7 Ways to Keep Pet Adoption Events Safe

Photo by Virgil OCampo Photography | www.virgilocampophotography.com

Photo by Virgil OCampo Photography | www.virgilocampophotography.com

Adoption events save lives. They're usually the driving force behind rescue groups and animal shelters reaching the community and finding adopters. Whether people come to these events specifically to meet animals, or the events are strategically held near high foot traffic areas so that the public happens upon them, those few weekend hours are often the only opportunity a dog has to win over a potential adopter. While they are great for finding new homes, adoption events can be very difficult for dogs.


Common stress triggers for dogs - especially for dogs who live in the chaotic shelter environment or who have experienced lots of change lately - include strangers, new, loud environments, tight spaces, children, other dogs, being required to stay in one place, and people getting in their face, hovering over them or reaching towards them.


It's not uncommon to find most, if not all, of these triggers at adoption events. While many dogs might be able to handle these triggers individually, when the stressful situations build up (known as 'trigger stacking'), it is much harder for a dog to cope. Some dogs might become so stressed and uncomfortable that they feel the need to bite.


Because adoption events are unavoidable, the best step we can take for our adoptable dogs is to help make these events as low stress as possible. Here are some tips for decreasing stress - and therefore decreasing the chances of a bite - at adoption events:

Photo by Virgil OCampo Photography | www.virgilocampophotography.com

Photo by Virgil OCampo Photography | www.virgilocampophotography.com


1) Learn canine body language and become a pro at reading it. Dogs give us tons of signals that they're uncomfortable before they even reach the growl, so pay attention to those lip licks, yawns, freezes and shake offs!


2) Give the dogs space by setting the event up in a part of the store that has ample room. Avoid narrow aisles or tight entryways.


3) To build on the first two points: if you're noticing a lot of stress signals from your dog, give them a break! Go take a walk outside. Let them stretch their legs, get some sniffs and take a breather from the busy event.


4) Advocate for the dogs you're bringing. Be sure to speak up if you don't like the way someone is interacting with a dog, because if you're uncomfortable, there's a good chance the dog is, too!



Photo by Virgil OCampo Photography | www.virgilocampophotography.com

5) Teach the public appropriate ways to greet the adoptable dogs. Hugging, leaning over or face-smushing can all be very threatening to dogs, especially from a stranger! Ask people to kneel down and let the dogs come to them to say hi.


6) Always supervise children and dogs. Children are loud, little, and they move quickly - they're tough for dogs to handle! Brief, positive interactions with kiddos are your best bet for setting everyone up for success.


7) Listen to the dogs about how they are feeling. Read their body language and pay attention to their behavior. Are they deteriorating? If a dog is having a tough time, don't be afraid to take them home early or go for an extra long walk.


So many amazing matches are made at adoption events every weekend all over the country. We are so lucky to have these opportunities to spread the word about how wonderful shelter animals are, so let's work to keep everyone safe and happy while we do it!

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Positively Expert: Juliana Willems

Juliana Willems KPA CTP is a senior trainer with Washington, D.C. based company Dog Latin Dog Training. She writes about her experiences fostering and training dogs in her blog Peace, Love & Fostering.


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