, so hopefully this guide will help you get in the right frame of mind when writing the pet’s adoption profile.
This includes about the dog’s unknown history (“Must have been neglected” or “he is scared of hands so has probably been abused”), breed, what he may or may not be like with dogs, cats, young kids, etc – unless you have tested this properly.
The reason we don’t want to guess about a dog’s past is because it’s unfair on that dog in the present. Just because a dog acts timid when you approach with your hand, it doesn’t mean that dog has been hit. Just because a dog flinches at loud noises, it doesn’t mean it’s been shouted at. Behaviours like this can be due to a variety of different reasons and instead of spending time on guessing what happened then, we should focus on what happens now.
With breed, we should remember that unless we have pedigree papers to show a dog’s breed, we are only guessing. Visual identification is unreliable and unfair on each individual dog. People tend to believe stereotypes about dogs also, so remember that if you’re listing a dog as a “Kelpie cross,” some people may not even enquire about it because they believe it to be too high energy for them – even though that dog may be low/medium energy and fit that family perfectly. If you feel you must guess at a breed label, it’s always wise to be upfront that it is indeed a guess.
This should include how the dog acts in various circumstances, whether he is more independent or thrives on more interaction, how does he interact with other dogs, cats, kids, etc. Is he confident and outgoing or is he a little bit more reserved and shy? Is he more on the submissive side or can he be a little bit more assertive? Does this vary with different dogs/situations? What’s he like around food?
This is all about the dog’s character, his quirks, the things that make you laugh, etc. Is he always happy to see you come home? Does he do a little dinner dance? Does he ‘woo woo’ at you in excitement or play bow a lot? Is he very, very social and friendly, happy go lucky, etc? Think of anything the dog has done that has truly set him apart from other dogs.
What have you been working on with him or has he already come with some obedience? What’s his manners like? How well does he walk on the lead? Does he do any tricks?
One of the biggest traps you can fall into is writing a novel about a dog’s history and, often, making it the saddest, most depressing adoption profile known to man. Nobody wants to be feeling miserable when they’re looking for the newest addition to their family and if that history is in no way relevant to how that dog behaves in the present, we should definitely minimise how much of it is in the dog’s profile. The best strategy you can use when looking for a new home is to make the readers feel happy and good about the pet.
Include the potential adopter in the profile. For instance, if the dog loves his tennis balls, say something like “if you love kicking back in the garden and watching him fetch a tennis ball like a goof, you could be perfect for each other!” More often than not, this will get the reader imagining the dog with them, fitting into their own family and home, and may make them more likely to enquire.
It’s best to avoid limitations such as “probably not good with young kids.” While you may think the dog is too clumsy or too big for a family with young kids, there are a lot of dog savvy kids out there. By writing lines like that, we’re potentially excluding a very good home right off the bat. Information such as the above, where a dog may be boisterous or clumsy, is always best applied on a case by case basis. The aim is give the dog as many options as possible – further conversations will take care of the rest.
Sometimes we talk about dogs and use language we’ve learned within the dog world, without realising not everyone will understand what we mean. Words can also be perceived quite differently than how we mean them to. We’ve got to remember that, for first time dog owners, they’re not going to understand completely what ‘resource guarding’ or ‘reactive’ is and that our words might not be as descriptive as we think they are.
So, instead of:
“He needs a lot of exercise!”
“He’s quite active so would love a running mate or a family that likes a good trip to the park/beach.”
It’s also important to use words that evoke a smile. For a dog that just always has a smile on his face, try “he’s always got his goofy face on” or for a dog that wiggles his bum a lot, try “a flurry of tail wags!” Both paint a picture and will (hopefully) get a smile out of anyone reading.
While we all have an ideal family in mind when we’re rehoming a pet, we have to be realistic. There’s quite possibly never going to be the perfect home. There are a lot of good enough homes though so, while we might want to write our expectations down in terms of what kind of family the dog would prefer, just be aware that we may be limiting his options.
Other than that, have fun with it! Put some humour in, be silly, but be honest too. If there is information that you’re unsure will help or hinder the pet’s options, leave it out until you speak with the person enquiring. The idea is to get people through the door. Once they’re there, you can then have a proper conversation with them, but they’ll never get there if you’re blocking them from the get-go.