We’ve all heard the phrase “Don’t Bully my Breed!” in regards to pit bulls and other types of dogs that are typically the recipients of stereotypes. I get it… people are tired of their dogs being the subject of misinformed accusations and outright lies. However, I’m here to tell you that while I get the reasoning behind it, that’s NOT what we should be saying. Confused? Stick with me.
What well-intentioned ‘advocates’ don’t realize, is that by reminding people not to bully their breed, they aren’t actually changing minds and opening hearts… what they are really doing is reminding those fence-sitters (the people who don’t know much about pit bull dogs, or haven’t established a position on them) that there are a lot of people out there who don’t like them. And if a lot of people don’t like these dogs, why would they want to adopt one? There has to be some truth behind it, right? Of course, we know that isn’t the case, but you wouldn’t convince them of that, not by that statement alone anyhow.
By reminding people that pit bulls are more likely to be euthanized in shelters, we also remind them that there must be something ‘wrong’ with these dogs.
By exaggerating how many pit bulls are abused and used for things like dog fighting, we remind them that there must be something ‘different’ about these dogs.
By talking about how pit bulls are so much better than other types, we remind them that there is something ‘unique’ about these dogs.
By comparing pit bull bite estimations to those of smaller breeds, we remind them that it is okay to judge all dogs based only upon breed.
By talking about how great all pit bulls are with kids, we remind them of all the dogs who were supposed to be, and weren’t.
By saying that “it’s all in how they’re raised!” we remind them that dogs who weren’t raised well, don’t deserve a chance.
By coming across as wacky pit bull people, we remind them that there is something ‘strange’ about us, and our affinity for these types of dogs.
Think about the day after the Super Bowl: nobody wants to buy the loser’s T shirt. The same can be said for shelter dogs. Sure, bleeding-hearts and the people who are embroiled in the day-to-day sorrows of animal rescue are going to be best-sold on the sob stories. But what about the real families, the college students, the retired couples? THOSE are the people to whom we want to market our adoptable dogs! And what are they looking for in a pet? They are looking for an addition to their family, a pup that will sleep in bed with their kids and go on hikes every weekend. They want a dog they can take on vacation or whose silly antics will entertain their friends at a party. The average, awesome family is not going to be interesting in taking on a dog with ‘issues,’ so why do we keep marketing our dogs to people just like us? We are ‘protecting’ our dogs from people who may not be perfect by first application-perusal, but all of that might be nothing a little information and conversation can’t fix. And while we are denying applications based on age or income or lack of experience, other amazing dogs are dying every day in the shelter. Guys, we as a society of animal rescuers, are protecting our dogs to death.
Research has shown that any instance of negative marketing has a tendency to result in psychic numbing. When we frame our dogs as an overwhelming problem or negative abstraction, rather than individuals who bring value to our communities, the public is always going to turn the other way. They will walk away from your marketing thinking ‘This hurts” or “This is unpleasant” as opposed to imagining the added benefit to their lives with a new family pet.
In professional marketing, there is a saying that ‘Sadness repels, and happiness sells.’ Let’s start taking a positive approach to marketing our adoptable dogs. Think about the products that possess marketing tactics that draw you in. Do their advertisements make you feel guilty for not purchasing their product, or rather make you imagine how much better your life would be with that product in it? Of course! And aren’t there about 1,257,832 reasons our adoptable pups would make fantastic pets? Then why aren’t we focusing on that?! It’s not as if we can’t come up with amazing reasons to adopt! In order to find adopters who are truly a great fit for our pups, we need to focus on selling our dogs, not their
Let’s stop unintentionally doing such a disservice to our dogs. Let’s stop marketing to ourselves, and instead focus on all the reasons the public would be lucky to have our adoptable dogs in their lives. There are only about a billion to choose from!