Helping Shelter and Rescue Dogs Find Forever Homes

Help a Good Dog Find a Good Home

I have been asked by those of you working with shelter and rescue dogs how to help them find adopters and place them in forever homes.

I have spent most of my career working in shelters and with rescues assisting these organizations in finding the right homes for the right dogs and in doing so also helping them make their dogs more adoptable.

The great part about this is that it is simple and easy to do, just a few minutes of your time a few days a week and you too could help a dog find a forever home just by teaching it a few good manners!

One of the reasons that most good dogs find it difficult if not impossible to escape a shelter situation is that they are so excited when someone comes to visit they often jump and fly through the air barking and pulling on the leash, excited about the prospect of getting out if even for a brief moment.

Often people who are looking to adopt a shelter dog have never had a dog before, and are not amused at having a dog flying past their head and then dragging them down a hallway.  This poor behavior is often enough to keep a highly adoptable, sweet dog from finding a home.

What Do You Need?

Teach Me, I Can Learn!

Some Great Treats (something small and succulent)

A leash

A lot of patience!

Getting Started

This can easily be accomplished by shelter staff or volunteers and it only takes a few short sessions to make a dog’s behavior change 180 degrees.  We are going to use clicker training principles without the clicker, because a new adopter won't have a clicker on them!

Go into the kennel and as you snap the leash on the dog’s collar take a treat up to his nose and lure him into a sit position.  When his butt hits the ground release the treat and reward calmly.  DO NOT get over excited, you are here to calm him down and teach him appropriate behaviors.

Each time you handle the leash lure him into a sit and treat.  Do not give him a command!  A potential adopter isn’t going to walk in and give a command or use the same command with the same tone you are using, the key is to get him to show good behavior with absolutely no verbal cue.

Take the leash in your hand and get him to sit.  Do this often enough that it is becoming common place for him to do this in his kennel, next you can take him out of his kennel and teach him the same thing.  It might be harder to get his focus now that he is out in the “real” world with other dogs barking, but be patient and wait or help him into a sit so that he can be rewarded.

Take a few steps, fiddle with the leash and get him to sit.  Then you can take him out to the yard and play with him a bit, whenever he comes to you for a treat show him the leash and encourage him to sit before he is rewarded either by petting or by treats.

Next get an accomplice to help you.  Once he is sitting for you, hand the leash and the treats to the second person and teach him to sit and wait patiently for his treat!  Again do not give a command, lure him into a sit position and reward the position with praise and treats.  It is imperative that the “command” is nonverbal and should be the touching and exchange of the leash, this makes our boy look smart and well behaved.

Use as many people as possible to help you, as you pass the leash to the next person always pass a few treats too and hopefully your new canine friend should be sitting patiently for his rewards!

All Dogs Should Be Loved and Spoiled in Their Homes!

Now imagine a family comes to look at him and take him out of his kennel; he has been taught to sit when he gets his leash hooked up in the kennel, he has been taught to sit often as he walks through the kennel, he has been taught to come and sit when he is playing in the yard when he wants attention AND when you pass the leash to his potential new owner he should automatically sit calmly and await his reward.  This is now a dog someone wants to adopt.

Adopters will think he is the smartest dog in the bunch and will be clamoring to take him home with them!

All it takes is a little time and patience and a lot of practice to get any highly adoptable dog the skills and manners needed to impress their new forever family!

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  1. Jack Price says:

    Nice site


    phil Reply:

    nice trick, should wk at home too.


  2. Joan Powell says:

    Hi, When we adopted our Pit Bull, he jumped up madly and I was sure he was saying take me, take me! Angel came home and we got your training Manuel and have never looked back. We think she must have got the manuel herself because she learnt so quickly. Thank you, I recommend your manual to all
    my friends.

    Regards, Joan Powell


  3. nino says:

    thank you so much. All Dogs Should Be Loved and Spoiled in Their Homes! and your tips will help dogs to get sweet homes. while during exercises they will have fun and communication…..thank you. 🙂


  4. Julie says:

    This is wonderful!!! What a great idea. This will help so many pups get homes. I am going to do this with my overly excited pup too.
    Thanks for all you do 🙂


  5. Pauline Fairfax says:

    Helpful site


  6. Billie - Mary M Boyce says:

    I really can’t see how a dog lover has not the sense to see that the poor dogs will get over excited when visitors arrive, and perhaps its not first time dog owners the dogs should be going to in the first place.

    I am from the UK, and there are no shelters near to where I live, otherwise being a carzy dog lover myself I would gladly go into shelters to lend a hand, trouble is I would want to take most of the dogs home with me. Had dogs over the last 35 years and could not imagine life without a beloved pet.

    Love your site and am a subscriber, so thank you for all your informative information. Its greatly appreciated.


  7. Kelly G says:

    If only these guidelines were posted inside every shelter for the potential adoptive family to follow.
    So many people get excited when looking for a new dog in a shelter.
    They don’t realise they may be causing over excitement in many of the dogs there. With the guidelines posted above, you’re more likely to find your perfect pal, and get a chance to see the dogs true nature while you visit!

    Excellent suggestions!


  8. Julie says:

    What a great way to save more unwanted pups. I am going to do this with my rather excitable pup. Thankd for all you do to help dogs everywhere.


  9. Nancy Leffler says:

    Excellent idea!


  10. Nancy Crowell says:

    I have a beautiful Yellow Lab that is 2.5 years old. My son moved out a year ago and he was not able to take the dog with him. I am not physically able to walk or exercise the dog as he needs. he is such a warm loving dog but needs some training. This is a good site for me to work with him and get him ready for adoption. do you have some good sites I can post him on to find a good home? I am in the Bay Area , Calif. Breaks my heart as he is a sweet dog, but needs to run like the wind and get some exercise. he is too much for me to handle.
    Thank you


  11. Sharon Jacobs says:

    I adopted Sara my rotti mix six years ago. Although feral when she came to the shelter, when I met her she could sit and walk on a leash calmly. This made it easier to choose a big dog whose breed has a mixed reputation.

    The sit training is good, but I think the walk is so important. New owners don’t want to be dragged down the street. Could you please expand your training to include steps for a calm walker?



  12. Got to do this on my dear lassie, Thanks! Been trying to teach her do tricks but to no avail, she just wont follow and will only look at me. But with tips on hand, i might get her to sit for a start 🙂


  13. Erika Beckers says:

    Hello Chad, hope you still will get this message – I and my recue dog need help! Romeo, a German Shepherd Dog, came from a GSD Rescue end of February 2011. When the Lady brought him, he was friendly, I introduced him with my dogs , Doobie a shepherd/colly mix and Philip a Maltese,in a Dogpark. Romeo didn’t know what that was. He was all his life in a Kennel, he was than 3 years old and diagnosed with EPI, not trained, not socialized. One year he was in the rescue station, before in a Shelter a while and before that by the formal owner, who had no idea what to do with this dog – nobody wanted him because of the cost of the Enzymes. He is a beautiful dog.
    Now comes the problem: after being shy in the beginning, he started running with Doobie as if he the first time found out that he can run.
    That was the other times in the Dogpark so as well.
    Some day, 4 or 6 weeks later, I was standing in my front yard with Romeo on the leash and my neighbors came over for a chat.
    Romeo, without any growling or warning jumpt on one of them and bit him (it was bleeding) but that was really short, he let the man go very quick.
    Another neighbor, who pet Romeo before, came and he wated pet him again. Romeo bit him also (was bleeding) same thing, no warning or growling. I was so stunned and din’t know what to do. I brought Romeo inside with no reaction from me. But now he attacked everybody, every dog. I made with him one obedience class but by the advenced class they trew us out.
    I cannot go day times in a dogpark, but I go with them at night. I am now by a proffesional dogtrainer and she said he is a good dog but afraid “before you get me, I get you” She thinks, that he was abused.
    With my dogs, Doobie and philip, he is very nice, they play and he is gentle with the little one. What did I do wrong? What can I do better? Do you have any suggestion? Thank you very much. Erika Beckers


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