Setting Your Dogs Up for Success at Adoption Events

Adoption events are an amazing way to get dogs exposure and introduce them to the public.  However, they do present their own unique set of challenges, which is exactly why we’ve put together this handy dandy list of tips for adoption day success!

The Right Mindset

Ending discrimination through education!
Ending discrimination through education!

Before the adoption event, a long walk, short run, or a quick game of fetch is helpful in burning off extra energy, allowing your dog to be more relaxed at the event.  It’s like the saying says, a tired dog is a good dog.  Adoption events are really exciting and sometimes it’s hard for dogs to focus, especially when they’re full of energy and there are tons of yummy treats and other dogs around.  Also, an excited dog can easily become bored and wonder why the heck everyone is just standing around for hours on end.

A Training Opportunity

Adoption events make excellent training sessions.  Just like trainers often tell you not to feed your dog immediately before class, holding off on breakfast or feeding a smaller meal beforehand (depending on the time of day) will help your dog remain food motivated.  If your dogs are anything like ours, they’ll get pleeeenty of treats and kibble throughout the event to supplement their mealtime.

Keep Your Distance

Often the last thing you’ll hear before a dog on a flexi-lead runs your way is, “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly!!!”  Be sure to keep an eye out for these bundles of energy and distracted owners.  Everyone wants their dog to be best buddies with every single other dog on the planet, but what many don’t realize is that your dog has already seen 50 other dogs today, has been standing around for a few hours, and well, some dogs prefer to take it slow.

Prevent over-stimulation by avoiding unnecessary introductions, especially face-to-face introductions.  If a potential adopter is interested in seeing if your dog gets along with theirs, that’s great!  The ideal situation would be to arrange a meeting on a different day in a neutral place.  However, if you do introduce dogs at an event, be sure to take them to a private place for a walk side-by-side, and introduce them slowly.

Safety First

It is important to remember that even though your dog has done well around adults, kids may pose a different set of challenges. Little ones don’t always realize that tails are not pull toys or that dogs should be approached with care. There are always kids at adoption events, so use this time to teach your dog proper interaction with smaller folk and educate children about dog safety.

Moosh showing off his sit/stay.
Moosh showing off his sit/stay.

First, make sure they ask you and their parents for permission before approaching your dog and don’t feel bad about reminding them if they forget – safety first!  Put your dog into a sit/stay and show the kids how to safely pet a dog (on his sides, not his face and to be gentle).  If they ask to give the dog a treat and the parents say it’s okay, show them how to put the treat in the middle of a flat palm to allow the dog to lick it out.  This will prevent any overeager snackers from accidently pinching a little finger.

Don’t Reinforce Bad Behavior

For many people, when a dog begins to bark or misbehave, their first instinct is to pet the dog, tell him it’s okay, and speak in their most soothing voice to reduce his anxiety.  However, this actually reinforces the bad behavior they’re trying to prevent.  For example, if a dog begins barking or growling at another dog and you pet him to calm him down (positive reinforcement), this tells her that you like what she is doing (keeping away those other pesky dogs) and reinforces the behavior of barking at other dogs.  Be aware of what behaviors you are reinforcing and that your attention and praise are rewards as well.

Keep the Peace

Whether it be from boredom or a strange dog giving him the evil eye as he walks past, if your dog begins to misbehave, you can try redirecting him, distracting him with training, or if necessary, removing him from the situation.   A fit of barking can often excite and rile up the other dogs at the event, so if after a few seconds you can’t seem to resolve the situation, your dog might be telling you it’s time for a break.  Many events are 3 – 4 hours long, so take him for a short walk and give him some time to relax away from the other dogs and excitement.

Don’t Push It

We all have bad days and our dogs are no different.  If you’ve tried the above tips and you’re dog just isn’t feeling it for whatever reason, call it a day.  You want the dogs to enjoy adoption events and also, it’s the responsible thing to do.  The safety of people and your dogs should be your first priority, so if they’re stressed, listen to what your dog is telling you and try again another day.


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