Marketing Your Dogs

56 Days in a Shelter! Who Will Let Avery Out?

Pick a dog who is one of the longest shelter residents and create a Who Will Let (name of dog) Out campaign. Each day feature a cute photo or video highlighting a different characteristic showing why the dog would make a wonderful loving companion. Encourage supporters to share the campaign on social media, empowering them to help find a forever home for your longtime resident. Here’s a great example of a  touching video promoting puppy Taza who was stressed while living at the Onslow County Animal Services shelter in North Carolina.

Avoid Labeling Dogs

According to Maddie’s Fund, to provide more accurate information about shelter dogs and to ensure better matches with adopters many shelters around the U.S. have opted to remove breed labels from kennel cards and software databases. At the Tazewell County Animal Shelter, VA dogs are never described by breeds, instead kennel cards and online profiles include the dogs’ temperament, personality, and weight. Research studies show that shelters adopting the no-labels method report better matches, more adoptions, and shorter stays for medium and large dogs.

Become a PetSmart Shelter Partner

The PetSmart Charities Foundation partners with local shelters and rescues to help homeless animals. PetSmart stores throughout the country donate space to help adoptable pets find loving homes. According to the nonprofit, every 38 seconds a PetSmart store is open a pet is adopted. Participating in National Adoption Week (March 18 – 24, 2024) at PetSmart Charities adoption centers is a great way to find loving homes for shelter dogs.

Celebrate Animals with Special Days

You don’t have to wait for national pet holidays to celebrate animals. For example, the Animal Harbor shelter, TN declared the last Sunday of September as Senior Sunday. This helped highlight the older animals at the shelter while informing the public about how these loving pets get overlooked just because of their age. Feel Good Friday is celebrated at the Butler County Animal Shelter, KY as a way for supporters to share happily ever after stories helping to encourage others to adopt shelter pets. The clever use of alliterations can really help catch attention on social media.


Clever Marketing is a Great Way to Grab Attention

Clever marketing is a great way to get attention for shelter programs. One good way of doing this is to design posters that play on popular culture. For example, the Regional Center for Animal Care and Protection, VA created a really catchy poster promoting a pop-up adoption event. The poster “Cloudy With a Chance of Adoptions” was modeled after the promotional poster for the popular movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”


Create an Album of Adoptable Dogs

Maury County Animal Services, TN offers a wonderful example of how to create an album of adoptable dogs. The album is an easy-to-reference hub of information providing personality and background information on each dog. The albums also include video clips that help portray each dog’s personality. Supporters are encouraged to provide feedback in the comment section of the album. This is such a great way for potential adopters to learn about the dogs and the album is pinned to the top of the shelter’s Facebook so it’s always easy to find.

Create a Matchmaking Survey

A Matchmaking Survey is a great way to discover what potential adopters are looking for in their next pet. The survey should include questions about temperament, energy level, age, size, social ability, etc. Structure it like a dating app. After potential adopters complete the survey, suggest possible ‘dates.’

Does Your Shelter Have a Public Safety Dog in the Making

According to an article in Police Magazine, shelter dogs can benefit a police department because of the high cost of specially bred dogs. More and more law enforcement agencies are looking to include unusual and mixed breeds from shelters and rescues into their ranks. For example, Bernie a Great Pyrenees, adopted from the Onslow County Animal Shelter, NC is the first full-time employee in the new Pawtrol Division of the Swansboro Police Department. Bernie is doing a great job supporting the mental health and well-being of the officers, other first responders, and the community. If your shelter has a dog you think would work great as part of a K-9 team, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to your local law enforcement department. If local officers aren’t looking for a dog, they may help you to network with other law enforcement agencies.

Dog of the Day

Choose a dog to highlight and write a post to social media with a cute photo and write from the dog’s perspective – why they want to be adopted, their best features, their ‘areas for self-improvement’ (or something to that effect).

Doggie Day Out

Work with local businesses to host an adoptable dog for a day. Provide them with crate, treats, toys, etc., so the dog can spend the day with them.
Banks, offices, stores, and anywhere that a dog would be welcome is a possibility. This gives dog (and shelter) exposure, builds your relationship with the business community, gives the business something fun to use in their own marketing. Gives the dog a break from the stress of being in the shelter. Such a win-win-win.

Dog Resumes Help Highlight Shelter Dogs

Creating a dog resume instead of a typical profile is a fun way to highlight a dog’s personality and catch the attention of potential adopters. For example, Paws 4 the Cause in KY wrote a wonderful resume for Leo the Lion, a young cattle dog mix. The resume was posted and shared on social media. At the Regional Center for Animal Care and Protection, VA resumes are creatively written in a Q&A format. This is a fun way to showcase a dog’s special characteristics. For example, Jennifur’s Q&A highlighted that this sweet-natured pup graduated from the Shelter Dog Training Course at Virginia Tech.


Encourage Adopters to Promote Shelter Pets

One of the best ways to promote pet adoption is to ask adopters to post pictures of their newest family members on social media. Sharing photos and stories about how well rescue dogs are settling into their new homes is a wonderful way to inspire others to visit the local shelter rather than purchasing dogs from breeders. The Onslow Animal Shelter, NC got a terrific response when they asked adopters to post photos of shelter alumni enjoying Christmas with their families. What a terrific way to inspire others to open their hearts and homes to animals in need.

Enroll Your Shelter in the Blue Buffalo Home 4 the Holidays Campaign

According to the Blue Buffalo company, more families bring a new pet home during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. Home 4 the Holidays is a three-month adoption drive that saves the lives of homeless animals and raises awareness about the importance of pet adoption during the holiday season. This campaign is dedicated to educating the public about the importance of choosing pet adoption over supporting puppy mills and backyard breeders.

Benefits of registering your shelter with the Blue Buffalo Home 4 the Holidays campaign include:

  • A chance to win $1,000 when you encourage adopters to share a heartwarming story about their new pet.
  • A chance to win $25,000 for your organization through the Home 4 the Holidays Media Award.
  • Access to free adoption marketing resources and media plans for the holiday season.
  • By participating in Home 4 the Holidays, your shelter or rescue group will be listed on a map for potential new pet parents looking to easily locate their local shelter.
  • Once you’ve registered, visitors to Home4theHolidays.org will be able to find your organization and donate to the campaign! 100% of funds raised through your member page will go directly to you.

Shelters can register online to become a Home 4 the Holidays partner.


Great Photos Help Dogs Get Adopted

Shelter intake photos are a quick way to identify dogs but not the best way to promote these pets on social media or shelter and adoption websites. Most dogs are nervous and scared when they arrive at a shelter and so these photos don’t capture the dogs’ true personalities. Partnering with a local professional photographer can make a huge difference in helping to find forever homes for shelter dogs. A wonderful example of this is the partnership between AGoldPhoto Pet Photography and the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, FL. The photo studio began by conducting adoption photo shoots at the shelter once a month. Many of the dogs, who had been at the shelter for months, found homes just days after their professional photos were posted. Seeing the positive impact, the studio reached out to other local businesses to see if they would sponsor additional shelter shoots. Through sponsorships, the studio now holds two photo shoots a month at the shelter and hopes to increase that to once a week. The studio also helped teach shelter volunteers how to take better photos and created The Ultimate Guide to Shelter Pet Photography, which is available free on YouTube. There are professional photographers in almost every community, and it’s worth reaching out to see if they would help promote shelter pets. This partnership is a win-win for both shelters and photo studios. And, of course, the biggest winners are the dogs who don’t have to wait as long to find loving forever homes.


Highlight Dogs in a Fun Way

Animal lovers appreciate cute dog pics and these pics are also a great way to find new homes for shelter dogs. Redland Rock Pit Abandoned Dog Project group, FL had the wonderful idea of featuring a Silly Dog Sunday collage of their dogs being goofy, funny, and playful. Shelters could also launch a Funny Dog Friday or Tongue-out Tuesday and feature a similar roundup of wonderful images. Enlist the help of a local photographer or a volunteer who is good with the camera and start snapping. Be sure the images are clickable and take potential adopters to information about each dog.


At the Petersburgh Animal Care and Control Shelter, VA a local dog bakery made special cookies for the shelter dogs for Valentine’s Day. Staff from the bakery came to the shelter with the treats and took great photos of the dogs enjoying the cookies. The photos were posted on the bakery’s Facebook Page to help get more exposure for the dogs.

When Animal Harbor, TN noticed a trend of dogs with big ears it started the Big Beautiful Ears Club. This was a wonderful opportunity to promote the dogs with adorable images on social media. The images got attention, and the more exposure the dogs get the sooner they will find loving homes.

Highlight Sponsored Animals

If the adoption fees for certain pets have been sponsored, be sure to highlight that along with cute images of the animals on social media. This may just help to find loving homes for your longest residents.

Highway Billboards Offer Great Exposure

A highway billboard is a terrific way to get exposure for shelter dogs. Thanks to the generosity of a supporter at the Petersburgh Animal Care & Control Center, VA a prominently placed digital billboard features photos of dogs scrolling across the screen along with shelter hours.


Hold a Senior Prom

Memphis Animal Services, TN held a senior prom to shine a spotlight on senior shelter dogs available for adoption. The dogs were glammed up and took part in prom photoshoots. The public was invited to dress up and attend the prom that was held in one of the shelter’s play yards. The dogs enjoyed a special doggy cake and participants had fun voting for a prom king and queen. This was a terrific fun way to gain exposure for the golden oldies who are so often overlooked at the shelter.


Host An Adopt-A-Bowl

Shelters can piggyback on the popularity of the Puppy Bowl on Super Bowl Sunday to host their own events. For example, puppies from the Virginia-based Regional Center for Animal Care & Protection and the Angels of Assisi faced off in a local Adopt-A-Bowl showdown that was featured on Roanoke Valley Television. The event offered an amazing opportunity to promote the puppies in need of homes while also educating local communities about how they can help homeless animals and take good care of their own pets.

Host an Earth Day Adoption Event

Invite the public to a special adoption event and offer discounts on the adoption fee for all who donate recycled items such as newspapers, towels, and blankets that can be used in the shelter. Alternatively, you can take shelter dogs to local Earth Day festivities and expose them to even more potential adopters. It also offers an opportunity to spread the word about the work you are doing at the shelter to save lives.

Host a Pit bulls and Pizza Party

Host a Pit bulls and Pizza fundraising and awareness event either at a pizza place (without dogs but with lots of infographics, pictures, videos, etc.) or possibly at the shelter with pizza followed by a parade of pit bulls. The Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center, VA hosted a Pizza and Pitties party at a local pizza restaurant. The event featured board games, coloring, and live music. Instead of bringing dogs to the party, the shelter posted profiles of adoptable pitties and brought along educational brochures. The focus of the event was to provide members of the community with a fun evening while learning about bully breeds. The shelter’s Outreach Coordinator was on hand to answer any questions or concerns.

Host Special Events for Hard-to-Place Dogs

Certain breeds and breed mixes, older dogs, and black dogs are often the hardest to place, so hosting special events to highlight their wonderful temperaments and posting great images of the dogs on social media can help find them loving homes. For example, the Newberry County Animal Shelter, NC ran a Black Dog Adoption Event and reduced the adoption fee for black dogs through the first week in February.

Join in Best Friend’s National Adoption Weekend

By becoming a Best Friends Network Partner your shelter can join in the Best Friend’s annual National Adoption Weekend that’s held June 30 through July 2. Participating shelters reduce or waive adoption fees during the three-day event to find forever homes for shelter pets in time for the July 4 Holiday.

Launch a Mutt Madness Campaign

While basketball fans gear up for the National Collegiate Athletic Association March Madness tournament, animal shelters can grab attention by launching Mutt Madness campaigns. This is a fun way to engage the community while creating exposure for the dogs. Shelters post photos of two dogs and then ask followers to vote for their favorite dog. During the Animal Harbor Shelter, TN Mutt Madness event, followers were reminded that all of the dogs are winners, but the Mutt Madness event helped to shine a spotlight on individual dogs and hopefully help find them loving homes.


Let Adopters Promote the Shelter

When adopters provide positive feedback on their adoption experience ask if they would be willing to share their experience on video. Posting this feedback on social media is a great way to encourage others to visit the shelter and adopt a new best friend.

List Animals on RescueGroups.org

Partner with RescueGroups.org and start uploading shelter pets to the Pet Adoption Portal. The site has a more extensive reach than Petfinder and Adopt a Pet. However, you can continue having your animals listed on all of these websites.  Listing homeless pets on all of the major adoption sites offers greater exposure and helps to result in a forever home.

Live on Friday

Feature a weekly social media live walk-through of the shelter each week. Showcase dogs, interview staff, give details of upcoming events, even do a giveaway of a T-shirt or pet item to a random person who comments during your live coverage.

Local Leaders Can Help with Adoptions

Schedule photo shoots of shelter dogs with firefighters, police officers, or local elected officials. This is a great way to promote the dogs while also engaging the community. This also offers a wonderful opportunity to get newspaper or TV coverage and may lead to more potential adopters visiting the shelter.

Participate in Tractor Supply Adoption Events

Partner with your local Tractor Supply to participate in the company’s adoption events throughout the year and the annual Tractor Supply Pet Appreciation Week, which takes place in September. The retail chain also hosts shelter fundraisers and sponsors holiday events such as pet photo shoots with Santa to benefit local animal shelters.

Partner With a Local Business

Finding a local business that supports animal welfare is the first step to running a large off-site adoption event. This is a great way for shelter dogs to gain more exposure and hopefully new homes. For example, Onslow County Animal Services, NC holds its largest adoption event of the year in partnership with a local Toyota dealership. This is a full-day event held at the dealership and all of the dogs available for adoption are in attendance. The event is promoted and shared on social media helping to ensure the dogs get as much exposure as possible.