Playing games gets shelter animals adopted. Who knew?
Volunteering at your local animal shelter is something that can be very fun and rewarding. But many people think this often-unrecognized role is only about washing towels, cleaning cages, and walking dogs and they forget about the vital role that local shelter volunteers play in the animal adoption process.
Volunteers have time to interact with animals at the shelter and to enrich their lives more frequently than shelter staff can. And the volunteer activities can help on the ultimate path of getting the animals adopted.
Here’s 3 games you can play that will make a big difference:
1. Watch –
You might be thinking, “Watch? How’s that a game?” but we’re here to tell you that this simple command is one of the secret keys to get animals adopted. When you play watch with a shelter dog, you’re teaching them to pay attention and to make eye contact with you. This game works best with food motivated dogs, but ultimately any dog can be taught if the volunteer has enough patience and persistence.
Once the animal has learned the value of the watch command, they’ll start to associate it with rewards and praise and will be keen to keep doing it. Hmmm…what to do with a motivated animal, focused on you, and excited about the impending reward? How about grab some adoption profile photos?
In their excited state playing the watch game these animals are showing off their good stuff and usually have perky ears, bright eyes and straight posture. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll even get a little cock of the head cuteness that will bring adopters far and wide.
2. Find the cookie –
If you haven’t played this game with your own pets, you’ll likely be adding it to your bag of tricks. The find the cookie game is a great game to play with shelter pets as well though as it enriches their mind while keeping them engaged.
The simple premise is to start with some yummy treats (make sure to ask the shelter staff of course). By getting the dog interested in the treats, and then allowing them to watch as you hide them behind a table leg, or under a chair, you’ll start to pique their interest that this is something easy and fun.
Slowly, you’ll work up to the more advanced version whereby you have the animal wait in another room or behind a barrier of sorts (no cheating after all) and then once you’ve hidden the tasty morsels you start the game with “Find the cookie” and shadow the shelter dog as they sniff around to discover where you’ve hidden the treats.
When coupled with lots of praise for finding their rewards, you’ll get the dogs excited that they’re making you happy, and having fun at the same time.
3. Hide and seek –
Since you were a kid, this game was likely one of the neighborhood goto games. It’s quick to learn, easy to play and keeps you mentally and physically stimulated. So why not play it with animals?
When you play hide-and-seek with shelter dogs, you get them excited about using their senses to try and find you. Make sure you have plenty of shelter approved treats and always reward them with lots of praise and happy words when they find you.