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How to Help a Shelter Dog Stand Out & Find a Forever Home

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As a frequent shelter visitor, as well as follower of many on social media, I have seen what amazing things marketing can do to increase interest and adoption rates for shelter dogs.

As we know, there are tons of homeless dogs looking for forever homes every single day, so helping them stand out from the crowd, and draw attention is essential in the effort in finding them forever homes!


What’s in a name? Well a lot actually. Names attract people’s attention, but can also bring a negative connotation that may contribute to breed stereotypes or myths. Consider a large Pit Bull mix; naming it Tank, Dagger, Trigger or Monster for example may very well influence a potential adopter by shaping their assumptions, or interpretations about that dog and perhaps their behavior.  Even unconsciously, those types of visuals affect us, so walking through a kennel and seeing those types of names on a card; obviously aggressive, or reckless, tend to steer adopters away or towards another dog.

Instead, consider positive or popular names. Think of vacation spots, sports figures, cities, cartoon characters, and other like names that are conversation starters, or invoke positive thoughts or memories as an adopter walks through a kennel atmosphere. There is of course no one name that creates the same associations for every visitor, but by sticking with names that are traditionally positive, you set the dog up for success and a happy experience by those who visit your shelter or website.


A picture says a thousand words, so capturing high quality images of adoptable dogs is an integral part in helping them get noticed. It doesn’t have to be costly as you may have some untapped volunteer talent willing to shoot the pups for you, or perhaps a local photographer in the area they may be willing to donate their time. Either way, we as humans, are extremely visual, so as folks browse shelter Facebook pages, or websites while thinking of adding a new furry friend to the family you want your shelter dogs to make a great impression.

One way is to invest in some fancy collars, cute sweaters, hats, etc. to turn up the “awwww” factor. It’s impossible not to smile when you see a pup in a hat right?! Using treats or other means to capture the dog “smiling” or very attentive and looking into the camera is another way to catch the potential adopter’s eye.


There is a bit of a science to write a dog’s bio to maximize his adoptability, but they key is to make it as individualized as possible, which requires spending a bit of time with a particular dog before deciding what’s best to highlight.  Avoid generalized language, but rather be specific about each dog, their personality traits, and highlight things about them that will stand out.

As potential adopters read these kennel cards or bios, they want to be able to imagine that dog living in their home. Exclude any abuse, neglect, or other unfortunate circumstances that may have led them to the shelter. Choosing a pet is a happy time, so create write-ups that motivate people to want to visit your shelter and adopt.


Social media is perhaps the single most powerful marketing tool a shelter can use in networking and getting their dogs seen. Posting their photos & short bios is a great place to start, and encouraging followers to share will only increase a pup’s visibility. “Dog of the week”, “Meet the dog Monday”, “Fido Friday” are all examples of initiatives that could be used on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram pages.

Having volunteers and/or shelter staff take short videos of the dogs on their daily walks or playtime and posting those is another great way to showcase particular pooches and their personalities.  As a shelter’s social media following grows, the potential for adopters becoming interested in featured dogs follows! Sharing “gotcha” photos of the dogs adopted with followers is also a great idea, as it reinforces the joy of adopting, and how much it means for currently homeless dogs. In addition, social media can be used for promoting offsite adoption events, fundraising, shelter wish lists, donation needs, volunteer needs just to name a few.


These are just a few but some of the biggest and most important things shelters and rescues can do to ensure the dogs in their care have the best chance for that loving and forever home they truly deserve!

Sarah Ingram is from Dayton, Ohio. She is the mom of 6 dogs, from a small Chihuahua/Pug mix, to a large Chocolate Lab! As a passionate animal advocate, she is a dedicated animal shelter volunteer, and enjoys visiting shelters across the State of Ohio and learning about their processes, procedures, needs, and ways to help. She is a volunteer with Rescue Me Ohio, as part of their education & advocacy team, sharing knowledge on topics in animal welfare, responsible pet ownership, spay & neuter, and many other important topics. She enjoys networking adoptable dogs from all over Ohio, which is one of the primary functions of her social media pages, Sarah’s Space for K9 Rescue & Awareness on Facebook & @SarahsSpace4K9s on Instagram, where she also shares helpful info for dog owners & important animal welfare issues.

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  1. […] a shelter dog stand out is easy with creativity and marketing. Use your social media to help dogs stand out and find their […]

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