In the summer of 2007, a handsome 20-year-old man was instructed to approach young women in a French pedestrian zone and say this:
“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.”
In half of these instances, “Antoine” was walking a sweet-natured black mutt. In the other half, he approached the women without a dog.
The results were striking: With a dog at his side, Antoine received phone numbers from 28.3% of the women he approached. Without the dog, he only received numbers from 9.2% of the women he propositioned. Researchers Nicolas Guéguen and Serge Ciccotti speculate that perhaps walking a dog leads people to see strangers as “more kind, thoughtful, or sensitive, possibly because people who love animals, particularly dogs, are thought to have these attributes.”
So is a dog a single man’s best friend? Possibly, though a more recent study finds that a trusty mutt benefits some men more than others.
Authors Sigal Tifferet, Daniel Kruger, Orly Bar-Lev and Shani Zeller drew from research finding that men fall into two basic dating types. “Cads” are very competitive, socially dominant, and daring; “dads” are compassionate, kind, and romantic. Research indicates that women prefer “cads” when seeking short-term relationships and “dads” when seeking long-term partnerships.
In the experiment, women read descriptions of two men: either a cad with a dog and a dad without a dog, or a cad without a dog and a dad with a dog.
Women then rated the characters’ attractiveness and indicated whether they would be interested in marrying or having a fling with each one. They also evaluated each character’s potential as a partner, using a scale that has statements saying the man in the description would “cheat on his partner,” “get into fights,” “take good care of his kids” or “work hard at his job, even though he doesn’t like it.”
An analysis of the results found that dog ownership made the cads significantly more attractive to women, but didn’t really help the dads—apparently because the women already saw them as caring, nurturing, and resourceful (dog-ownership could signal that the owner can afford expenses like vet bills and pet-sitters, the authors said).
“Women prefer men with both positive cad and dad traits. In modern societies, dog ownership signals substantial caretaking in a long-term relationship. Thus a cad with a dog is especially attractive to women, as they may believe they are getting the best of both worlds,” the authors said.
As a recent Psychology Today post noted, both studies leave plenty of questions. Does the breed of dog matter (early indications suggest a Golden Retriever makes a better wingman than a Rottweiler), and how do these findings apply outside the context of “men seeking women”? A study cited in Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg’s Modern Romance found that men who have pictures of pets in their online dating profile get more responses than men who don’t; however, pet pics in women’s profiles received fewer responses.
So, cads, if you’re thinking of getting a dog to boost your success with women, it could work. But here’s hoping you have other reasons—and that the experience of loving and caring for a sweet, dependent being will make you, well, less of a cad.
Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her any questions here.