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Dating App Life When You’re ‘Not a Dog Person’

In an era when pet ownership has never been higher — or more of a personality type — what’s it like to be single and very much unwilling to mingle with those who plaster their four-legged friends all over Tinder?

Joe isn’t a “dog person,” but given his severe allergies, he prefers to phrase it differently. “If you locked me in a room with a golden retriever and I didn’t have an albuterol inhaler, I could literally die,” the single 30-year-old tells me. So he avoids swiping right on dog owners because there are less lethal risks to take on the apps. 

That’s not to say he hasn’t tried and learned the hard way — or rather, the not-so-hard way — when he endured an allergic reaction while having sex. “Forgive me for being so graphic, but I went soft inside her while struggling to compose myself because I didn’t have an inhaler,” Joe recalls. To make sure his date knew it wasn’t her fault, he proceeded to go down on her, “knowing my lungs were about to give out and that was a nightmare.”

Joe survived only to find that almost every single woman his age has a dog. To wit, millennials now own more pets than any other generation. Moreover, a recent survey found that 72 percent of childless, millennial women said they prefer the company of pets to children. Another poll of dating app users revealed that 70 percent of singles think that having a dog in your profile makes you more attractive — so much so that it’s inspired the term dogfishing, or when people pose with dogs that don’t belong to them. There are even dating apps for dog lovers with embarrassing names like Dig.

All of this has made it harder for guys like Joe to find the pup-less babes of their dreams. “Most women on dating apps are already married to their dog,” he says, defeated. “I think most men like me who are allergic to dogs have just given up on ever having sex again.”

For single guys who are already trying not to seem like serial killers on the apps, not being into dogs can make them come off as a low-grade sociopath right out of the gate. Like for Chris, a 42-year-old in tech who doesn’t have an allergy to blame, but generally describes himself as a cat person for cleanliness reasons. “There is so much saliva, and their fur can smell and be greasy,” he tells me. Chris prefers dating other cat people because he thinks they tend to approach and appreciate relationships on a case-by-case basis, whereas “a lot of people who prefer dogs love the unconditional love.” 

As much as the unconditional love of a dog is mostly seen as a good thing, in Chris’ experience with dating, this can cause people to show a lack of empathy without realizing it. Such as when someone brings their dog to a restaurant, bar or some other situation where the dog is clearly uncomfortable, it “becomes an accessory, a comfort item, a fidget toy,” Chris notes. “But it’s a living, breathing thing that needs to be treated with respect.”

That said, Chris hasn’t sworn off dog owners completely because a person’s relationship with their animal gives him a lot of information about the potential relationship they might have with him. “It’s like owning a car — knowing someone owns a car tells you less about them than seeing them drive it,” he explains. “It’s just a pronounced way to see how someone behaves.”

Paul Farahvar, host of the Singles Only! podcast, agrees that a dog can be telling, and more specifically, it can tell on you. He always considered himself a dog person, until he was in an on-again, off-again relationship with a woman who adopted a puppy during one of their breaks. When they got back together, it was immediately an issue. “Every time she came over, there’d be little dog hairs everywhere,” Farahvar says, adding that they weren’t exclusive, “so it was like the girl was marking her territory, in a way.” Similar to leaving bobby pins behind at a guy’s place, he couldn’t explain the dog hair on his velvet couch to other women, no matter how hard he tried to lint-roll it away. 

Now Farahvar mostly stays away from self-described “dog moms” on the apps, but occasionally, he’ll make an exception for someone who doesn’t explicitly use parenting language or have more than one picture of their dog. 

Although swiping left on dog owners can make dating more challenging, Farahvar points out that owning a dog can be equally difficult. He’s observed this with female friends and colleagues who are single and adopted dogs during the pandemic (an already difficult time for dating), without realizing how “it’s going to change the dynamic of all your relationships,” he says. “You can’t sleep over at someone’s house because you have to let the dog out. It’s going to affect everything you do.” 

It’s also true that it’s not always the responsibility of the person who doesn’t like dogs to adjust, certified matchmaker Tammy Shaklee explains. Sometimes dog owners need to look at their own behavior with their pets first. “I’ve had singles tell me that the dog can remain on the bed during sex, saying that the dog was there before the partner, so the dog gets to stay,” Shaklee says. 

With such extreme pet owners, she recommends slowly introducing their dates to their dogs, preferably in a neutral, outdoor environment first, and transitioning indoors over time. “When your new partner visits your home, it’s best to have the furniture freshly cleaned of dog hair, and have a dog bed with a new toy, or a place where the dog can be in the same room with you, but not up in your face or on your lap,” Shaklee suggests. 

As for single guys who aren’t that into dogs, she advises them to keep an open mind as well. “Don’t overlook a great compatible single because of a canine ownership,” she says.

For his part, Joe is still resisting dog owners on the apps. He is, however, willing to make an exception for cat owners. “I’ve dated multiple women with cats, and I’ll just occasionally get the sniffles,” Joe says. Besides, he jokes, “There are worse ways to die.”