“She gave me The Look.” That’s what my aunt always said when I asked her how she knew, when faced with dozens of furry faces at her local shelter, that a little black dog named Gypsy was the one that she wanted to bring home.
I didn’t fully understand the concept of The Look until years later when I was searching for my own dog to adopt. I walked up and down the rows of kennels until I came to a very cute, very orange 1-year-old mixed breed dog. He was barking incessantly. He lifted his leg on a stack of newspapers when they brought him out to see me. The volunteer informed me that he had been previously adopted, but the owners brought him back after one week. Red flags? Sure. But there it was, clear as day– The Look. A little bit of paperwork and $75 dollars later, he hopped in my car and we headed home.
Riley demonstrating "The Look"
Riley and I had our growing pains in the beginning. I’ll save stories of behavioral challenges, learning opportunities, and the coffee table that was my favorite piece of furniture until Riley ate it, for later. He’s a great dog in general, and a perfect dog for me. But basing my decision entirely on the cute factor and his big brown eyes was probably not the best idea. Though it turns out, I’m not alone.
A recent study released by the ASPCA shows that when it comes to selecting a dog, physical appearance is the number one factor that influences people’s decision. Cats on the other hand, are chosen more for their behavioral traits than their looks. These results don’t surprise me– who can resist a puppy face or a mischievous, playful cat? But as everyone who has a pet knows, there is a lot more to them than their looks or endearing behaviors.
This is what makes the study by the ASPCA interesting. The results provide insight to the adoption counselors that work in shelters, and can help them direct people to pets that fit their home and lifestyles. By knowing what motivates people to choose a pet, counselors can guide conversations and help make good matches that will last a lifetime.
Watch the video below to learn more about how people choose pets at shelters.
The ASPCA estimates that 5-7 million companion animals enter shelters each year, and about half of those are brought in and relinquished by owners (as opposed to picked up by animal control). Anything that helps pet passionate families find their perfect pet sounds like good news to me!