At the Shelter: Can We Put People in the Mood to Adopt?

Elderly Lady with PetI’m one of those people whose mind always seems to translate things into how they relate to dogs. The other morning was no exception. I came across an article stating that researchers have discovered what they call the “temperature-premium” effect. According to the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, a series of five field and lab studies were used to measure and manipulate physical warmth in conjunction with shoppers’ assessments of perceived value of products. The findings suggest that “exposure to physical warmth activates the concept of emotional warmth.” This study follows others that found a relationship between positive feelings and reduced distance from the subject, and suggests that increased temperatures also reduce people’s perceived distance from the subject.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we “trick” anyone into feeling like they should adopt a dog; the last thing anyone wants is adopter’s remorse and a return. But there’s nothing wrong with making people feel as comfortable and receptive as possible when meeting their potential new best friend. In regard to the temperature premium effect, the meet and greet rooms in shelters and rescues comes to mind. In the study, the target temperature was a few degrees above 72. That’s not a temperature that would be uncomfortable to most dogs, and it might relax people. If you run an adoption facility, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to conduct an unofficial “study” to see whether it helps? I wonder too whether we could extrapolate from the study that a higher temperature in the kennel buildings would make people feel closer to the subjects in distance, which might in turn reduce emotional distance.

We also know that music can help dogs to relax in shelter type environments, thanks to studies that have been done with classical music as well as music that is psychoacoustically designed to help dogs relax, such as the Through a Dog’s Ear series. And, we know that certain types of music are more likely to make humans relax. As a general rule, classical music is more relaxing than, say, heavy metal music—unless, of course, you’re a sixteen-year-old boy. So why not pump relaxing music into the kennels? It could relax the dogs, in turn making them more adoptable, and calm the people, putting them more at ease and hopefully in a more receptive state.

There are also other senses that can be engaged to help dogs and people to relax. Smell is a dog’s primary sense. DAP—Dog Appeasing Pheromone—is a product that mimics the pheromones emitted by a lactating female dog. Turns out they’re comforting not only to puppies, but to adults as well. (There is some debate about whether this product is effective; to me, it falls into the can’t-hurt-might-help category, and I have heard plenty of anecdotal evidence where it did work.) Using DAP in kennels could well help dogs to relax. But what about humans who don’t have the vomero-nasal organ dogs have to detect those pheromones? Well, there’s aromatherapy. What about some nice, relaxing lavender?

You get the idea. We all want to stay in environments that we enjoy longer than ones in which we’re uncomfortable. (Case in point: I have walked out of more mall stores that were playing obnoxious music than I can count.) If we’re physically comfortable and feeling pleasantly relaxed, we’re a lot more likely to be in a receptive state mentally and emotionally. Again, we’re certainly aren’t aiming to “trick” anyone into adoptions. But isn’t it worth our while to do everything we can to help people be more open to considering the dogs?
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5 Responses to At the Shelter: Can We Put People in the Mood to Adopt?

  1. Larry says:

    Sounds like an idea worth trying Nicole. My pointer/hound mix, Ella, is a very amped up 3 year old who sometimes leaps off the ground with all four legs, but when I play the piano, she almost always comes over and lays down next to the bench. A warm place with pleasing music sure sounds more inviting than a cold sterile environment.

  2. I so agree with a relaxing environment, especially the music aspect. When our present dog was a puppy, we had an instrumental CD in the player most nights, a selection of classical and modern ballads. She would be asleep before the end of the second track, and even at 9 years of age, this same CD has the same effect on her. Dogs pick up on our own anxieties so if we are relaxed around them, then surely they will be relaxed around us?
    I hope so.

  3. Evelyn Haskins says:


    Here we are mugh more concerned with feeling cool! 72 degrees, mind, is considered COLD!

    I think that we need to think –comfort zone 🙂

    I’d leave lavender out too — some of us find it highly unpleasant. I’ve walked out of more shops because they smelled of perfumes or incense than I have because of the unpleasant “music”. (You can always put your hands over your ears — but can’t hold your nose for more that a minute 😦

    “They” say that we humans respond to pheromones even if we cannot smell them.

  4. jet says:

    It is worth considering these things. My boss bought a pet shop puppy (from a puppy farm) because he didn’t want to take his kids to a shelter to pick a new dog – because he thought it would be too much for them with all the dirt and barking and crying dogs. 😛