As I sit here typing with my dog’s head resting on my foot, it got me thinking about the importance of pets when choosing a partner. My 67-pound puppy (yes, I always refer to her as my puppy) has been an important part of my life since the day that I adopted her. Not only do my social plans revolve around her walks, but my work schedule and vacation ideas do as well. I consider her an important part of my family, rather than just a pet.
In fact, research has shown that many people consider animals to be integral parts of their household, and become deeply attached to them (Blouin, 2013). So how do our pets come into play when choosing who we date?
Pet Owners As Potential Partners
Research has shown that women rate hypothetical men as more attractive if they are described as being dog owners. It is believed that this is because being a pet owner signals care-taking qualities to potential mates (Tifferet, Kruger, Bar-Lev, & Zeller, 2013).
When it comes to gender differences and pets, studies suggest that women are more likely to pay attention to a potential partner’s interactions with pets than men do, which corroborates previous findings that women are more discerning when it comes to selecting mates (Gray, Volsche, Garcia, & Fisher, 2015). Having a pet demonstrates a certain level of commitment and care for another, and will allow a person to see if his or her partner is willing to step up to the plate.
How Pets Affect A Relationship
Having a pet doesn’t just alter the perception others have of you; it can affect your relationship with your partner as well. The experience of taking care of a pet teaches people how to work with their partners as a team. Simply figuring out a plan for how to care for the pet (like creating a walking and feeding schedule) requires you and your partner to work together, negotiate when you have differing views and find a way to compromise so you are both on the same page. Being a good pet parent requires you to be responsible for another life besides your own.
Beyond learning how to co-parent, pet parenting may be associated with how we relate to other people. A 2014 study by Megan Mueller demonstrated a relationship between the time people spent caring for their pets and how much they contributed to their community, as a result of helping their friends and neighbors. The better the quality of the relationship with the pet, the more connected the participants felt to their community. Overall, the study suggested that people who care for animals may be more likely to develop empathy and sympathy for others (Mueller, 2014).
So, what does this information mean for you? If you are an animal lover, share that information in your dating profile, and don’t be afraid to include a note about “must love dogs” or “must love cats.” If your pet doesn’t make it into a profile picture, bringing him or her up on the first date is important. Be upfront about your love of animals and strong connection to your pets. You will want potential partners to know what you hold dear, and you may be signaling to others what a good caretaker you actually are.
You may also be interested in 4 Ways To Give Your Online Dating Profile A Makeover In 2017
Blouin, D. D. (2013). Are dogs children, companions, or just animals? Understanding variations in people’s orientations toward animals. Anthrozoös, 26, 279–294.
Gray, P. B., Volsche, S. L., Garcia, J. R., & Fisher, H. E. (2015). The roles of pet dogs and cats in human courtship and dating. Anthrozoös, 28(4), 673-683.
Mueller, M. K. (2014). Is human-animal interaction (HAI) linked to positive youth development? Initial answers. Applied Developmental Science, 18, 5-16.
Tifferet, S., Kruger, D. J., Bar-Lev, O. and Zeller, S. (2013). Dog ownership increases attractiveness and attenuates perceptions of short-term mating strategy in cad-like men. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 121–129.
Thanks for your insightful blog. I have a 14 year old rat terrier-jack Russel terrier named Bruzer. He was my late wife’s and my 6th child. I’ve had dogs & cats throughout my life, but Bruzer is the love of my life. He will not eat unless I’m home. Usually sitting on my lap while I’m trying to work on my computer. I can’t imagine my life without him, but I feel upset that I have to leave him alone while I’m at work realizing that he has emotional issues being alone.
Again thanks for your article.
Wow. This is a subject that I’ve thought about a lot as a single man looking for a life partner, and I want to share a contrarian view for the sake of this discussion.
I’m not saying I’m right and the view taken by the author is wrong. I agree and completely understand the importance of pets in our lives. I know that we form very strong bonds with dogs, and they provide us with love, companionship, an undeniable connection, and loyalty unto the day they die. We guys could learn an important lesson from that! And I agree that the way a guy treats pets says volumes about his character. That said, however, I also believe that putting a dog first is, in a way, misguided, and is one factor that keeps women single for far too long.
One of the major, national dating sites that has a ton of questions to answer, in a section on a person’s values, asks the member the question of what they think is worse: starving children or animal abuse. Or whether they are equally bad. I love animals and I despise animal abuse. My heart goes out to the poor creatures and I feel anger toward the abuser. As bad as it is to see an abused and suffering animal, I believe without any doubt whatsoever that human life is more valuable than an animal’s. I mean, to me, its a non-starter. I am forever shocked when I find that a person’s (woman’s, in my case) answer to this question is that they are equally bad. Really? A starving child is no worse than an abused puppy? I think that reflects a moral vacuum. At least to me. As much as I really want to have a nurturing partner, I won’t reach out to a woman who thinks the two are equally bad.
First, let’s recognize that this article starts out with the assumption that it’s fine to put a dog first. The entire article has this as the underlying basis. But I want to challenge that. What dog lovers are really doing, if they follow the lines of this article, is putting dogs above humans. Just like in my example above. “Must love dogs” means that you believe your relationship with your dog is actually more important than that of a potential future husband. Yes, I know there are a lot of fish in the sea, and there are plenty of men to choose from who like dogs. But how often does magic happen with another human being? Not often. Isn’t that why we’re still single?
Now, I can understand that, for women who are looking for a future husband to have children with, the way a man treats pets can be a good indicator of their ability to be a nurturing partner and father. I don’t think its the only test, though. I know men who are incredibly loving, supportive and devoted dads, who simply don’t care for pets. In fact, my own father was one of those. So it’s not the only predictor of a future, caring partner, or of father-worthiness. Furthermore, for women who have already raised children it’s simply not applicable. And for those who are still raising children, its far more important to see how he relates to your kids than your dog. Of course, if a man is mean to your dog, I get it. He’s disqualified.
Then, it’s so often the case that single women feel that sense of loneliness, which no one likes, is filled, at least in part, by the love of her dog. There’s no denying this fact. But I believe there’s a cost to that. Along with work, yoga, hiking, traveling, friends, etc. — in other words, a very full life — I believe it leaves people too satisfied. They don’t have the same type of yearning for bonding with a man. And so it’s much easier to be too picky. This is another reason we stay single far too long, and it’s worse when we’re older and divorced. Of course, we not only know more about what we really need in a partner after having the experience of a long relationship, especially one that went bad, and we understand the stakes are higher as we get older. So we’re at least very cautious, if not downright afraid. Add a dog into the mix, and your chances of bonding with a guy, I believe, go down. There’s nothing wrong with needing someone. Remember the song sung by Barbara Streisand, “People”? She sang, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” We need to bond. That’s our human nature. It’s a good thing. I honestly believe that a woman’s relationship with a dog is more than that of a mother with her child. Fill that part of the hole in your heart, and you make it harder to fill it with a man’s love. That’s my concern, and what I suspect may be a dynamic at work here. I recently dated a woman for a very short time — just a handful of dates — who said that she purposefully has left time in her calendar open and did not get a dog for company, just so that she is more available for a man, schedule-wise and heart-wise. This, in my opinion, is is a woman with a high emotional IQ.
As a man, I don’t expect a woman to drop everything and put what’s important to her aside. However, as a man, I can also say that it’s tough to compete these days, not only with other men for the attention of a woman I fancy, but with super busy lives and dogs that sleep with them on the bed. Want to stay overnight at my place? Can’t — got to take the dog out for a walk and feed him. Want to get away for a weekend to a resort we’d both really love? Can’t — don’t want to leave the dog in a kennel or don’t trust a dog sitting service. Can we have the dog sleep outside the bedroom because I don’t want a pair of eyes watching us make passionate love? Nope, he’s used to sleeping with me in the bedroom. And the list goes on. I love animals, and have had and loved my own pets. But I want to feel that I come first. I think women make finding a good man more difficult by putting dogs first.
Jim – very well said and it is so very nice to see a voice of reason amidst the dog fanaticism that has gripped our country recently. Thank you for for sharing.