To Find the Perfect Pet Match, Use Your Brain, Not Your Heart
Pet people spend a silly amount of time arguing with other “factions” of pet people, in my opinion. Not all of them, fortunately, but large enough groups on the ends of various spectrums that can complicate matters more than they need to be.
Take choosing a pet, for example. I would hope most people agree that choosing the right pet for an individual family should be the number one priority. Going to a shelter and picking a dog just because you feel like you “should” is going to be a mistake if you pick a really active puppy when you’re gone all day. And everyone suffers—most of all the pet, who may end up returned to the shelter. Adoption is wonderful, but it shouldn’t be done on the spur of the moment.
Breed fanciers make that argument often. People generally like certain breeds because they have specific traits that appeal to them, and that’s fine too.
On the other hand, some people go the other route and say “I want a Jack Russell” because they saw one on Frasier, despite the fact that they are elderly retirees who have never trained a stubborn terrier breed before. Or perhaps they met a sweet Chihuahua once but then the one they brought home was a total land shark. Same problem.
So a nice solution that really works in both situations is for families to make a list of traits that matter most to them. If someone likes the dog on Frasier because he’s cute and lively but they are a mellow family, maybe a better choice would be an older pug mix. A family that loves Goldens because they’re big and active might be just as happy with a pittie mix, if they just meet the right one.
The focus needs to be on the individual characteristics of a pet, both physical and behavioral, and how they will fit into the family. Less attention should be given to the name of the breed or how badly the heartstrings were tugged.
And while we may kid ourselves by saying “Oh yes, I’m totally active and would love a dog who can run eight miles a day,” it’s possible that what we say and what we do don’t always line up. Or maybe we are focusing on character traits that don’t really matter while missing the ones that do.
Oftentimes there is a pet out there who might be just perfect for us but we have no idea to look for them because we don’t even know how to do the matchmaking.
That’s where technology comes in. I can’t look at a blender on the Williams Sonoma website without getting an email an hour later asking me why I didn’t want to buy it. Facebook seems to know more about me than my own mother. Isn’t it time that data mining was used for something good?
In California, the Amanda Foundation in Beverly Hills is rolling out their Digital Pawprint campaign, which uses online data to target advertisements at prospective pet owners based on information the person has online. Like mountain biking and the X Games? Maybe you’d like to meet their cattle dog mix. Have five kids and an older cat? This super friendly lab/shepherd who adores both would be perfect.
I love the idea of such targeted ad campaigns actually being used for something more constructive than getting me to buy pumpkin spice lip gloss or some new piece of technology I don’t need.
This might give a whole new dimension to the old adoption adage: “I didn’t find him, he found me—on Facebook.”
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang