I saw a woman with a big dog milling outside of a small produce store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. This produce store has narrow aisles and is often crowded. Moreover, the fresh produce is only a couple of feet off the ground, putting it at eye-and mouth-level for a creature the size of the large dog that the woman was with. It seemed clear that the woman planned to go into the produce store. It was also clear that she was making no motion to tie her dog outside. I could see where this was going. But much in the same way that you can see where a slow-motion train-wreck is going, it can be difficult to process what you are watching.
The woman took this large dog into the produce store.
There were a good number of people in the store. The dog immediately started sniffing the produce. This was easy for the dog to do because its nose was level with the produce. Store employees pretended it wasn’t happening. The woman, with her dog on a large leash, marched through the store.
To quote Cicero:
“O tempora, o mores!”Cicero
The behavior of dog owners in New York City as a whole as taken a significant turn for the worse since the spring of 2020. This is not to say that all dog owners are dedicated to contributing to the in-progress decline of New York City, but it is clear that a greater percentage of dog owners find ways to be incredibly annoying with their dogs than before 2020. There are those who think that the world is supposed to be impressed by the fact that they have dogs. These people tend to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time on the sidewalk. There are people who acquired dogs they never bothered to train, which leads to the rest of us having to endure incessant yapping, snarling, and general unsocial behavior.
But there is a potentially more pressing issue.
I wrote a broadside against outdoor dining sheds in New York City last month. The issue of dogs has become so pressing that I once took a digression from complaining about the dining sheds to complain about bad dog owners:
[T]he overall quality of dog ownership in Brooklyn has taken a decisive dip since the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus. One might begin to suspect that a large number of self-involved, entitled, irresponsible people decided to get dogs while they were ‘social distancing,’ and that they should not have done this. People refuse to shorten their leashes or train their dogs. Dog owners walk their dogs into tree pits, flower beds, and alongside front gardens, begging them to mark all the territory. They take dogs into stores that no one as recently as four years ago would have contemplated bringing their dogs. I see dog owners take their dogs into stores selling and serving food. Do you see where this is going? Why are people bringing dogs into mostly-enclosed outdoor dining sheds? Why are the dogs sometimes on tables? No one cares how lovely your “furbaby” is. Dogs do not belong in restaurants.Nicholas A. Ferrell
To quote Cicero (probably):
I couldn’t have said it better myself.Cicero (Definitely, probably… maybe… alright I made it up)
Dogs in outdoor dining sheds are a problem, but not a universal one. People have the choice of not eating in filthy dining sheds or patronizing establishments that afflict them on neighborhoods. However, we all have to buy food somewhere. Dog owners who allow their dogs to slobber on fresh lettuce that someone else will buy are menaces to society.
Last May, I wrote a short Leaflet on a battle between a dog and a rat in New York City. A four-year old dog caught a rat and held it in its mouth until its responsible owner ordered her to release the rodent. Because this owner apparently trained his dog (refreshing), the dog complied. Here, we have a story of what sounds like a responsible dog owner and a perfectly nice dog being a dog. But this story highlights why dogs do not belong in stores other than pet stores, especially stores selling food for human beings. Dogs are not clean. Even the best Fido will put disgusting things in its mouth. Fido should not be drooling on my food. Fido should not even be breathing on my food.
I wrote a 2020 post about Thomas Sowell’s views on discipline in schools. Mr. Sowell opined that “perhaps no more than one-tenth of students  need to be hard-core troublemakers for good education to be impossible.” In that post, I suggested that Mr. Sowell’s theory applies in broader events as well. For example, a city can only deal with so much criminality before order breaks down. Does the same apply to basic etiquette and decency on the sidewalks and in the stores. I think that it just might. Despite the increase in bad dog owner behavior, it is probably the case that more dog owners than not do a fine job caring for their dogs without troubling others (I say probably because my confidence in that sentiment is shaken on a daily basis). But how many misbehaving dog owners does it take for the situation to be a problem? How many dogs does it take to make a grocery with fresh produce unsanitary? How many barking does does it take to keep a neighborhood up at night and torture those who work from home? How many dogs relieving themselves in tree pits and flower beds does it take to damage the plants? How many dogs does it take to make a mess of someone’s private property, to damage their aesthetic iron fence? How many aggressive, untrained dogs does it take to hurt a person or even someone’s docile, well-trained dog?
The answer is certainly less than 10%, and I fear that the problem dog owners make up more than 10% of the dog owner population.