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Visiting a shelter can be an emotional experience for some people – and living in a shelter environment can be overwhelming or stressful for shy or energetic dogs. These sweet animals have so much love to give, but their beautiful and playful personalities can be overshadowed by a natural and understandable reaction to their environment. Sadly, this can result in a lot of amazing dogs being overlooked, contributing to the 2.7 million animals euthanized in shelters every year. Are you wondering how we can dispel myths about shelter pets and encourage more people to adopt? It’s time to get creative!

A carefully crafted adoption bio and photo capturing a dog’s true personality are two important ways to help dogs get adopted, but a little extra attention can help push adoption rates to the next level. In an effort to find homes for the 3.9 million dogs entering shelters every year, rescues and shelters are working to create unique ways to showcase animals. Creative adoption programs and campaigns not only help raise awareness about pet adoption and pet homelessness but give dogs who may otherwise be passed over a chance to get adopted.

1. Go Fetch!

The Olympics Trained Adoptable Dogs to Be Ball Boys and Other Ingenious Programs Used to Help Get Dogs AdoptedAssociated Press/Leonardo Martins

A fun game of fetch falls under the “best day ever” category for a lot of pup, so why not turn an infatuation with tennis balls into something that helps dogs find a home? Well, that’s exactly what happened for four homeless dogs in Sao Paulo, Brazil. These talented pups had been abandoned and were living on the streets until they were taken in by an area shelter. After four months of training, they made their debut at the Brazil Open and totally stole the show as they showcased their awesome  ball retrieving skills. These dogs were saved from the streets and given a chance to show people that you can definitely teach an old dog new tricks.

Other athletes – U.S. Olympic medalists Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and Kerri Walsh, just to name a few –  have also helped spread awareness by posing for photos with puppies to help promote Clear the Shelters day.  When it comes to helping dogs get adopted, everyone’s a winner!

2. Hotels are Going to the Dogs – Literally!

The Olympics Trained Adoptable Dogs to Be Ball Boys and Other Ingenious Programs Used to Help Get Dogs AdoptedAloft Asheville Downtown/Facebook

When guests arrive to check in at the Aloft Asheville Downtown in North Carolina, they’re greeted by big smiles – and wagging tails. This dog-friendly hotel has partnered with Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue to help homeless dogs find a home. The dogs get a cozy spot at the front desk and hang out in the lobby, where guests can interact with the pups or take them on a walk. Each dog also has an adoption photo and short bio on the hotel’s Facebook page to help people learn more about their personality. If someone is interested in adopting, they fill out an application with the rescue and go through the adoption process before taking their new furry friend home. The program has been a huge success and earned national recognition. Hopefully, more hotels will follow in their path!

3. Running Buddies

The Olympics Trained Adoptable Dogs to Be Ball Boys and Other Ingenious Programs Used to Help Get Dogs AdoptedKaren Hardwick for RuffTail Runners/Runners World

For dogs who stay at a shelter, a lot of their time is spent hanging out in their kennels. When a dog has a lot of extra energy to burn, this can cause stress and frustration. The solution? Pair energetic adoptable dogs with local runners. The dogs get much-needed exercise and the humans get to help save animals. If you’re a runner who would like to help dogs in your community, give your local shelter a call and ask if they have a running or walking program. And who knows, you might even fall in love with your four-legged running buddy and adopt him yourself like this extreme marathoner!

4. Yes, There Is an App for That

The Olympics Trained Adoptable Dogs to Be Ball Boys and Other Ingenious Programs Used to Help Get Dogs Adopted


You’ve heard about dating apps for humans, but what about an app that matches you with your perfect adoptable pet? Enter BarkBuddy! Created by the people who brought you BarkBox, this free app allows you to browse through adoptable pets from over 2,500 shelter and rescue groups with a simple swipe of the screen. Once you find a pup you like, share your profile with the rescue organization and wait for the magic to happen. And unlike awkward first dates, this match is bound to be a success. Seriously, what will they think of next?

These are just some of the fun and creative ways to help adoptable dogs find homes. Do your part by spreading awareness about adoption or volunteering at your local shelter.

Lead image source: Brian Kelly/Flickr