Dog Bios: Before you Begin
Make a Connection
Great advice from Heartspeak.org: “While potential adopters appreciate knowing (and should be informed of) the facts on both ends of a pets adoptability spectrum, they’re ultimately looking for a reason to love a pet.” It can be easy to focus on the pet’s needs and forget about the adopter entirely, but they’re the “audience” we need to engage by highlighting why this pet will make a great addition to their life. An easy way to make readers feel connected: picture the ideal owner for a pet and write about them! “Would be a great companion for someone who _______” (Loves to stay active, enjoys a cozy night with a good book, likes to stick to a routine). Or, “if you enjoy ______, you’ll love Charlie!”
Highlight the Positive
An animal’s health or behavioral issues should never be the main focus of their bio. It can be tempting to weed out less committed adopters by focusing on a pet’s limitations and negative behaviors up front, but this can make their issues seem far worse than they really are. Our goal is not to warn away the “wrong” adopters with a long list of an animal’s shortcomings, but to draw in the right adopters by describing their best qualities, what kind of home they will thrive in, and what kind of adopters will connect best with them. A frank and detailed conversation about their needs and limits will take place with staff during the adoption process: our job is to get them in the door! A good rule of thumb: every bio should list twice as many positives as negatives.
Pay Attention to Tone and Language
The tone we use in a bio can make or break the interest an animal receives. Focusing on an animal’s positive traits doesn’t mean skipping over their issues entirely, but it does mean choosing your words very carefully when addressing them. When writing about a restriction or requirement, try to sound warm, playful, and encouraging toward the reader – people should smile when they read it! – otherwise, while trying to ward off unqualified applicants, you might scare away a qualified one by sounding unfriendly or unnecessarily intimidating.
Remember: there’s no such thing as too many positive adjectives!
Wonderful • Adorable • Sweet • Intelligent • Smart • Dignified • Laid Back • Easygoing • Good Natured • Confident • Outgoing • Social • Curious • Loving • Friendly • Affectionate • Snuggly • Cuddly • Gentle • Sensitive • Happy • Silly • Chatty • Bouncy • Goofy • Playful • Exuberant • Mischievous • Adventurous • Athletic • Peppy • Fun-Loving • Spunky • Sassy • Handsome • Stunning • Gorgeous • Beautiful • Volunteer Favorite • Good Listener • Social Butterfly • jaunty
Negative words to avoid entirely:
Hates • Dislikes • Won’t • Can’t • Doesn’t • Shouldn’t • Fearful • Defensive • Scared • Standoffish • Pushy
Instead, convey the same message using positive words:
“Won’t be a good fit with other animals” —–> “will thrive in a home where he can shine as an only pet”
“Shouldn’t/can’t live with small kids —–> “can join a home with adults or older teens”
“Isn’t good with small dogs” —–> “does best with dogs his size or larger”
“Doesn’t like to be left alone” —-> “is happiest when he’s with his people”
*Be careful with “needs” and “should”: these words may not be negative, but repeatedly saying what an adopter “should do” or what an animal “needs to have”, can come off as bossy and make an animal sound high maintenance.
Avoid Gimmicks: the animals are cute, so we don’t have to be!
We can be positive, playful, and warm without veering too far into overly cutesy language (eg. “cross your paws that this furbaby finds the purrfect furever home!”) which can be distracting for the reader. Song lyrics and TV or literary references can also be confusing for those who aren’t clued in, and don’t necessarily tell potential adopters about an animal. We also recommend against speaking in the first person from the animal’s point of view (which can also become a distraction). A good alternative is to use the second person to encourage a connection with the reader: “You’ll love Tasha’s smile!” “Henry will gaze lovingly into your eyes while you pet him.”
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR BIO
A positive and engaging introductory statement about the animal to draw people in, even if it’s a generic one. Think of it as their “headline” (“This social boy is fabulous,” “Gorgeous Lily would love to be your new friend!”).Keep in mind that the first 200 characters of text will show up in an animal’s bio on social media, so make them count!
Some basic questions to answer: How does this pet show affection and connect with people? What seems to make them happy/excited? What’s something cute or endearing about them that makes you smile? What would their ideal day consist of?At least 2 more positive descriptions to draw adopters in, help them feel a connection to the pet, and learn about their personality: are they playful or a couch potato? Do they have a favorite toy or an endearing habit? Imagine the ideal adopter or home for an animal and describe it.
Remember to include commands or tricks that they know. If we feel confident that they’re housebroken, now is the time to brag about it (if we don’t know or if they’re still working on it, don’t mention it – adoption staff will discuss it during application review)!
If applicable: a brief description of medical issues/needs (what they will mean for the animal and what they will mean for the adopter) using plain language for people who may be unfamiliar with veterinary terms.“Charlie has _____, which just means he’ll need ______ (a special diet, a daily medication, some extra monitoring at the vet, etc.Avoid overly technical language and be brief (ideally no more than two sentences total). This is not the time to go over an animal’s entire medical history and treatment – adoption staff can take care of that!
A brief description of special behavior or training needs that adopters should be aware of. Are they still learning important training basics or working on socialization? Will they need a lot of play or exercise? Do they need a more experienced dog owner? Encouraging, casual language is critical!
For dogs, this is where we “translate” their back end behavior notes (“pushy – experienced owners only”) into positive, non-intimidating descriptions (“this bouncy guy will flourish with an experienced owner who can give him structure”).
Keep descriptions concise – we don’t want this to feel like an intimidating list of problems! – and mix in as many positive adjectives as possible (“this friendly boy is working on his manners,” “this wonderful girl will be happiest as the only pet!”)
Use plain language rather than shelter jargon, which can sound more serious than it is. Encourage adopters to see medical and behavior issues for what they are: manageable conditions.
If a pet is hyper or untrained, talk about their training as something ongoing (“he’d love to continue working on his training with you!), rather than something the adopter will need to figure out for themselves (“he needs an adopter who will work on obedience training”)
If we know that they’re treat or toy motivated, be sure to mention that: when you let adopters know what motivates a pet, you “build a bridge” between them and a potential adopter.
Whether they get along with/can live with kids and other animals is important. Remember to talk about the kind of home they can join, rather than the type of home they can’t join!
“No kids” makes a dog sound like it eats kids for breakfast: even people who don’t have kids of their own won’t want a pet that sounds like it will hurt a child. Mention why this restriction exists without making it sound like one: “he’ll be happiest in a home with adults who can be sensitive to his age” or “he can join a home with kids over 12 who have experience with big goofy dogs”
If they get along great with every animal and human they meet, remember to talk that up!
For animals with a lot of restrictions (no other animals, no kids), try to work as many of them as possible into one sentence to keep it from feeling like a list of issues. Instead of “He is not a good candidate for a home with children. He is dominant with other dogs and chases cats, so he needs to be the only pet,” try, “He’ll do best in an adult home where he can shine as the only pet.”
End with a positive closing statement with a call to action. As with our opening statement, this can be generic:
“He can’t wait to meet you, so fill out an application today!” “Come and meet this wonderful girl: we know you’ll fall in love!”*Optional: How the animal came to Albert's Dog Lounge (stray, owner surrender, etc). We don’t speculate or go into great detail about how hard an animal’s life was before being rescued. Negative details fuel the misconception that all shelter animals are broken or have a dark past, and feeling sorry for an animal or angry at past owners won’t get them adopted- a positive connection will
If the pet was surrendered, we share that info without saying or implying anything negative about the surrendering owner. When in doubt: “their owner was no longer able to care for them”
If we know that an animal was with the same person for many years, that can be good info to share: it lets adopters know that the animal has lots of experience living in a home!
We focus on the positive; for example, we would not say the animal came from a “kill shelter,” but we would say that Albert's Dog Lounge saved its life.
EXAMPLES OF LANGUAGE TO USE
Positive opening statements
-“Get ready to fall in love!”
-“The more we get to know _____, the more we fall in love”
-“An outgoing girl who gets along with every person she meets”
-“An energetic dog ready to be your buddy!”
-“An affectionate lady looking for love”
-“A beautiful brunette ready to be your companion”
-“A spunky boy with lots of love to give”
-“A lovable boy who will make a great pet.”
-“Please come and meet her: we know you’ll fall in love.”
-“Wants what every dog wants: a safe and comfortable home where he can be loved.”
-“Appreciates the finer things in life, like a comfy bed and a delicious meal.”
-“A wonderful family dog who’s just missing a family!”
-“He loves you already… and he hasn’t even met you yet!”
-“Will always make you laugh”
-“Whenever you’re having a bad day, he will put a smile on your face”
-“A happy-go-lucky dog who needs a home to call his very own.”
When you don't know an animal very well, but need more positive language
Talk up their appearance: silky coat, stunning green eyes, sleek jet-black coat, cute button nose, a gorgeous petite lady, a handsome black-and-white tuxedo with a cute smudge on his nose
Make generic positive statements. Examples:
-“A lovable boy who will make a great companion.”
-“Is great about using the litterbox”
-“Still a young guy at just 1-2 years old with his whole life ahead of him”
-“Wants what every cat/dog wants: a safe and comfortable home where he can be loved.”
-“Appreciates the finer things in life, like a comfy bed and a delicious meal.”
-“A great family pet who’s just missing a family!”
Dogs: fearful/nervous/shy in shelter or new situations
– Once he knows you and can tell you want to be his friend, he will crawl right in your lap and be your best pal!
– He brightens up when…[describe what makes him happy or at ease]
– Once he’s in a home, his personality will blossom and he’ll show you what a loving companion he can be.
-Although he’s still unsure of himself at the shelter, this sensitive guy opens right up with a gentle touch and some one-on-one time.
– A sensitive girl who needs a moment to learn that you’re a friend
– Is used to the comforts of home, and can’t wait until he can leave the shelter and go back to being loved and pampered.
– Once he’s feeling safe and secure in a loving home setting, his adorable personality will shine
– Would much rather be in a loving home than in the shelter! Once he’s settled at your place, he will be his bouncy, lovable self and will show endless affection to his human family.
– May need some time to warm up to unfamiliar faces, but once she does she is eager to call you a new friend.
– This laid back, quiet girl is looking for a patient, loving adopter who will give her time to open up and adjust in her new home.
– Would appreciate a calm household where she can come out of her shell
– Can be shy at first and likes to greet new guests at her own pace
– Can be shy around unfamiliar people, but once she gets to know you better, she’s eager to call you one of her best friends.
– This sensitive guy is looking for a patient adopter who will give him some times to settle into his new home
– Appreciates time to adapt to new places and would feel most comfortable in a quiet home
– Will be a great companion for someone who likes to enjoy life’s quiet moments
Dog: needs training
-“Is working on his basic manners and obedience training and would love to continue learning in his new home!”
-“Likes to learn new tricks when he’s rewarded with a tasty treat.”
-“This smart guy has already mastered “sit,” and is eager to learn a few more tricks”
-“Is young, so he still has a lot to learn. He would benefit from an adopter who can help him learn his basic manners.”
-“Is eager to learn more of her basic manners, and will work hard when rewarded with a tasty treat!”
-“Is a fast learner”
-“Will respond well to basic obedience training”
-“Is such a good listener and is ready for someone to teach her skills and tricks!”
-“Is learning how to walk on a leash and working on basic obedience training while he’s with Albert's Dog Lounge”
-“Still learning his leash manners and would like a home where he can continue to build his skills”
-“She’d love to work on her basic obedience training so she can become the best pet she can be”
-“Sometimes, when she’s meeting new friends, she gets a little overexcited and forgets to keep all four paws on the floor, wanting to give you a hug, but she quickly recovers and calms down.”
-“He’ll make a great running buddy, jogging partner or fetching friend for an active adopter!”
Dogs: restrictions with children
-Can join a home with kids as young as ______
-Can join a home with kids ___ and up
-Can join an adults-only home
-Will be most comfortable in a home with older kids/kids over ____
-Will be most comfortable in an adult-only home
-Bonus: add positive adjectives (“this friendly boy can join a home with…”)
-Great with kids who are old enough to understand how to interact respectfully with a dog.
-Would do especially well with adults and teens
-Is friendly with people of all ages and would specifically do best with school-age kids, teens, and adults.
-Is a sensitive boy who would be happiest with older kids, teens, and adults.
-Can join a home with older kids and adults who will be sensitive to his age.
-Can join a home with older, dog experienced kids who will be comfortable with his exuberant play style.
-She appreciates time to adapt to new places and would feel most comfortable in a quiet home with kids 10-and-up.
-She would appreciate a calm household with cat-loving humans who are 12 years and older.
No kids at all:
-“Is most comfortable around adults and would do best in an adult-only home.”
-“Likes her peace and quiet and would be happiest in an adult-only home.”
-“She appreciates time to adapt to new places and would feel most comfortable in a quiet adult home”
Dogs: some restrictions/selectivity with other animals
-She may be fine with a calm cat or dog who won’t mind that she’s more interested in people than in them.
-Have a dog at home? He’s made dog friends before and could do well with a canine sibling – especially a female his size. Contact us to see if your dog could be a match!
-Has gotten along with dogs/cats before, so please let us know if you have a dog/cat at home.
-Would do well as an only pet but may be able to live with another dog/cat: please let us know if you have dogs/cats at home and we’ll let you know if they’d be a good match!
-Can live with another dog/cat who has a similar personality (mellow, playful, etc)
-Would prefer being your only pet, but could live with another mellow dog/cat who will be respectful of his space.
-He hasn’t told us how he feels about cats/dogs just yet!
-Can join a home with other small dogs.
-Can live with other dogs who are his size or larger.
-Because his play style can be a bit overwhelming for small dogs, he’ll do best with other large dogs.
-Can join a home with other dogs, since his exuberant play style might be too much for a cat.
Needs to be the only animal in a home
-“Will flourish in a home where she can shine as the only pet”
-“Would love to be your only pet so he can have all your attention to himself!”
-“Will be happiest as your only pet”
-“Can join a home where he’ll be the only pet”
-“Although he’s friendly with other dogs on walks, he’d do best in a household where he’ll be the only pet”
-“Would prefer to be your only pet”
Dogs with multiple restrictions (kids, animals, active home, etc)
-“A home with a yard to play fetch in would be a dream come true for this active boy. He is looking for an experienced adopter and a home with teens-and-up.”
-“Can join an adults-only home with an experienced adopter.”
-“This friendly guy is looking for an experienced adopter and a home with kids 8-and-up.”
-“He can join a family with an experienced adopter and kids 10-and-up.”
-“Would love to be the only pet in his new home. He can join a family with an experienced adopter and kids 12-and-up.”
-“An experienced adopter and a family with teens-and-up would be a great match for this sweet dog.”
“Can join a family with teens-and-up and an experienced adopter who can continue to train him.”
We make people look at the photo and a bio and ask them to fall in love with that bio before they can ever even meet the dog.
GOOD PHOTOS ARE A MUST AND WILL BE WHAT SELLS YOUR DOG!
Here are some tips and examples: (We used black dogs because we think they are the hardest to take pictures of - remember get outside if you can!)
Utilize Good Lighting
DON’T rely on indoor lighting for photos. nothing is worse than a black dog in a dark lit room.
DON’T use your flash, unless you are a pro photographer with off-camera lighting or external flash. your built-in flash is horrendous. It makes the subject look washed out and totally different than how you would see it face-to-face. AND, flash illuminates imperfections.
DO find a window (during the day) to light up your subject. even on an overcast day, you will get great lighting. or go outside!
NO Blurry Photos
DON’T post blurry photos. if you take a blurry photo, just click again. we live in a digital age; I’m sure you’re not using a film camera. one more click won’t hurt. Actually, it will help!
DON’T be afraid to toss any photo that is blurry. sure, you might think, “oh I know it’s blurry, but besides that, it’s a good photo!” No. It isn’t. Just delete it.
DO take close-ups of your subject, focusing on details.
DON’T take a far away photo of a dog where the dog takes up 1 cm of the photo and the rest is grass and background.
Keep Photos Simple
DON’T have tons of clutter in your photo. remove objects out of your viewfinder that could potentially grab attention away from the dog.
DON’T take diagonal photos. it’s okay, everyone goes through a diagonal-photo-taking phase. but just get out of it now. your brain and eyes will be less confused when looking at a straighter photo.
DON’T overdo it with editing. We want to see how your subject looks in reality. Slight enhancing is fine, of course. but when the sky looks purple in mid-day, that doesn't make sense and people focus on that and not the dog. Also no stars or Instagram filters with funny head pieces please.
And lastly, use treats, squeaky toys and whatever their favorite item is to get them to look at you. This is the most important thing!