Being at an animal shelter is anything but a normal experience. Dogs and cats are often stressed from all the noises, smells and just the strange environment. And for potential adopters, it's tough to figure out a pet's personality when the dog is panting, pacing and generally anxious.

One Ohio animal shelter came up with a calming solution. The Toledo Area Humane Society created what they call a Real Life Room. The out-of-the-way place has a home-like setting, filled with a comfortable recliner, a fluffy rug, a dog bed, a big box of toys and even a TV. The goal is to make dogs and owners feel like they're at home, away from all the strangeness of the shelter.

Behind the closed door, the pet can relax — and the family can get a sense of what the dog or cat is really like.

Sometimes the shelter also uses the room to give stressed-out shelter dogs a place to unwind for a while. Some long-time residents that seem particularly unhappy with their shelter stay have had their spirits lifted by visiting the room, according to the shelter.

“Every dog reacts differently to the kennels: Some dogs really don’t mind the noise and energy of that environment. However, for dogs that were surrendered to the shelter, that can be a shocking contrast to the comforts they previously experienced at their homes,” a representative for the shelter told People.

“For these dogs, the RLR (Real Life Room) provides an environment they are used to. Dogs that are stressed from the kennels because of the noise, high volume of people, and other dogs, the RLR allows them to have some quiet time where they can relax and destress, just be a dog.”

The Austin Animal Center in Texas likes the idea so much, it's including a real life room as part of the shelter's new expansion project.

"It's hard to get to know a dog when you're just taking them for a walk or taking them out to a play yard," Austin Animal Center Kasey Spain tells MNN. "With these rooms, you can go there with a cat or dog and see if they cuddle on the couch, if they're playful, if they jump on the furniture … everything that potential adopters want to know."

When pets aren't as stressed, their real personalities shine through, Spain says, and that often translates to the real goal: more adoptions.

Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.