We’ve all heard of puppy love, but can our pets actually help us make a lasting love connection?
It’s Valentine’s Day. The season of hearts and flowers and romance. And if you’re an animal lover, no story comes to mind more than the classic, “101 Dalmatians.”
Pongo was the ultimate wingman, wasn’t he? He spotted perfection in Anita and Perdita, desperately chased them down and charmed himself and Roger into those sophisticated ladies’ hearts.
After some trials and tribulations involving all those adorable, spotted puppies and an evil villainess who wanted to make their coats into, well, coats, good triumphed. Cruella de Vil was sunk, and Roger and Anita lived happily ever after in their “Dalmatian plantation home.”
But, “101 Dalmatians” is just fiction, a children’s novel turned into a lucrative film franchise. So, could there be anything to the idea that our pets can help us out in the love department?
Research suggests there is.
A survey done a few years ago by the website Dognition showed “82 percent of people would feel more confident approaching an attractive person if they had their dog with them,” according to a 2014 article in Slate.
Then, there’s an article that appeared last year in “The Chicago Tribune” citing a 2015 study from a research journal called “Anthrozoos.” It’s called “The Roles of Pet Dogs and Cats in Human Courtship and Dating.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, the study surveyed American users of the dating site, Match.com, who had pet information included in their profiles.
The results showed some good news for all the real-life Rogers out there who love to spoil their Pongos. According to the newspaper, study researchers found women “were more than twice as likely” as men to say they were attracted to someone because they had a pet, and “about twice as likely to judge” a potential significant other “based on how they reacted to a furry companion.”
For a more in depth look at the statics, visit this “Psychology Today” article written up on the same study.
But digging further into those stats gets more into the science of it all, evolution and reproduction. There are age breakdowns and type-of-pet breakdowns.
Instead, an online dating coach interviewed in the Chicago Tribune article had some simpler insights. She says pets can unmask characteristics in potential significant others.
Author and dating coach Erika Ettin tells the newspaper, “I’ve learned that owning a dog tells me if you’re a germaphobe, it tells me if you’re high-strung. If you sit on my couch, you’ll probably get some dog hairs on you. And I don’t necessarily want to be with someone who is that uptight about a few dog hairs.”
Really, these scientific studies can only give us more insight into what we already know. Stories about our pets are great ice breakers in social situations. More than that, the mere presence of our pet can offer us a confidence boost, a loyal friend to help out in unfamiliar situations.
The goofy things they do, the emotion readers they are, the faithfulness and dedication they show to us. If you love your pet, they’re going to love you right back. Unconditionally. They are behind you 100 percent.
For that reason, it’s important to remember them on Valentine’s Day, too. Chris Rowland, the CEO of Pet Supplies Plus, says it’s the time of year to go above and beyond your pet’s favorite treat.
“Pets are always intrigued by new toys and treats, no matter what they are. Pet owners are inclined to stick with the normal treats for their pets because they know what they like best, but it’s nice to give them a little surprise sometimes,” said Rowland. “This is the perfect time to spoil them with a new cat tower or a new doggie bed.”
Like Roger and Pongo, if you and your pup are heading out on a double date this Valentine’s, it’s also important to remember to look your best. Rowland had some advice on that front, too.
“Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is an easy, low cost way to keep them looking pretty. Overgrown nails can lead to several health issues, so it’s important to stop by a grooming to get them trimmed,” Rowland said. “Another quick way to dress up your pet is to grab a cute new collar or sweater.”
Author Betsy Rosenfeld Vargas, who wrote “The Complete Single’s Guide to Being a Dog Owner, agrees.
She tells “Men’s Health,” “If a man takes care of his dog and treats it well, women think, ‘He can take care of me.’”
Whether you’re going to be heading to the dog park, or a pet-friendly eatery, or maybe just a walk around the neighborhood to meet new people, it’s important both of you ease into it.
“When it comes to letting your dog meet other dogs, it’s always best to start slow and let it happen naturally. Don’t try to force it,” said Rowland. “Dog parks are a great place to meet other dogs, but so is just being out and about in your neighborhood.”
And while a Pittsburgh winter is not really compatible with outdoor eating, it’s something to keep in mind for the warmer months. Vargas tells Men’s Health, some restaurants with outdoor seating provide bowls for four-legged guests. Just call ahead to make sure furballs are welcome!
But if you don’t want to wait and you’re more of a cat person, a great place to meet like-minded animal lovers might be a cat café. The first one in Pittsburgh, The Black Cat Market, is set to open very soon.
If you’re looking to make a deeper connection with someone new you’ve met and their furry friend, pet playdates come highly recommended by Rowland.
“Dog playdates are amazing,” he says. “When pet lovers meet, they already have a common love for their pet so it’s really easy to break the ice. If the dogs seem hesitant around each other, it’s best to take them for a walk together. Not only does it help get out any excess energy but it helps them bond with a mutual activity. The more the dogs get along, the easier it will be to set up future pet playdates.”
As for human connection, Deborah Wood, author of “The Dog Lover’s Guide to Dating,” offered this advice to Men’s Health, “Talk about the day you adopted your dog from a shelter, or how he brightened someone’s day, or even a funny story about him.”
And if all else is lost, eHarmony offers this list of dog park pick-up lines if you spot a cute pet owner during your next outing with your furry best friend!
In the end though, Roger was never going to find a better friend than Pongo. Sure, pets can make a big impact on our social lives, but it’s important not to let them get lost in the shuffle.
They rely on us for everything, and if they help bring more love into our lives, well, that’s all the better.