I manage a website for the Oldies Club, which is a UK based dog rescue charity specialising in older dogs, which also advertises senior dogs for other charities around the UK, and I also offer volunteer help with the websites of several other charities.

It can be difficult to decide which information about a dog should be provided most prominently on the website. I'm aware of research suggesting that a good quality photo is vital, but what other details are most likely to result in a dog receiving inquiries and home offers and should be prioritized?

Are there other factors that influence adopters when choosing a rescue to adopt from?

4 Answers 4


I recently read about the "Meet Your Match" dog assessment system by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that is backed by scientific research and concentrates on the character of each individual dog instead of general characteristics of the breed.

The dog is first put into one of 3 categories of character. Then the level of energy and/or problematic behavior is assessed in 3 categories as well. The combinations of both categories allows a rough descriptions of what potential adopters can and should expect from this dog:

dog assessment categories

  • 1st row: Socially motivated (love to play with humans and dogs, love to cuddle, need stable family, might have separation anxiety)
  • 2nd row: Internally motivated (like play and social interactions, but get distracted, have their own will, are independent and may refuse to follow commands)
  • 3rd row: Externally motivated (love to play with any kind of toys, easily learn new tricks, would do anything for treats)
  • Green category: high energy dogs, need very dedicated and experienced owners, a lot of stimulation and may require a lot of training
  • Orange category: slightly active dogs, may have some behavioral problems, may require some training, may be suited for inexperienced owners, but not for families with small children or other pets
  • Purple category: low energy dogs, are balanced and laid back, tend not to display any problematic behaviors, perfectly suited for inexperienced owners or families with small children and other pets

I think that this assessment is far superior to any biographical data, because it is covers a predefined set of character tests that uncovers behavior you might simply not have triggered in the past.

The whole manual, that includes the complete guide and checklists to assess the dogs and checklists for potential adopters can be found here.


I volunteer at an animal shelter in the US, and we often get senior pets coming to us to be rehomed. We have found that a "biography" really helps to promote a pet in addition to appealing photos: As the volunteers and staff get to know an animal, someone will write up a paragraph about the animal: This will include some information about the animal's personality (e.g. likes to play fetch with a ball, is easy to walk on a leash/lead, like to cuddle quietly, etc.).

It is also very helpful to note whether a dog gets along with other dogs, cats, children as far as we can tell. We also pull the sympathy card at times: We had a 16 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix dumped on us during the summer of 2014. He was in good health, although somewhat feeble.

We put out a Facebook appeal and he was adopted within a week. (The last I heard, he is still doing well). I also know some shelters have "Senior for Seniors" program where the adoption fee is reduced or eliminated when a senior person (65 +) adopts an older pet.

So the key is to try and find something that a reader might identify with and find appealing. There are thousands of pets available on the web, so you need something to make yours stand out.


In addition to the many great answers given, you may want to provide a bit of the animal's history, in a way that doesn't break privacy; a dog that was rescued from an abusive home, a pet regretfully surrendered when a family had to move and couldn't find an apartment that took pets, and a cherished companion whose owner has passed away will inspire different sorts of placements, and any of those situations may generate the extra sympathy that can help place an older animal.

(I currently live with a formerly-abused rescue dog, and someone who just fell in love with his cute face would have been unlikely to provide what he needed.)


A lot the same as jaylynn2.

A check list of basics:

  • OK with dogs
  • OK with cats
  • OK with children
  • House trained
  • Weight (many rentals have weight limit)

And a paragraph or two about the dog. Be honest about health issues.

Photos are great, but don't have the photo in the same spot for every dog. It looks like a mug shot.

Cute bones for check boxes. You don't want it to look clinical.

There are also clearing sites where multiple shelters can post. For sure do that. Even if those sites are ugly.

Register with SEO to get your site searchable. The search engines have a free page on how to make your site more crawlable (searchable).

Screen adopters. Encourage them to test for a week with no obligation. You want the dog in welcome home.

And don't pick a stupid name for the dog. I foster a lot and they give me problem dogs. I am not mean, but if the dog cannot comply in my home the dog is not place-able. I got this dog named Kitty because she was a scaredy cat. I did not change the name, as she needed to learn it. So then after 10 weeks of foster they begged me to keep her, as she made it very obvious she did not want to be any place else. Now I am stuck with a dog named Kitty. Her stage name is Miss K.

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