My boyfriend jokes that he should have got a dog when he was single. I’m not put off by the statement–it’s totally true. I’ve seen him at the dog park. There, with our adorable terrier by his side, he’s transformed. The nice, shy guy I know disappears; he’s replaced by a total ladies man. Women of all ages gather around him, cooing every time he reaches into his bag to pull out a dog treat.
Dogs have long been considered to be good wingmen (or wingwomen). “I look after my neighbour’s dog just to flirt at the dog park and it’s a natural conversation starter on the street,” admitted one female friend when I asked if she thought dogs were good dating accessories. She was hardly an outlier. Another woman confessed, “I have definitely struck up conversations with cute folks using their dogs as an in.”
One man I questioned about the romantic power of pets sheepishly remembered choosing a picture of himself with a dog as a Tinder profile, assuming it would help attract women. He later swapped it out, noting it felt a bit calculated. Morals aside, he wasn’t wrong in assuming a dog would help him convince people to swipe right.
One study literally set out to see if a dog helps you pick up by tracking the success of a man approaching women and asking for their phone numbers. The participant spoke to 240 women, sometimes with a dog in tow and sometimes alone. Dog-free approaches resulted in a 1 in 10 success rate. But that jumped to 1 in 3 with a dog. Dig Dates, the “dog person’s dating app,” was even launched on the belief people are looking for love with dog fans. It combines matchmaking services with pet brand discounts and training tips.
Dognition, a citizen science project that studies dog-human relationships, found 82% of pet owners feel more comfortable approaching a cute stranger if they had their pet by their side. Not only that, having a dog can literally make you more attractive to others. A 1992 study asked people to rank photographs of strangers by how likable and happy they seemed. Photos with dogs in them were consistently rated higher. Two decades later Match.com asked 1200 of their subscribers about dating dog owners. More than half admitted to finding someone more attractive if they heard they’d adopted a pet.
Across several studies and surveys, dog owners were consistently perceived to be more attractive, happier, caring, approachable, and empathetic–all good qualities in a potential date.
Speaking to the New York Times, Dr Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute in Indiana and a chief adviser to Match.com, reflected on this trend. She suggested that having a dog proves you can “care for a creature, that you can follow a schedule and get home to feed it, that you can walk it and love it and spend time with it.” That display of responsibility said a lot more than, “I remember to buy poop bags.” She argued that when you see a man with a dog you think: “He’s capable of nurturing, of giving without receiving a lot, of caring for another. He’s made a commitment to this animal.”
The help doesn’t stop there: dogs are also good for ongoing relationships. Pet ownership has been linked to greater overall relationship quality, partner responsiveness, levels of commitment, and a larger sense of investment. A review of the ongoing benefits of pets showed they also improve people’s empathy overtime.
So there you have it. Dogs are pretty much the Cupid of the animal world.
For more life with dogs: