Four-legged friends have long provided their own furry brand of affection—but pets can facilitate relationships of the human variety, too. Dogs in particular, with their long-held reputation as man’s best friend (and probably woman’s, too), have lately acquired a new role: wingman. Pongo, the canine protagonist of Disney’s 1961 animated classic, 101 Dalmatians, might have been the first wing-dog in pop culture: he famously eyed look-alike pairs of women and dogs in the hope of finding mates for himself and his owner. These days, with dog parks fast becoming a hotspot for mingling with other singles, and online dating for pet lovers on the rise, pets are becoming a must-have accessory on the dating scene.
Imagine this scene: strolling in the park, you spot what looks like a good catch—muscular and handsome, he enjoys tossing a ball around, and has an eye for bird-watching. He’s a chocolate lab, and as your toy poodle moseys over to introduce herself, you notice that his owner is pretty cute, too.
The dogs-as-matchmakers story isn’t as unusual as one might think. In the US, the odds a person has ever used his or her pet to attract a new mate are about 1 in 14.29, and stories that start with two lone pet owners and end with a happy family of four (or more) abound at dog parks. House-bound pets can also be a help in the romance department, particularly if you date online, where a picture of you and your pet can be an attention-grabber.
It isn’t much of a surprise that pets provide an easy in for single people looking to date. After all, pet lovers already have one major thing in common, and animals offer a ready-made excuse to strike up conversation with a stranger. An American Kennel Club (AKC) survey of dog owners found that 46% of women said they would stop to chat with anyone accompanied by a cute puppy, and 58% of men felt a dog was a “fool-proof babe magnet.” Plus, meeting other pet aficionados eliminates the concern that you might meet someone who likes you, but not your dog. According to the AKC, two-thirds of dog owners wouldn’t date someone who didn’t get along with their canine companion.
But pets provide more than just an in on the dating scene: in some ways, they reflect the kinds of human partners their owners are looking for. Nearly 90% of dog-owning women say their dogs have at least one quality they’d like to find in a spouse. And 34% of women and 23% of men polled by the AKC agreed with the statement: “If my dog were a human, he/she would be my boy/girlfriend.” So if your dog hits it off with your date, it’s quite possible you will too.
For some, their pets’ social lives take precedence over their own. In India, many dog owners are so concerned with finding mates for their pets that they post doggy personal ads. And the Internet doesn’t just host dating sites for animal-loving humans: pet-matching sites are becoming an increasingly popular way for doting [pet] parents to seek out appropriate animal playmates.
In the end, Pongo’s resolution—a lady for himself and his owner—was ideal. These days, with technology bringing together a growing network of people and their pets, it’s more possible than ever to find a partner-in-crime for your animal, and throw in a two-legged companion for yourself, too.