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.