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  • Writer's pictureClaire Corridan

With the exception of my first ever dog, when I was aged 10, I have only ever acquired rescue dogs. It is important to think very carefully about where you are going to source a new dog, and the reasons contributing to that decision. For example:

  • The age of the dog you would like.

  • The breed or type and size of dog you would like.

  • Where you currently live- can you accommodate the dog comfortably within your home and do you have access to a garden or outdoor space, the dog can easily access.

  • Do you have the knowledge, patience and time to train either a new puppy or a dog, who has previous life experience you may know very little about.

There is a huge amount to think about in making this decision. I would always advise talking it over with someone you can trust, who has the knowledge and expertise to give you honest advice (accepting that it may not be what you want to hear).

Your veterinary practice will hopefully be able to offer you advice clinics with one of their qualified veterinary nursing team, where you can discuss your thoughts on this. In the veterinary clinic we see dogs of all shapes and sizes. We also see them in one of the most stressful environments a dog can be in, so we can give you honest advice, based on our experience across a wide range of dog types.

If you opt to go through an animal charity or shelter- they vary quite considerably in the training and experience their staff have. Some of the charities are world leaders in canine welfare and behaviour, with both the resources and research to support their staff and services. Other charities are run by volunteers, who are passionate about dogs but working with far more limited resources. Some of the charities require home checks, questionnaires to be completed, training and trial days to be attended and a compulsory adoption fee to be paid. To be honest- the more rigorous the process, the better the organisation probably is. They appreciate that rescue dogs, in most cases, have already experienced less than ideal starts in life, often they have complex needs and require additional training/ patience/ understanding, so making sure the right dog goes to the right home is hugely important for everyone involved- the new owners, the charity and most importantly for the dog!

Quite often, rescue animals can appear fearful or unsettled in new environments and with new people. Sometimes people assume that this means they have been "abused" in some way. It is important to remember that lack of positive experiences and training can be just as harmful to psychological and social development in dogs, as being abused (physically/ mentally or through neglect). New or prospective owners need to be mindful of this and ensure they have the time, patience and empathy to work with the dog, to help them address any issues and learn how to feel safe and confident in new situations, with new people and with dogs and other species of animals too.

Getting a dog should hopefully be a 10-18 year commitment, for the duration of that dog's life, so you need to be clear that whatever life changes you hope to experience over that time period, fits in with your new dog and ensuring they too, get everything they need out of life. There are advantages to getting a young animal, perceived as a blank canvas, but remember that there are no guarantees- genetics and the experience of the dam (mother dog) whilst she is pregnant with her pups and in their first 6-8 weeks of life, while they live with the dam, are hugely important too. This is why the veterinary and dog welfare organisations are so cautious about commercially produced pups. It is very difficult to ensure the dam is healthy, happy and living in a rich, varied environment, if she is living in an enclosure on a puppy farm. Remember- lack of positive experience can be just as damaging as negative experiences. You ideally want your new dog to have come from a healthy, happy dam, irrespective of breed- crossbreeds make magnificent pet dogs too!

If you have children living in your household, or visiting regularly, you need to consider whether you will feel relaxed and comfortable having them living close to your new dog. Obviously we can train dogs to be comfortable around children (using desensitisation and counter conditioning); we can and should also train children to be safe and comfortable around dogs too- the younger this process starts the better. Children must be taught empathy for all animals and how to read dog behaviour and avoid making the dog feel threatened in any way, which will force them to react, irrespective of their breed or how "well behaved" they usually are. The truth is there is no such thing as a "child safe" dog, dogs and children should always be supervised by a 'competent' adult and that dogs sometimes need to be protected from children, as opposed the reverse.

Believe me, rescue dogs can be fabulous pets- every one of mine has come from a different background and has had unique personality and challenges too. Gaining their trust and seeing them truly happy is a wonderful feeling- but this is not a decision to be embarked on lightly. Do your homework, get specialist advice, either from your vet or from a suitably trained dog expert and go into this with your eyes wide open, accepting there may be bumps along the way, but they can be so worth it!

Good luck & enjoy!

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  • Writer's pictureClaire Corridan

In my native Scotland, we go "guising" at Halloween- children dress-up in fancy dress costumes, visit their neighbours and do a "party piece," sing a song, tell a joke, do a wee dance or magic trick, in return for sweeties, tangerines/apples and on occasion a small amount of pocket- money. There is no trick as an alternative to giving treats- it's a positive experience for the children and the households they visit!

Please do give a thought to the animals living both inside and outside of people's homes this Halloween!

Scary People

Cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and other companion animals, who are normally really well socialised with children, may be apprehensive and then anxious meeting "sugar rush" children, full of squealing excitement and with painted faces and weird and wonderful costumes on. When the only options are to freeze, run away and hide or "ask/ bark/ hiss" to get the children to back off and give them space- many pets might be misunderstood and potentially admonished for reacting negatively. You and I know that the children mean no harm- but if your pet doesn't know that, they are going to want to scarper or vocalise to create a safe distance between themselves and the "scary person or people."

Safe & Happy Place

Make sure you think about where your pets are going to be safe, quiet and comfortable, if you are expecting brightly coloured and noisy visitors to your home. Make sure they have some interesting toys, chews or food dispensing games to keep them entertained. If you have access to lovely appeasing pheromones (Adaptil/ Feliway/ Rabbit Appeasing Pheromone) please do plug them in or spray them on bedding or bandanas.

Pet Costumes

I am personally not a great fan of dressing pets up- I would be much happier dressing up myself and allowing my pets to be "au naturale" but still participating in the fun and treats. If your pet particularly enjoys dressing up- please make sure the clothing is not heavy, tight or restrictive in any way. If they struggle when you put it on, and have their heads and tails down, or spend their time trying to get it off, please remove, accepting it's just not for them. If they appear to enjoy it, not minding it being put on and possibly enjoying the additional attention they get- then fair enough.

Chocolate & Sweeties

Please remember that dogs and cats should never be fed "normal or non- pet friendly" chocolate or sweets. The chemicals in both (Theobromine/ Xylitol) are toxic for animals. Instead- treat them with their favourite biscuits or pet friendly treats instead.


Animals both indoors and outside (remember the livestock in the fields and wild birds/ foxes/ rabbits) exposed to the noise from fireworks, without any understanding that we humans consider them "entertaining!" Never let off fireworks anywhere near animals, of any kind. If your pets are indoors, put them in a room away from direct exposure to fireworks, away from conservatories or patio doors; play a loud movie or music to distract them, treat them to nice things to eat or their favourite games instead, to try and turn the whole thing into a positive rather than negative experience. Plan your dog walks for earlier in the day, before dark, so they only need out for a quick loo break when it's dark. Select routes away from planned public firework displays. Please keep dogs on lead- as if they are off lead and startled, they could run off or get into bother (risk of getting hit by a car in panic).

Medications and Anti- Anxiety supplements

There are some things you can buy, over- the counter- or online which might help? I mentioned pheromones, which are great, and completely safe. There are some others you can look up including Zylkene (milk protein casein) and products containing L- Tryptophan. There are also licensed "panicolytic" medications your vet can advise you on, including Sileo, Xanax, Pexion and longer- term anti- anxiety medications such as Reconcile, Clomicalm and Selgian. Don't leave it until the last minute- book in to see your vet asap if you think your pet needs help coping during the firework season.

Have fun & make sure your pets stay safe and happy too!

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  • Writer's pictureClaire Corridan

The IVBA’s inaugural event, held in Belfast on September 16th, 2022, was arranged in honour of Mr Des Thompson OBE, BA, MVB, MSc (VetGP) Hon. FRCVS. Des was the Chairman of the British Veterinary Behaviour Association for decades and campaigned to promote both the veterinary profession and the discipline of veterinary behaviour in Ireland throughout his career. Anyone who has met Des and enjoyed his company for any amount of time, can tell you how proud he is of both Ireland and the veterinary profession. Des’s input, energy and connections were instrumental in establishing the Young Vet Network and Vetlife/IVBF.

Combining 2 of Des’s passions: veterinary orthopaedics and veterinary behavioural medicine, the IVBA Belfast conference promised to “explore how a veterinary behavioural approach can enhance the management of companion animal orthopaedic cases.” Guest speakers included Professor Stuart Carmichael (Joint Adventures Ltd) who explained the importance of treating the animal and not the x-ray! Anne Rogers (VN & Director at AniEd) covered the preparation of patients for elective orthopaedic surgeries. The double act of Dr James Hunt (Pet Pain Relief, UK) and Dr Claire Corridan (Great Expectations & UCD) talked about both the pharmacological and behavioural strategies we can use to handle painful and frightened cases attending for orthopaedic procedures in practice. Dr Siobhan Menzies (Holistic Pet NI) explored post operative management to include analgesic and rehabilitation protocols, to improve compliance and surgical success rates.

For more photos and feedback from the event, visit

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