How To Get Your Long Stay Dogs Adopted or Fostered, Faster

By Clare Callison

Clare Callison | Sara Miller | August 12th, 2020

Getting long stay dogs adopted or fostered is a common predicament amongst all shelters and rescues. How can we get these animals placed with people, and out of the shelter? Use these five tips to get your long stay dogs adopted, or fostered, faster.

1. Use eye catching, up-to-date, marketing!

When was the last time you updated your long stay dogs’ photos? There shouldn’t be Valentine’s Day photos when it’s May. Keep your photos engaging, and up-to-date. Consider using videos in addition to your photos to help adopters and fosters get a better feel for the dog’s personality. It is also important to use a positive only biography!

Make it a goal for all your long stay dogs to have at least three eye catching photos, a video, and a positive only biography. Not sure where to get good photos of your dogs? Utilize your volunteers! Volunteers frequently snap photos of their favorite dogs while walking them or taking them to playgroup. Make sure you have a way for volunteers to submit these photos (and videos!) so you can use them on your website.

2. Introduce your long stays first with proactive matchmaking.

Matchmaking helps put the spotlight on the dogs and cats that have been traditionally overlooked. For dogs with a higher risk of being a long stay due to behavior obstacles, matchmaking proactively seeks out adopters that may have a compatible home setup to fit the dog’s specific needs. For example, dogs that aren’t a huge fan of meeting strangers, or who have a history of not getting along with other pets: low traffic, no other pets in the home may be the way to go. Through initial conversation with potential adopters, you can identify these homes and strive to introduce the dogs that have been there the longest, first. Not every single adopter will want to take a long stay dog and may want that little puppy instead, and that’s ok too. However, you will be surprised how many people that originally thought they wanted a puppy will fall in love and adopt that adult dog! It all comes down to providing top notch customer service, and listening to adopters on what they want and may be open to. You just never know who people may fall in love with if you don’t offer them a chance to meet your most overlooked dogs.

3. Crowdsource information to get to know your dogs.

Depending on the size of your organization, it’s often impossible to meet every single dog in your care. It’s also difficult to provide potential adopters the high-level customer service they deserve, when you can’t answer basic personality questions about the dogs they’re interested in. However, if you think of all the staff, volunteers, and fosters that are interacting with different dogs on a daily basis, there is a lot of personality info that’s being captured regularly! It just becomes a matter of how you streamline all this incoming info into a central place for all your team to access. We really like how South Suburban Humane Society created a quick five question survey (through Google Forms) for staff and volunteers to record their notable interactions with individual dogs, daily. For example: Who did you take out of the kennel today? Does the dog know: sit, down, recall etc? What are some positive personality notes about this dog? The QR code flyers (shown below) are posted around the shelter in case any of their volunteers or staff need quick access to the link- so smart!

Don’t forget to use a variety of sources for your information: volunteer notes, return forms, playgroup notes, foster sleepover notes, etc. The more you know, the better customer service you can provide. This might sound a little overwhelming if you don’t already have a system like this in place! To get started, make a list of the top ten or twenty longest stay dogs in your care and start making your cheat sheet.

4. Get creative with where you feature your long stay dogs.

Take advantage of any and all opportunities to get more eyes on your long stays! Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Feature your long stays in social media posts, just like you would new intakes.
  • Use your long stays’ images on t-shirts, stickers, etc.
  • Spotlight your long stays on your website, rather than letting them be drowned out by newer intakes.
  • Use your long stays’ images for event marketing, newsletters, etc.

Ultimately, get your long stays out there as much as you can! We frequently use APA! long stay dogs in our marketing too. For example, here’s Twister in our latest webinar graphics. Or, see Cusack in the banner image for this blog.

5. Launch a “Virtual Foster” or Shelter Buddy program.

Virtual foster, shelter buddies, dog champions, no matter what you call it - consider launching a program that supports the dogs in shelter while they’re waiting for a foster or an adopter. Through early observations of a dog’s behavior or medical needs, you can identify who may be at a higher risk of becoming a long stay. You will want to intervene with support earlier rather than later, and consider assigning them a virtual foster that can provide the same level of support that a traditional foster can, just while they are in the shelter. To name a few, the virtual foster may provide behavior training, field trips, extra enrichment, fun photoshoots, and networking to a larger pool of potential adopters. This is a great opportunity for those that have a full house and can’t necessarily foster, but can help fast track a dog to adoption with this added support. Read more about APA’s Virtual Foster program.

Start using these tips today to get your long stay dogs adopted or fostered sooner! Love one of these tips? Tell us which one.


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