Want to help dogs get adopted? Take one on an excursion.

Coco, 2, is seen before she goes on a field trip through Animal Care Services’ Shelter Paws program.

Contributed photo

Eighteen-month-old Princess arrived at San Antonio Animal Services in mid-summer after being neglected. ACS placed her in foster care before bringing her to the shelter for adoption.

“Princess was ‘Pittie,’ an American Staffordshire terrier and a big girl,” said Lisa Norwood, public relations manager for ACS. “As an older pit bull type dog, he didn’t attract much interest and the few adoption inquiries he had turned down.”

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In early September, however, a couple volunteered to take the Princess on a four-hour adventure, during which they visited a dog-friendly restaurant, went for a long walk and hung out at the couple’s home, where she played with a dog box . games, said Norwood,

“The Princess came back happy and peaceful,” Norwood said. “It’s positive energy versus the crazy energy of being in a kennel with a million dogs sniffing around.”

The Princess day was part of ACS’s Shelter Paws program, which matches neglected dogs in need of enrichment with volunteers willing to take dogs on mini-adventures. Launched five years ago, Shelter Paws was meant to de-stress dogs and improve their mental health so that adopters could better see their personalities and want to take them home.

Volunteers fill out online applications and ACS matches them with a dog.

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“We want to make sure we’re sending dogs that need that enrichment, not someone who came in yesterday,” said Alysia Lavender, live release supervisor at ACS.

Volunteers take a backpack with a water bowl, water, treats and pamphlets on dos and don’ts, as well as places to take the dog, rain or shine, during their outings. Volunteers can take their dogs for a walk, to a pet store or pet-friendly restaurant, or even just to their home to hang out.

“We encourage people to take pictures, selfies and live-stream on social media to promote the dogs in real time,” Norwood said. “This gives us real-time promotion while the dogs are out – and that can increase their chances of adoption.”

Volunteers also fill out a report card that lets prospective adopters know more about the dog’s personality, which is used to enhance the dog’s online profile.

The before and after photos speak for themselves. The princess and 2-year-old Coco, another dog who participated in the program, look scared and anxious in their earlier photos. But during and after their outings, both dogs are all smiles.

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Shelter Paws is a great volunteering opportunity for individuals, couples, families and even businesses looking for an unforgettable staff bonding day. So why not volunteer a dog an adventure and a chance to shine at the shelter? Sometimes, a smile is all it takes to attract a potential adopter. It worked for Princess and Coco. Both were adopted within days of their adventures.

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