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How to Treat--and Not Treat--Your Dog

Re Dianne Klein’s column “If You Really Love Your Dog, You’ll Treat It Like One” (Dec. 12):

I find the contents extremely disturbing. It would appear that the columnist interviewed Sandra Ackerman (who admits to being a self-taught behaviorist), who reportedly made some pronouncements pertaining to the treatment of companion animals, specifically dogs, that unwittingly encourage miscommunication and consequent mistreatment of many pets.

Dogs must have the social interaction and affection of their owners. Depriving them of touch, petting, stroking and other emotional support is cruel, inappropriate and counterproductive. It is also dangerous because, unfortunately, too many owners will accept Ackerman’s advice as carte blanche to keep their companion animals in the back yard. The result of such emotional and physical deprivation is too frequently a variety of behavior problems.

Of course, dogs should be treated as dogs! This does not mean that they should not be loved--and shown that love. One cannot spoil a living being with love, only permissiveness.

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When I battle, on a daily basis, the outmoded attitudes that “it’s just a dumb beast who needs only food and shelter” and similar other archaic and misinformed ideas, and I resolve serious behavior and problems by showing love and affection with educated methods, then such a column is out of place and adds to the already-disastrous condition of companion animals.

C. MIRIAM YARDEN

Long Beach

C. Miriam Yarden is an animal behavior specialist.

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