The effects of social training and other factors on adoption success of shelter dogs

Alexandra Protopopova, Amanda Joy Gilmour, Rebecca Hannah Weiss, Jacqueline Yontsye Shen, Clive David Lawrence Wynne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


The aim of the present study was to increase adoption rates of dogs housed in shelters. Previous research suggests that the public perceives friendly and sociable dogs as more adoptable. The present study hypothesized that dogs trained to gaze into potential adopters' eyes would be perceived as more attractive and would therefore have a greater likelihood of being adopted. In addition, we investigated other individual factors that may predict adoption success. For each dog in the study, we tracked outcome (adoption or euthanasia), physical characteristics, and how they were acquired by the shelter. Dogs in a group trained to gaze at people were not significantly more likely to be adopted than untrained dogs in a control group (70.7% in the training group vs. 67.8% in the control group, P>0.10). However, breed type, mode of intake (how dogs were taken into the shelter), and kennel location were predictive of adoption (P<0.001, P<0.05. and P<0.05 respectively) and size, breed type, and mode of intake were predictive of length of stay (P<0.05, P=0.05, and P<0.01 respectively). In a second experiment, participants unaware of the dogs' outcomes (adoption or euthanasia) rated photographs of the dogs, according to attractiveness, on a scale ranging from 0 to 1. The average rating of attractiveness for the adopted and euthanized group were significantly different: 0.50 (SD. =0.08) for adopted dogs and 0.46 (SD. =0.09) for the euthanized dogs (P<0.05). These findings suggest that other factors besides gazing may be more important to adopters when considering adoption of a dog.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-68
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 15 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adoption
  • Dog
  • Overpopulation
  • Shelter
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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