Getting the Word Out

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It's never too early to start thinking about placing your foster dog. Keep an eye out for opportunities: if you know someone who is looking for a dog, mention that you might have one available for placement in the near future. Let friends and family know that your foster pup will be up for adoption in the near future, and that you would appreciate help with getting the word out when the time comes.

Bogie, formerly known as "Smokey Joe," adopted from WAGS in March 2009

My recommendation, however, would be to start seriously advertising your foster dog only when you think he's about ready to move on. The problem with advertising a foster dog too far in advance is that you never know when a prospective adopter will bite, and once most people decide to finally take the plunge and get a dog, they want to have that dog RIGHT NOW. In the fizz of excitement that surrounds the arrival of a new dog, even waiting one extra day seems unbearable -- forget the two weeks you might have wanted to finish teaching your foster pup not to yank quite so hard on the leash. Then you're faced with a choice between adopting out a dog that you don't think is 100% ready for his new life yet, or frustrating and possibly losing his potential forever family. It's not a great position to be in, and for that reason I suggest waiting on the all-out ad campaign until your foster pup is well and truly ready to go.

When he is ready, it's time to start the marketing blitz. You never know what's going to work; I've had foster dogs adopted at formal adoption events, as a result of posting cute videos and anecdotes on the Internet, through rescue group referrals, and from casual conversations with strangers who remarked on how cute a dog was while walking by. There's no one sure thing that will or won't work, so you just have to try everything in the hopes of making the right connection.

  • Adoption Events: WAGS hosts regular adoption events at pet supply stores and veterinary hospitals around the area. These usually draw a pretty good turnout. If your foster pup is able to tolerate a crowded event with small children and other dogs in close proximity, you should bring her to as many events as possible. If that's not something your dog can handle, you'll have to get a little more creative.
  • "Adopt Me" Vests and Bandannas: Put one on your foster dog as she walks around the neighborhood, and have business cards handy so that you can give them to people who express interest in your pup. If you want to make your own cards (as I do, so I can link adopters to my dog blog, which has lots of information, pictures, and videos of my foster dogs), Vistaprint produces professional-looking cards at a reasonable cost. You can get "Adopt Me" accessories at a number of places, or make your own:
  • Flyers: Post flyers in your neighborhood pet supply shops, grocery stores, coffeeshops and anywhere else that will let you put one up. Most local businesses are pretty receptive to this if you ask politely (after all, it's a noncontroversial feel-good way to help, and cute pet pictures never hurt a business!). You can generate flyers using the PetBond Flyer Maker free online tool, or use your own program to put one together.
  • Online Listings: WAGS will post your foster pup on Petfinder for you. All you have to do is provide a few pictures, a short video if you have one, and a quick write-up about your dog. You can also post your foster dog on Craigslist (but you'll have to be vigilant about screening cranks and spammers, and I've never had much success with it) and social networking sites such as Facebook. If you have good photography skills (or can enlist the help of someone who does), this can work amazingly well, but online listings are heavily reliant on the power of a good picture, so it's crucial to have that in place.
  • Word of Mouth: Tell your friends to tell their friends! You never know who's looking for a dog, and you can never have too many homes lined up. Even after you place your foster dog, WAGS has dozens of others who still need somewhere to go.