Newcastle Herald

LETTER: Fear, aggression, big difference



I AM a dog groomer in Charlestown and in Grooming 101 we were taught to interpret dog behaviour, a vital part of the trade for our safety and the dogs’.

At either end of the behaviour scale are ‘‘fearful dogs’’ and ‘‘aggressive dogs’’, both of whom are most likely to bite you without warning.

Trust me, there is a huge difference between the two.

Most of my first-timers are fearful, as they don’t know me and are in unfamiliar surroundings.

Letting them run around to sniff and sometimes mark their new territory is the difference between a good and bad grooming session.

Forcing them to comply against their will usually ends with either a bite or an injured dog.

The RSPCA temperament test sends shivers up my spine. If a dog cowers or growls at a tester, is it then needle time?

Most of my grooming dogs would face sudden death if, God forbid, they ended up at the RSPCA.

Even my own dogs, when I mention the word ‘‘bath’’ run and cower behind the lounge, and a trip to the vet becomes a mission to get them through the front door, followed by barking and growling. Would they be put down also?

Spending a few minutes observing a dog in a cage cannot determine its true behaviour. If a dog is petrified it will growl, whimper, urinate and, if pushed, bite.

Megan Foley, Charlestown

Showing 8 comments

  • LoveMyDogs

    Thanks for speaking up Megan. For those people who understand dog, behaviour, it is mind-boggling to hear details of this temp test which clearly have elements of the bizarre! I am now doing extra training with my dogs but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get them to like cats or ignore their fight or flight instincts when they hear a sudden noise.

  • Bureau de veritas

    Clearly Megan knows her stuff, not so sure about the people that developed the temp test. Come on awarding points against a dog for barking and/or lunging at a cat? To my thinking lucky for cat owners the RSPCA doesn’t have a similar test for cats where they substitute a bird for a cat and hunting behaviour for a bark or every single cat would be put down. Back to dogs, some breeds are more wary of strangers and new situations than others, Ridgebacks come straight to mind. Ridgebacks statistically (and even when proportioning the results) of attacks to breed ratio appears at the low end of the statistics. Yet most Ridgebacks would probably fail the temp test. Pointers and Weimaraners have similar traits and also appear as a low risk in the statistics. Most Mastiffs also exhibit some of these behaviours however once some Mastiffs feel completely threatened at least some of them wont back down from a confrontation unless someone they trust its there to guide them though it.

  • Mariewegner

    As a foreigner I cannot understand at all, that the Australian public trusts the RSPCA. They spend huge amounts of money for advertising in TV. Very cute commercials. Only to get donations. Millions on their bank account, shelterworkers sent by the unemployment office, of course volunteers. They sell the lucrative animals and appear to kill the shelfwarmers. Excuse is always the behaviour test. Now and then a tearful interview in TV to blame the public.

    (Edited by a moderator)

  • Mbonnar

    And don’t buy the lie…ie that they routinely trust over weeks or even months…

  • My aunts dog would fail the test – he barks, chews up anything he can get his teeth on and is afraid of water! Animals have quirks just like humans do, doesn’t mean that they’re no less worthy of living on this planet than what humans are. In fact I’d say that there are a few humans that should be euthanised instead of innocent animals!

  • Border Collie


    Thank you for an excellent letter. I can relate to many of your points.

    Our Border Collie is a naturally fearful dog despite a loving home, an inside dog and being with us pretty well 24/7….he is part of our family. We have had him since a pup.

    We are well aware that if more than one person steps up to pat him, his ears go back and his head and eyes become rock solid. At that point, we step in. Fear. Not agression…….fear.

    He has been socialised with other dogs and has undergone all levels of training yet his fear is innate. Occasionally, whilst being groomed by us he will gently “mouth” either the brush or our hand. No big deal as he withdraws with a gentle admonishment.

    Poorly educated, lazy and abusive owners are the major part of the problem.

  • Bobg

    Megan, your dog has fear aggression not fear, mouthing is a sign of dominance, big deal not no big deal, poorly educated owners??, sorry mate the dog owns you.

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