11 rules for a successful adopter

I’ve had quite a few people write me saying that they’ve applied for lots of dogs and aren’t having much success in meeting or adopting them. So from a rescue perspective, here’s my rule-of-thumb guide to getting your application in fast and getting your application considered. Feel free to share this or copy and paste it if you know someone who is looking and getting frustrated.

1. Think outside the square

Popular dogs go fast, there’s lots of competition for popular breeds, very cute dogs and puppies. For example, one puppy I listed recently had 160 enquiries in only a couple of days. If you’re not really fussy about gender, age, breed or size, you might have more success applying for dogs which are not-so-cute, older or otherwise less appealing. Just because a dog isn’t cute doesn’t mean it won’t have a great temperament. Some of the nicest dogs I’ve rehomed have been pretty ordinary in looks, but have had lovely natures and turned out to be exceptional family pets.

2. Get in early

Use the rescue directory on Pet Rescue: http://www.petrescue.com.au/rescue_directory to find rescue groups who have the kinds of dogs you’re interested in, and are in areas you’re prepared to travel. Like them on Facebook and make sure you get their alerts. Most groups who have active Facebook profiles will list new dogs as they come in, even if they’re not ready to be rehomed. Most groups will also welcome enquiries for dogs prior to them being listed on Pet Rescue. If you see a dog you like and you’re prepared to wait a little bit for quarantine, vet-work and temperament testing to be completed, you can get in early with your interest.

3. Use the technology

You can set up an alert on Pet Rescue so that when a pet of a type you’re interested is added to the site, you’ll get an alert. A recent puppy I listed had over 160 enquiries – clearly if you’re enquiry 135 you’re probably not in consideration, no matter how great a home you have to offer. You’ll need to create a Pet Rescue account or sign-in with Facebook, but you can set up an alert here: http://www.petrescue.com.au/alerts/new

And another tip – Pet Rescue doesn’t let you search by breed, but if you are really interested in a specific breed or cross of that breed you can use Google  (bearing in mind that identification of crossbreed dogs is almost impossible by visual analysis, so you’re going to get a lot of variants). In Google search use the syntax: breed month year site:.petrescue.com.au (i.e. whippet february 2014 site:.petrescue.com.au) which will give you a list of dogs identified as whippets or whippet crosses listed in February 2014.

You can use Google alerts to have this sort of search done automatically and the results emailed to you.

Oh, and if you send an enquiry via the Pet Rescue form, make sure you use an email address you’re going to check regularly and double-check that you have listed your email address and telephone number correctly. Rescue groups generally don’t have the time to hunt down the correct contact details for you, so make it easy for them to get in touch.

4. Build a relationship

If you’re interested in a type of pet (for example, a small breed puppy) rather than a specific pet, let the rescue groups around you know what you are looking for. Many groups are happy to keep you in mind when they’re working with pounds. Like them on Facebook or other social media sites and respond to their posts – build a relationship with the group so that they remember you. Even if you’re just sending an enquiry to a group, treat it like an opportunity to build a relationship. Instead of writing, “I want this puppy, where are you?, think about the kind of email you’d like to receive. I’m betting you’d be happier with, “Dear rescue, we are a family of four looking for a new pet. We think Elmer would suit us, what do we need to do. Thank you! The Flinstones.”  First impressions do count!

5. Pay attention to profiles

Don’t fall in love with a cute photo, make sure you read the profile carefully. Groups try to make the profiles informative and they often include details about the kinds of homes the pet will be best suited for. So if the profile says, “Holly would be best suited to a home with another dog” and you don’t have a dog, you might not be considered as a potential home. If there is information you want which isn’t in the profile by all means send an enquiry, but it helps if you have specific questions. It’s hard to answer a question like, “can you tell me more about Fluffy?”. A question like, “you say Holly needs another dog to play with – my neighbour’s dog spends every afternoon at our house, would that work for Holly?” is more likely to get you a useful response.

6. Be honest

Be really upfront and honest about what sort of home you’re going to be and what you want from a pet. Don’t be afraid to be specific about the things you’re looking for and be honest with yourself and the rescue group about your expectations. If you have particular requirements, for example, your dog will be outside only, you’ll probably find it will take longer to find the right pet. Don’t be tempted to fudge the truth, just be prepared for things to take longer.

7. Pay attention to processes

Read the instructions about each group’s application process. If  they ask you to fill in an application form for consideration, fill in the form. Sending an enquiry saying you’re interested in a particular dog will probably mean someone will write back to you to say, “please fill out the form”, by which time you’ve probably missed out.  If you are seriously interested in the pet, but have some questions, then fill out the application form and ask the question as well, including a note that you’ve filled out the form.  If the group requests a phone call rather than an email then give them a call. Groups develop these processes to suit their circumstances and resources; if you work their way you make it easier for everyone. Each pet profile will have instructions on how to apply, so make sure you scroll down and read them. Some groups don’t respond at all if you have not been successful, so it’s worth reading up on their processes to avoid getting frustrated.

8. Be patient (and have a sense of humour)

If you haven’t got a response in a reasonable amount of time, by all means write a gentle reminder. But bear in mind that rescues are run by volunteers and may only have one or two people answering emails. It is a huge administration job to respond to a hundred or more emails. Those 160 inquiries took several hours to respond to, and they weren’t the only emails I received. If you haven’t heard back fairly quickly, shrug your shoulders and move on to the next pet.

9. Be polite

Even if you are frustrated, please avoid the impulse, no matter how understandable, to write the rescue group in question a rude or abusive letter. Groups aren’t perfect, the processes can be amateur and a bit ad hoc, it’s the nature of organisations run by too few people who are also busy doing other things. A polite enquiry or constructive criticism will generally get a reply, and once you’ve set up a friendly relationship you’re in a good position to ask questions or apply for other dogs. Nobody likes being the recipient of nastiness, so a rude email not only won’t help your chances of getting the dog you want in this instance, it will probably put you right to the back of the line if you apply for another pet from the same group.

In the same vein, avoid passive aggressive techniques such as, “my children had their hearts set on Fido, I don’t know how to tell them he’s not coming home”. The job of the rescuer is to find the best home for their pet, not to manage your expectations.

10. Be realistic

By all means choose pets which appeal to you, but try not to get fixated on one particular pet as “the one”. Pet Rescue currently has over 7000 pets looking for new homes. A percentage of those pets have the potential to be your new, best friend. If you’re not successful with one pet or one group, there are many others equally as engaging.

11. Don’t give up hope (altogether)

Most rescue pets go out on trial and sometimes it’s surprising which dogs don’t work out. Even if you’ve received an email saying the pet you’re interested in has been rehomed, don’t be afraid to say you’re still interested if they come back for any reason. A little bit of persistence shows interest as long as you don’t overdo it.


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