It may be a little-known fact among singles, but the truth is this: People are more likely to talk to you if you’re with a dog than if you’re alone. Single dog owners, take note.
Case in point: Deborah Wood was at the grocery store in Portland, Ore., when she noticed that the “scary tattooed” guy in front of her was holding an adorable Pomeranian. Surprising even herself, she asked if she could pet his puppy. Before she knew it, she was cooing the dog, standing as close to him as she would have been if “he were a family member or a boyfriend.”
“We have very strict unspoken rules on how physically close we get to one another depending on the relationship,” Wood said, adding that, during a typical conversation, people tend to stand about three feet apart. “The moment we add a dog, however, they change.”
She would know. Wood, a pet columnist for The Oregonian newspaper, has authored 10 books on the subject of dogs, including “The Dog Lover’s Guide to Dating: Using Cold Noses to Find Warm Hearts.”
Beyond the checkout line, she and others agree that dogs can be great matchmakers. The trick is knowing where to find other singles and how to use your pet to engage them.
The park as the proverbial candy shop
According to the results of a recent survey conducted by the American Kennel Club, 58 percent of men say a puppy is a foolproof babe magnet in the park. And 46 percent of women say they’d stop and talk to anyone with a cute puppy.
It may seem a foregone conclusion, then, that the park is a great place to go with your pup to find love. But there’s going to the park and then there’s “going to the park.”
According to Wood and others, there are certain things you can do before and during your excursion to improve your odds of meeting somebody special. For example:
- Know whether your dog falls into best or worst “date-bait-breeds” and act accordingly. That means, for example, softening a tough-looking rottweiler with a bandanna. “My niece has a pit bull that she dresses in an old cardigan sweater,” Wood said.
- Train your dog. There’s nothing worse than having an aggressive or uncontrollable dog scaring away a potential love interest.
- Leave the iPod at home. You want to be approachable. If you’re wearing earphones or zoned out to music, you won’t be.
- Know that meeting to dating can take time. Often, it’s about getting to know each other’s dogs before realizing you might have other things in common.
- If you spot someone interesting, discreetly throw a ball close to him or her for your dog to fetch.
Finally, remember that it’s not just about your pet. While it’s important tokeep your pet well groomed, it’s even more important to do the same for yourself.
Parks aren’t the only game in town
Outside of the park, there are plenty of other great locations for finding love. For example, if you’re a man, Wood recommends volunteering at a dog shelter, since most of the people who work there are women.
She also suggests patronizing as many dog-friendly merchants as possible, like coffee shops with outdoor cafes and pet shops. “I go to a dog-friendly bank, where they encourage you to bring your dog inside and give out gourmet dog biscuits,” she said.
If you’re into online dating, know there’s a growing crop of niche sites geared for dog lovers (datemypet.com, lovemelovemypets.com.). Although Wood says don’t discount the ones that aren’t. If, for example, you do Match.com or eHarmony, she recommends posting at least one photo of you and your dog. “That lets people know that you’re a dog lover. Also, dogs draw attention. They sell.”
You’ve got to play to win
Even if you don’t have a dog, you can approach someone who does, said Angie Gwiazdon, owner of K-9 Connection, a Minneapolis-based canine networking program on WSBTV.com. Doing so successfully is all about the approach. “Compliment the dog, not the owner. It’s a great way to get the ball rolling,” Gwiazdon said.
Finally, it doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you do something. “You have to go out,” Wood said. “Take your dog for a walk. Or to Starbucks. The worst thing that will happen is you’ll have a nice day with your pet.”