Dogs are happy to help your love life

SlateFebruary 22, 2014 

Pets-Dog Play

In a Dognition survey, 82 percent of people said they’d feel more confident approaching an attractive person who was with a dog.

RICHARD VOGEL — AP

When Melanie met a man she really liked, she wanted to get to know him better, but he was really shy.

“I didn’t know how he would feel about a woman taking the lead and asking him out,” says Melanie. “So I just kept asking him to do dog activities with me and my dog.”

Not long after, Melanie’s new man plucked up the courage and asked her on a real date. They’ve been together for 28 years, and they still have dogs.

Melanie was part of a survey within our citizen science project Dognition, which aims to help us understand the dog-human relationship.

According to the survey, 82 percent of people would feel more confident approaching an attractive person who had a dog.

This is somewhat surprising. There has been a lot of research into the beneficial roles dogs play in promoting an active lifestyle, improving productivity at work, and even decreasing the risks of stress, heart attacks, and strokes – but our love lives?

On the idyllic coast of Brittany, France, a handsome Frenchman called Antoine spent the warm days of summer picking up women. His usual line was: “Hello. My name’s Antoine. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty. I have to go to work this afternoon, but I was wondering if you would give me your phone number. I’ll phone you later and we can have a drink together someplace.”

Research has shown that it’s notoriously difficult to get phone numbers from women this way. But Antoine found a surefire way to improve his chances – he brought along a dog, a lovable black mutt with undeniable charisma.

Labrador as wingman

The difference between Antoine and other Frenchmen fishing for phone numbers was that Antoine was part of a study by Nicolas Gueguen and Serge Ciccotti from the University of Bretange Sud in France exploring how dogs facilitated social interactions.

Antoine approached 240 women over the course of the study. When he was alone, his success rate was around 1 in 10. But when the dog was present, his chances jumped to 1 in 3. Not bad at all.

The research in this area is fairly conclusive. Random strangers, homeless people and people in wheelchairs all find that when they have a dog, they are approached more and experience more positive interactions. Having a dog with you is more important for first impressions than what you wear.

The kind of dog does make a difference – a Labrador on the end of your leash is more likely to get you more attention than a Rottweiler. (Unjust as this may be, someone ran the numbers and that’s just how it is.) In fact, if you’re really out to get attention, nothing does the job like a Labrador puppy.

In fact, dogs have such an influence that women should beware. A 2013 study by the Ruppin Academic Center in Israel found that men with wicked intentions can use a dog to their advantage. One hundred women were asked to read descriptions of two men and rate which one they would be more likely to have an affair with or marry.

Cad or dad?

The men fell into one of two classic mating-strategy categories. They were either a “dad” type – compassionate, romantic and interested in long-term relationships and children. Or they were a “cad” type – dangerous, attractive and all about the chase.

The researchers found that while women generally said they would prefer to marry the dad types, women were more likely to want to marry a cad if he had a dog.

Whatever type you are or are looking for, once you’ve shamelessly used your dog to catch the eye of the one you’re interested in – don’t stop there. In the Dognition survey, 65 percent of people said a perfect date included their dog. Go fetch.

This article was adapted from Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods’ “The Genius of Dogs.”

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