Pooch matters: Dogs get say in owners' mate selection, show studies; women see pet canines as children

  • Research among American and Israeli adults shows that a growing number of pet owners describe their dog or cat as a 'family member'.

  • While men treat their dogs as companions and friends, women tend to look upon them as their children as well, according to studies.

  • Anecdotal data also suggests that an adult's perception of pet dogs may also play a role in mate selection.

We have always known that dogs were good for our mental health. Many studies — like the one conducted by Laurie Santos, psychology professor and director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University — have shown how even brief interactions with dogs can significantly alleviate our mood and reduce our anxiety levels. Research shows they have a positive effect on their guardians’ health, and help in lowering blood pressure, combating loneliness, encouraging physical activity, and promoting an overall sense of happiness.

Research among American (Blouin 2013) and Israeli (Shir-Vertesh 2012) adults shows that a growing number of pet owners describe their dog or cat as a “family member.” As dogs and cats are being increasingly viewed by their owners as family members, a person’s pets may wield significant influence in human courtship and ultimate partner choice.

How much does a dog’s opinion matter when a woman chooses a date, or a potential mate? While men treat their dogs as companions and friends, women tend to look upon them as their children as well. As a result, women tend to be more sensitive as to how their partner treats their dog. A cardinal tenet of evolutionary psychology is that women tend to allocate more brownie points, subconsciously, to child-rearing. So, a man’s interaction with a dog provides a woman with clues signaling their date’s qualities as a potential parent, according to the research conducted by the University of Nevada anthropologist Peter Gray, reported Psychology Today.

A man who has a dog automatically makes women believe that he’s nurturing and responsible with people too, and that he is affectionate and compassionate, especially if he has adopted a rescued dog.

In 2014, a survey was given to a group of singles, who were registered on the online dating site, Match.com, to determine the role companion animals play in partner assessment and partner selection. The results showed that women are more sensitive to a potential partner’s treatment of companion animals, because they place greater concern on the well-being of their current companion animals, as well as the possible integration of a partner’s companions into their family. Additionally, women were much more likely than men to judge a date based on how they reacted to their companion animal.

 Pooch matters: Dogs get say in owners mate selection, show studies; women see pet canines as children

Representational image. Getty Images

Women also placed value on how their dog reacted to a potential mate, in the same way that she would put value on how her human children would react to a potential mate. The survey found that women are more satisfied in their relationships when their partners feel the same way they do about their companion animals, and when there is harmony in the household.

Dogs serve more commonly as social guidelines in the dating world than cats. Companion cats tend to be less social and demanding, and less integrated into their guardians’ lives, so they show less of a potential partner’s care-giving capacity.

Most of the singles in the study stated that they would approach someone they were attracted to, if that person had a dog with them, mainly because dogs are easy conversation starters.

Do men realize this? Most do. When asked, “Have you ever used a pet to attract a potential date?”, a much higher percentage of men than women reported having done so. Which means that men know that these traits are desirable to prospective mates.

According to a study by Gueguen and Ciccoti, published in Anthrozoos, a man with a dog is more likely to obtain unfamiliar woman’s phone number during a meeting in a public space, than the same man without a dog. Another study, conducted by Tifferet and others, showed that women evaluate men as more attractive if these men were described as dog owners.

Anecdotal data also suggests that an adult’s perception of pet dogs may also play a role in mate selection.

Do dogs get an active say in your selection of mate? Do they eavesdrop on your conversations, pick up clues, form opinions? According to studies, the answer is yes.

Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan tested 18 canines in 2015. In this study, the dogs watched as their owners asked a stranger to help him open a box. In the first scenario, the stranger refused to aid the owner. In the second, the stranger came to the owner's rescue. And in the third, the stranger remained neutral, neither helping nor refusing aid. Afterwards, the strangers approached the dogs with treats. The animals refused to take food from the strangers who had snubbed their owners. They took treats from the helpful and neutral parties.

Over the process of domestication, the human-dog bond has evolved. The dog studies the guardian’s behaviour, Oscar E Chavez of Cal Poly Pomona University, was quoted as saying by PetMD. “They’re watching our every move to see if we give them clues as to our intentions. In this way, they can anticipate that it’s time for a walk, or see that you are getting ready to leave, or perhaps that it’s dinnertime. They’ve become the animal kingdom’s human language experts — both physical and spoken language.”

Dogs make their opinions clear as to whether the prospective partner their owner is seeing is a good partner in the long run. Since they are not attracted superficially and have spent time analysing behaviour, it might be better to consider their judgement.

Here are a few signs that indicate that your dog disapproves of the man you’re seeing:

  • A stiff tail between the legs and ears pinned to the back.
  • Growling or snarling.
  • A polite sniff of the crotch is a stamp of approval. A crotch bite, on the other hand is not.
  • Refusal to greet him.
  • Refusal to leave you alone in his company.
  • If your date throws a stick and the dog, who normally fetches everything, refuses to fetch it, it’s a sign of massive disapproval.
  • Not letting your man take the lead while the two of them go for a walk together. If your dog is walking him, you know the dog has no respect for this man.

If your pooch is licking your guy by the third date, you’re okay. If that lick of approval happens on the first date, keep the man! If your dog does his 'business' in front of your man, your dog is very comfortable and it’s a double yes.

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Updated Date: Sep 23, 2019 23:29:51 IST