Behavioral Interventions to Promote Dog Adoptions

March 31, 2018

Audience: Executive Leadership, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: Texas Tech University
Investigator(s): Alexandra Protopopova
Grant Amount: $33,620
Project Type: Phase 3
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

Texas Tech University studied meet-and-greets (e.g., the first physical meeting of an adoptable dog and a potential adopter) in relation to adoption rates in 8 shelters. The study found that shelters that already have more structured meet-and-greets adopt out a higher percentage of dogs, as compared to shelters with unstructured meet-and-greets. However, the results of implementing this behavioral intervention's best practices (baseline vs. experimental condition) were inconclusive.

Objective(s)

To investigate the benefits of the "meet-and-greet" on improving adoption rates; to assess feasibility of the program in many different kinds of shelters; and to test the efficacy and generality of this behavior program, which had been validated at a single site, though a large-scale randomized and controlled multi-site study.

Methods

Eight shelters were first entered into the "baseline" condition, where business was as usual. After some months, each shelter entered into the "experimental" phase, where staff and volunteers were taught best-practices for meet-and-greets. Best-practices included having the leashed dog close to the adopter, using the individual dog's preferred toys or treats, and encouraging the dog to maximally engage with the adopter using the leash and treats. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected.

Results

  • Shelters that already engage in more structured meet-and-greets adopt out more dogs than shelters that allow adopters to engage in unstructured meet-and-greets.
  • On average across shelters there was no change from baseline condition to the experimental.

Conclusions

Preliminary conclusions suggest that while naturally-occurring variations in the meet-and-greet procedures of the shelters are expected, the closer the procedure to the experimental best-practices model, the higher the proportion of meet-and-greets that end in adoption. The experimental intervention of teaching a workshop did not increase adoptions in the shelters. Therefore, one explanation for lack of intervention effect may largely be due to issues of procedural integrity within the shelters (e.g., inconsistencies in implementation or misunderstandings of how to implement best practices). A future line of research should investigate the best way to deliver program information so that the staff and volunteers are willing and capable to create change within their shelters.

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