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Resources For Virtual Fosters
HOW TO WRITE A GREAT & POSITIVE BIO
There are several options for creating a great bio:
- Write it from the dog’s point of view. Let them tell their own story and share what makes them fun and awesome.
- Write it in the 3rd person and talk about the dog while sharing their likes and dislikes.
- Create an interview style biography where you can interview the dog and share the questions with their responses.
The Opening Lines
The first few lines of any dog bio should be like an “intro” to a story. It should be engaging, witty, possibly funny and entice people to want to learn more. This may very well be the most important part of the bio, so crafting the perfect intro is worth the time!
After the intro is written then you can start addressing the basics which should include:
- Special needs
- Type of home that they would be best for the dog
Keep the Bio Positive!
Even negative things about a dog can be turned around with a positive twist. Below are some ways you can spin perceived “negatives” into positives.
Dogs that should not be with small kids. Not every dog should be with little kids – and that is fine. But when you word like this “no kids under 12” it just sounds like they are aggressive or not friendly and that can be a big turn off.
Instead of “no small children” try “I am a big dufus who can sometimes forget just how big I am and I would not want to mow down your little ones, so a home with adults or older kids might be best.”
“I can be a little scared when too many people are jumping or running around me, and would love a home with older people so I can feel safe.”
Dogs that are not good with other dogs or cats.
Instead of “not good with other dogs” or “not good with cats” try “Lulu would love to spend her nights snuggled up with just her people while getting belly rubs and giving kisses.”
“I can be a little frightful around other 4 legged critters but I am sure I am enough to keep you entertained and loved.”
Dogs that are very active.
“Did you know that I have been considered a Frisbee champion for my mad fetch skills? If you love your Frisbee as much as I love mine, you should hit me up so we can be a champion team”
A dog that may be less active and more of a couch potato.
“I may not be winning any fetch awards, but I will definitely win over your heart with my mad snuggling skills. If a night of snack, snuggling and sitcoms is your thing – we may be a perfect match”.
A special needs dog:
“Callie’s eyes and ears may not be as strong as other dogs, but her heart sure is. If a 5 mile walk is your thing, Callie is all in and when she is done she will let you know she is ready for some snuggle time by jumping on the couch. She doesn’t realize she has needs – she just knows she is special. If snuggling, long walks and a little patience are your thing, she may be your perfect girl.”
A dog that may be a bit “attached” to their people…
“Wally is the neighborhood flirt who always wants to be the center of your world. He is always on the hunt for cuddles and snuggles and will be loyal – maybe too loyal as he can often be found in the bathroom with me. If a constantly wet ball is your thing, Wally can spend hours playing fetch in the yard – as long as you are by his side. A true best friend, Wally is waiting to see if you are his match so come on down and meet him.”
Share who they are, not just what they are…
Try Mood, Attitude, Opinion:
Mood = Joyful, ray of sunshine, goofy, playful
Attitude = Live for the moment, “don’t worry, be happy®, no bad days
Opinion = I do a good thing, I get to eat a good thing.
Showcase pets in a lifestyle context
- In the bio answer an adopter’s question: “What would my life look like with that pet in it?”
- Tell their stories (everyone loves a prequel) Backstories are all the rage.
Adoption profile starter questions
- What about this pet makes you smile or laugh?
- What is their favorite toy?
- Who is their best friend or favorite person? Why?
- Is there a special reason they got their name?
- What does their best day look like?
- What makes them aww-inspiring?
- What was this pet’s life like before?
- How did their medical conditions / issues make them feel?
- How did they find their way to you?
- What does their ideal family look like? What would make them a perfect match and well -equipped to care for this pet?
- What are this pet’s gifts and strengths? What can they offer an adopting family?
- Is there a name that encapsulates these gifts and strengths?
1. Always photograph dogs outside if at all possible. Shoot in shade if it’s bright and sunny. Allow them to explore their surroundings for several minutes before diving into your photography. Only start once they have sufficiently explored their immediate area. Keep in mind the disparity between outdoor time and kennel time for these animals. You can’t blame them for wanting to explore!
2. Talk sweetly and cheerfully to dogs while photographing them. Think over-the-top cheerful. You want to get them from “I’m in doggie jail” mindset to “I’m having fun, this person likes me” mindset. This takes some energy on your part and your voice is a very powerful tool here.
For cats happy but soothing voices help here. Be careful not to be too cheerful with cats as this can (obviously) freak out a skittish shelter kitty. Keep talking to the pets the entire time. This will help them connect with you and trust you, and also help them relax, so you can get those elusive ‘ears up and forward’ looks, and maybe even get a smile from a dog.
3. Take your time. Spend at least 5 minutes, ideally 10 for each dog. As much as 15 minutes per cat. They need to acclimate to the change between ‘in kennel’ and ‘not in kennel.’ They will relax once they have made this transition mentally. Also the more time you spend on the photo, the less time they will spend in the shelter, so think of how much time the shelter saves in the long run! It is worth taking the extra time on so many levels for so many reasons.
4. Try not to hold the camera in front of your face, especially for cats. Hold it just below your face (chest area) and frame up your shots in the live preview/lcd viewfinder by looking down at it. This will help the animals see your face and trust you more easily, thus, ideally, lessening their stress and potential fear of the camera. This takes practice but if you zoom out all the way you have more room for error.
5. For both cats and dogs look for unique and unusual backdrops. Trust me when I say, as one who adopted her dog after initially seeing her on Petfinder, and has seen many, many (many) photos of pets in shelters, ANYTHING is better than a linoleum floor, white wall and flourescent lighting in the background. Or worse, a shot of the pet in the kennel, with the flash fired in their face.
At the Seattle Animal Shelter outside they have a red brick wall which would make a terrific backdrop for dogs. There is also a plain concrete wall that sits above a planter filled with pretty green plants, which would also work really well. Also look for as natural an environment as possible. Greenery, plants, flowers, trees all help to ‘sell’ an image because the dogs look like they are in a natural setting as opposed to pet prison. Even shots taken on plain bark backgrounds work well. Keep the background pretty simple as you want the focus to be on the pet, not the background. Try not to get any distracting elements in the shot (garbage cans, cars, fences, etc).
Also, inside at the Seattle Animal Shelter in the kitty area I spotted a stainless steel wall that comes up to about thigh-level. “Wow,” I thought, having shot cats in front of steel walls in a client’s house, “now THAT would make a terrific backdrop.” We had a black kitten just waiting for us and I was right. The metal reflected the light and looked uber cool behind the young kitty.
6. Don’t use flash. In terms of camera and flash settings, here is what I told the shelter, so as to get the best images, in the least amount of light, with the most focus on the pet, and, now here is the tricky part, without using the flash, even inside, even on the kitties. Using a $100 compact point and shoot camera. Yep, it is possible!
Now please keep in mind that these settings are designed to be used with the entry-level cameras. If your or your shelter happen to have a fancy $500 prosumer camera, there is a lot more that you can do beyond what I detail below. In that case it’s best to read the manual to really take full advantage of all of the settings on the camera. Also, this is a VERY basic overview of the basics of photography. Anyone interested in really understanding how a camera works would do good to check out a book on digital photography from the library. There is a lot that can be learned!
MARKETING YOUR FOSTER DOG
Create calling cards and flyers.
Calling cards and flyers are another way to showcase individual dogs and promote them for adoption. You can create calling cards yourself and print them out on card stock, available at office supply stores. On the cards (which can be about the size of a business card), include the dog’s photo, gender, age, shelter ID number, the name of shelter, the address, an email address, and a phone number. The cards can be handed out when volunteers are out in public with the dogs. You can also place the cards at the shelter reception area, plus carry them with you so you can hand them out wherever you go.
Social media is a great way to showcase available animals!
- Make frequent posts on each of your social media accounts—include info on how to adopt the animal and where to meet the animal.
- Be responsive to comments from potential adopters and any messages sent to your social media platforms.
- Try out all the tools on each platform—there are some innovative ways to reach and engage current and new followers.
Connect With Your Community
- Through simple engagement boosters like @tagging and adding locations to posts. This helps create a broader reach for your content and establishes credibility for the organization.
- Infuse humor! Laughter is a universal communicator and one of the key ways humans bond with one another. Being lighthearted and funny lets people know it’s ok to relax and can help them form positive associations with your mission, animals, and pet adoption as a whole. It’s endearing and breaks down barriers and stereotypes.
- By telling stories. Real, raw emotion is motivational and makes a space for authentic connection. Remember to stick to the facts, and always maintain a tone of optimism and hope so your followers still feel useful, even with the sad or difficult stories.