But in general I suspect that the trend Clay identifies is a lagging indicator — a kind of dye marker — of the problem rather than the cause of it. People are getting dogs because of the atomization and alienation that are endemic to the erosion of civil society. Again, it’s possible that in anecdotal cases that this is making these problems worse. Are (stereotypical) cat ladies misanthropic hermits because they have cats? Or do they have cats because they are misanthropic hermits? I suspect the latter.
It’s worth bearing in mind that dog ownership — when done right — gets you out of the house. Dog ownership is also very often a social lubricant. When I lived in Adams Morgan one of the most small-d democratic and civic-minded activities in my life involved going to the local dog park with Cosmo, the late, great, wonderdog and former It Dog of the American Right®. I made friends with people I might never have said a word to otherwise. We self-organized to clean up the park from time to time and we watched out for each other’s dogs. My generally shy father loved to take our basset hound, Norman, around the neighborhood in part because of all the attention Norman got (the ladies loved Norman). He was a walking conversation piece.