Main Content

First Impressions and Dog Adoptions

Sue Sternberg

First impressions can have great impact on adoptions

After touring the kennels to look at adoptable dogs, the adopter will want to meet the dog outside of its kennel. This first, live impression will usually make or break the adoption. These first impressions are extremely important in making a positive or negative impression on the adopter.

How can you maximize the dog’s chances for success? How can you make the dog calm down (from his arousing trip out of the kennels…) and focus quickly on the adopter (and not YOU, who he knows better and for longer…) and appear in all the ways the adopter will want (attentive, ‘smart’, trainable, friendly, focused, ‘eager to please’)?

Ideally, you want to train the dog once a day minimally IN THE PHYSICAL PLACE THE ADOPTER WILL BE MEETING THE DOG. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT have dog walking volunteers and staff habitually take the dogs from the kennels and right outside without stopping briefly in the ‘get aquainted’ place. Most shelter dogs are so used to wildly going out of the kennels and out for a walk, that when you take a dog out for an adopter to meet, the dog is crazily unfocused and trying to go out for a walk, and he can’t concentrate nor calm down. It really pays to stop in the ‘get aquainted’ area, take out some treats, lure the dog into a sitting position, reward as soon as he sits, and then continue to reward with small food treats WHILE the dog remains sitting, wagging his tail, patiently looking up towards the person holding the leash and the treats. After 60 seconds of this, release the dog and go for that walk. Pretty soon, the shelter dog will get into the habit of going into the ‘get aquainted’ area, sitting and staring lovingly up at the person on the end of the leash with the goodies, and looking adorable.

When the adopter takes the dog out, the adopter will be given the leash, the dog, AND THE TREATS. The dog will sit in front of the adopter, stare lovingly at his/her face, wag his tail, and wait for the expected cookie.

We so often get into the habit of walking and exercising our shelter dogs, we forget that the first impression the adopter wants is not one of an energetic or distracted dog, but rather one of a focused, attentive and loving dog.

Courtesy of

Rondout Valley Kennels, Inc.



Share this Article

Recently Viewed Pets