It’s A Dog’s World

After encountering a doberman at his gym, Farhad Manjoo throws up his hands:

Sometime in the last decade, dogs achieved dominion over urban America. They are everywhere now, allowed in places that used to belong exclusively to humans, and sometimes only to human adults: the office, restaurants, museums, buses, trains, malls, supermarkets, barber shops, banks, post offices. Even at the park and other places where dogs belong, they’ve been given free rein. Dogs are frequently allowed to wander off leash, to run toward you and around you, to run across the baseball field or basketball court, to get up in your grill. Even worse than the dogs are the owners, who seem never to consider whether there may be people in the gym/office/restaurant/museum who do not care to be in close proximity to their dogs. After all, what kind of monster would have a problem with a poor innocent widdle doggie?

As a dog-lover, I think he’s actually right about the owners. In all urban public situations, outside a dog park, you should have a leash on your dog. Where we now live – the West Village – feels at times like a very expensive dog complex. And that’s where the difficulty comes in. For many passers-by, greeting and cooing over the beagle and basset-mutt is one extreme of the problem. There, the trouble comes from humans, not dogs. But every owner should know the temperament of their dogs, keep them away from strangers if they are “unfriendly”, and make sure that any stranger feels comfortable. It’s called manners. Like cyclists who routinely violate traffic rules, these dog-owners make the rest of us look bad.

Manjoo compares his feelings about dogs to how some people feel about kids:

I realize that, although [my two-year old is] impossibly cute, it’s possible he might aggravate some people. For this reason, whenever I go into public spaces with my toddler, I treat him as if I were handling nuclear waste or a dangerous animal. I keep him confined. I shush him. If he does anything out of turn—screams, touches people—I make a show of telling him to quit it and I apologize profusely. And, finally, there are some places that are completely off-limits to my son: nice restaurants, contemplative adult spaces like grown-up museums and coffee shops, the gym, and the office. Especially the office.

I couldn’t agree more.