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Letters to the Editor: No, you can’t just walk up and pet my very cute dog

Dogs play at an off-leash dog park in Encino while a person sits and watches.
Dogs play at an off-leash dog park in Encino last October.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: Dog-walking business owner Melonie San Pietro tells the truth about paying attention to dogs’ signals to avoid bites. But she does not tell us what to do with that information, or who needs to do what.

Right know, I am rescuing a very loving, traumatized dog. The biggest challenge isn’t the dog; it’s the pedestrians and especially dog owners and their off-leash dogs who blithely claim the right to interact with our “really cute dog.”

It’s the latter who are really not paying attention — not only to my dog or theirs, but also to posted signs on dog leashing. While everyone can lose in these situations, the real loser is my dog, who is re-traumatized as I am doing my best to bring her into a safe space emotionally.

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San Pietro alludes to the split in the dog-training world between affirmative and aversive training. She dismisses stimulation collars, but mine has been a game-changer. Like any tool, it can be misused, even abused. At its best, it is a “hearing aid, helping your dog hear and give value to your words,” as my trainer said.

Just as in the real world, the real answer is a balanced approach that sometimes requires tough love. Ask any parent if they could raise their kids only on treats and praise — or, maybe that’s why we’re having trouble listening to others and finding a middle way in the culture wars.

Gary Keene, Ventura

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To the editor: San Pietro puts much of the blame for dog bites on the victim, but there’s no good reason to force the public to accept the danger of a bite. We have leash laws, and it’s past time to have all dogs muzzled while in public. Then, they can’t bite.

We should also consider requiring dog insurance so the owners can cover the huge medical expenses from the reported 4.5 million annual U.S. dog bites.

A lot of people are afraid of dogs, for good reason. Dogs kill up to 50 Americans per year, often defenseless children or elderly people. Dogs can be unpredictable, and all breeds bite.

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Two separate times while shopping, I asked dog owners who got too close me to keep away. One followed me to the parking lot, became angry and advanced rapidly on me screaming, trying to get the dog to bite. The other owner picked up their dog and pushed it inches from my face and advanced while I backed away. I was terrified.

Dean Reber, West Hollywood

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