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Does Dog Ownership Increase the Attractiveness of Men?

Having a canine companion may increase the attractiveness of certain men.

Dennis van Zuijlekom (CC BY 2.0)
Source: Dennis van Zuijlekom (CC BY 2.0)

"So my son, Anthony, is now volunteering to walk our dog, Freddie, because he is convinced that having the dog with him makes him look more attractive and sexier. He claims that having Freddie with him has already resulted in two successful dates. As a psychologist, do you think that there is any chance that he is right?"

The neighbor that I was chatting with owns a friendly yellow Labrador named Freddie. His son, Anthony, is in his early twenties. He is tall and slender and fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man. He dresses in leather jackets and shiny shirts, and tends to give off a bit of a bad-boy vibe. My intuition was that Anthony's idea of a "successful" date would be one that included a sexual liaison of the one night stand variety.

And as it turns out, there actually is some research which shows that having a dog beside you may increase the attractiveness of certain types of men in the eyes of women—particularly men like Anthony.

There are a number of researchers who suggest that some men may be attractive to many women because they seem to be romantic, caring and appear to be interested in long-term relationships. In other words, these are the men that would, in theory, make good partners, husbands, and dads.

It's possible to contrast this to another type of a man who appears to be more socially dominant, exciting, perhaps a bit dangerous, and who seems to be primarily interested in casual sexual relationships. Rather than being more like a dad, these men are more like the traditional concept of a "cad." Generally speaking, research suggests that women are often attracted to cads for short-term relationships and to the dad-type men when they are seeking long-term partners. However, data suggests that if a man has a dog as a companion, the impression that women have of him may change.

A research team in Israel, headed by Sigal Tifferet at the Ruppin Academic Center, looked at how a dog might affect women's view of men. In this study, women were given vignettes describing a man who displayed typical "dad-like" or "cad-like" behaviors. After each vignette, the participant rated the attractiveness of the character. They then rated how much they would like to marry him or to have an affair with him.

Generally speaking, the women said that they preferred to marry the dad-type of man, and many expressed an interest in short-term affairs with the cads. But the presence of a dog changed things. When these same characters were described to women with only one detail changed—now, the men were dog owners—it made no difference for the men with dad qualities. There was, however, an increase in the attractiveness of the cads. In fact, if cads had dogs, then these women found them to be even more appealing than dads with dogs.

The researchers propose that the reason that the cads benefit from an association with the dog is because people assume that they owned that dog. That may unconsciously suggest that the man is willing to make a long-term commitment, including caring for another living creature and investing time and resources in their well-being. It's possible that this association with a pup offsets any normally negative perceptions of a cad. Thus, it implies that this is a person who has all of the exciting, arousing, and socially dominant behaviors associated with bad boy cads—plus, the added capability to form lasting, caring attachments.

Unfortunately, results like these may also imply that dogs could be deliberately used as part of a strategy to attract a partner, which appears to be what Anthony has chosen to do. Thus, individuals who have a short-term relationship view of social interactions might be able to alter how they are perceived in order to appeal to attractive women who are not interested in short-term affairs.

Men with a dad-like behavior pattern don't seem to benefit from being associated with a dog (perhaps because their attitudes toward long-term relationships are already evident). However, they can still benefit by having a dog out with them on their walks, as other research suggests that the presence of a dog makes it easier to strike up conversations with new people that they meet along the way.

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Tifferet, S., Kruger, D. J., Bar-Lev, O., & Zeller, S. (2013). Dog ownership increases attractiveness and attenuates perceptions of short-term mating strategy in cad-like men. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 11(3), 121-129.

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