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A match made in heaven


TRUE WUFF By adopting a dog, owners get to make sure the chemistry is there.

The rewarding world of adopting a rescue dog from a rehoming shelter

Ask the Vet
Esther Van Luipen

A bittersweet story: Apparently the number of stray and unwanted dogs euthanised in 2015 decreased dramatically by 37 percent compared to 2014. This is excellent news and also a sure sign that there is a change in attitude compared to a few years ago.
Dogs are generally better looked after (sometimes better than the owners themselves!), and most dogs are now neutered at a young age to prevent any unwanted puppies. Maybe the new law that made microchipping of every dog mandatory also has a positive influence.
The other side of the story, though, shows that dogs are still being put down simply because there are too many unwanted animals and not enough people interested in adopting them.
Recently I heard a very interesting story. In Finland, the situation seems to be the other way around. There, many people prefer to adopt a homeless dog rather than buy a puppy from a breeder. The Finish shelters can’t meet the demand and need to adopt dogs from other countries to rehome. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Ireland would take that same attitude?
People often tell me they wouldn’t like to adopt a dog from a shelter because they wouldn’t know their background, which could lead to problems or even dangerous situations. While it’s true that the people who run the shelters don’t always have much information about the dogs that are brought in, in my experience they are mostly an excellent judge of character. Some shelters even have specially trained behaviourists that are trained to assess the dogs’ behaviour. They evaluate each and every one separately, and can also change unwanted behaviours through training and socialising. Aggressive dogs are not included in any adoption programme.
Potential new owners are also assessed. Dogs are not just placed ‘willy nilly’ in a new home. The new owner needs to be suitable for the dog. The dogs must get a good standard of living, which means that they will have to be kept in the house. A fenced garden is also important.
Nowadays, choosing a dog from a shelter has become a bit like internet dating. Most shelters have a website with pictures and a profile of every dog available. So you if you like the look and profile of a certain dog you can arrange a ‘date’ to go and meet the dog. But like internet dating, ‘chemistry’ is the most important thing. It is absolutely vital that there is chemistry between you and the dog. So when you meet that dog of your dreams, take it for a walk, talk to each other, rub it and caress it, and look deep into each others’ eyes. You might end up with a different dog altogether! It doesn’t matter, so long as it’s a match made in heaven.

Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at

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