Adoptable Ideas Part 2

November 2012 by Lisa Gunter

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Looking for a new way to inspire people in your community to take a second look at some of the pets who keep getting passed over? Breed Stereotype and Effects of Handler Appearance on Perceptions of Pit Bulls, new research by Lisa Gunter, provides insights on how shelters might increase pit bull adoptions. Her abstract is below; click here to view the poster.

Previous research has indicated that dog breed stereotypes exist and that the appearance of a human handler alongside a dog can affect perceptions of the dog's temperament. The present study looked at participants' perceptions of a Pit Bull-type dog in comparison to a Labrador Retriever and Border Collie, and whether the addition of a rough adult male, elderly woman or male child influences the dog's perceived characteristics of approachability, aggressiveness, intelligence, friendliness, trainability or adoptability. The results indicated that participants viewed the Pit Bull least favorably in all six characteristics when evaluated with the other breeds, confirming the presence of a negative stereotype.

The appearance of a handler alongside the Pit Bull influenced participants' impressions of the dog on characteristics of aggressiveness, friendliness, approachability and adoptability. When comparing impressions of the Pit Bull alone versus alongside a handler, perceived intelligence improved across all three conditions. Additionally, perceptions of friendliness and adoptability increased, while aggressiveness decreased in both the elderly woman and male child conditions, and the perception of friendliness decreased with the presence of the rough male. These findings demonstrate how the appearance of a human handler in photographs can influence our perceptions of Pit Bulls and suggest possibilities for the use of human handlers to positively affect the perceived qualities of Pit Bulls among the general population and particularly those who are considering adopting a dog.

A Volunteer from Pointer Rescue shares her idea for placing diabetic pets:

"We recently had a diabetic Doberman named Zephyr at the shelter. I sent his information to the local Diabetes Association, who in turn sent his info out to their membership. Dogs like this need people who are familiar with scheduling, diet and injections - who better to adopt them than a person with the same issue? When I have a dog that has sight issues, I promote him to the local optometric community. Just think about what the issue is, whether behavior or health, and promote to those familiar with it.

Here's an idea for promoting hard to place pets from Bonney Brown, Executive Director of the Nevada Humane Society:

"We ran an essay contest asking people to tell us about their special needs pet. We were so surprised when 75 people responded. And we were so moved by the stories they told! This contest did a lot to make people realize how special every single dog and cat really is."

What are you doing to promote adoptions? Send your best ideas to and we'll post them in our newsletter!

Lisa Gunter

Lisa is a Certified Behavior Consultant Canine - Knowledge Assessed and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed.


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