Must Love Dogs: What Your Pet Says About Your Dating Life

| CJ Silvasi

We surveyed pet owners to see if dating is different when you share your life with a cat or dog. Here's how a young couple navigates dating with pets.


Dating in the modern era has simultaneously become more accessible and more complex thanks to the addition of technology. With fast-paced swiping standing in for social interaction, the nitty-gritty of getting to know someone has become a virtual experience one can undertake from the comfort of their own home.

That is the stage in which we find our couple, Sam and Dylan, a pair of twenty-somethings venturing on their first in-person meeting. They met on a dating app and have been engaging in flirtatious messaging for the past two weeks. Sam is a marketing professional with two dogs. He lives in his own apartment and has a standing movie night with his mom every Thursday. Dylan, on the other hand, is a web developer and life-long cat owner. She participates in three different book clubs and shares an apartment with a roommate with whom she watches true-crime documentaries every Thursday.

Pets Are Family

Sam’s dogs are Carlos, a mixed breed he rescued from a shelter two years ago, and Margot, a Golden Retriever from a reputable breeder. Like 44% of people his age, Sam considers his dogs “practice children,” and cares for them as such. Carlos and Margot go to a local pet day care when Sam is in the office, and they are covered by pet insurance to help accommodate their medical needs.

Sam considers non-pet owners to be a “red flag” when dating. “You can tell a lot about a person based on how they care for their pet, and Carlos and Margot are such a big part of my life. I want to be with a person who gets that without issue,” Sam says, and 46% of Americans agree with him. Interestingly, our survey found that 62% of respondents with Golden Retrievers agreed with Sam’s sentiment, so maybe Margot has an influence on Sam’s opinion. While Sam is more of a dog person, he is excited to finally meet Dylan in person and hear more about her cat, Earl.

Dylan has had Earl most of her life, adopting him as a kitten when she was still in grade school. Dylan ended relationships in the past because Earl didn’t like her potential partner. Many single pet owners agree with her, with 39% of those surveyed saying they would end a relationship with someone their pet does not like. For non-pet owners, trusting the judgment of a pet may seem a bit extreme, but studies have shown that dogs are great at reading human behavior and making judgment calls, so it can’t hurt to consider your furry friend’s interpretation of a potential partner.

“Earl is absolutely my family,” Dylan explains, “He’s been with me through the toughest times in my life, and I don’t think I could have gotten past the loss of my older brother without him.” 95% of American households with pets also consider them to be part of the family. This may explain why the U.S. is the leader in spending on pets. “I am looking for someone that is as laid back as we are and would rather spend an evening snuggling with Earl than going out on the town,” Dylan adds when asked about her perfect date.

The Date

Sam and Dylan arrive at a chic downtown tapas bar for cocktails and snacks one evening after work. Sam is a self-proclaimed “hopeless romantic,” so Dylan arrived with a single red rose and two dog treats from a neighborhood pet bakery. Dog-only pet owners are more likely to value romance than cat-only pet-owners with 78% of dog-only owners and only 69% of cat-only owners claiming romance as important. Mixed households, those with cats and dogs, almost perfectly split the difference with 74% saying they value romance as an important part of a relationship.

“Admittedly, I have used Carlos and Margot as an excuse to end a bad date,” Sam says with a guilty cringe. “We’re only a little way into this date, and I already know I won’t need to do that with Dylan. There are definite sparks.” Sam is not alone in planning an escape from bad dates, since 60% of singles go into a date with an escape plan. While some enlist the help of friends or family, 45% of pet owners surveyed used or are willing to use their cat or dog as a way out of an awkward date.

For the next hour, Sam and Dylan chat about their lives, their dreams, and of course their pets. They swap stories about raising pets in the city and laugh at the crazy antics their animals have gotten into before deciding to go for a stroll in a nearby park.

Dating with Pets

Dylan has learned that Sam’s dogs are an important part of his life, and while it is too early to introduce Sam to Earl, Dylan suggests Sam pick up his dogs from his nearby apartment to join them on their walk. “I love dogs, and my unit doesn’t allow large animals, so I’m eager to meet Carlos and Margot. Bringing them on our date seems like the perfect way to spend more time with Sam.”

In a flash, Sam is in the lobby with a bouncing Margot and smiling Carlos in tow on matching leashes. Dylan sinks down to one knee to get to know both dogs and give them a thorough greeting. She may not realize the importance of this gesture, but our study has found that 44% of people will decline a second date if their pets aren’t acknowledged. By encouraging the conversation about their pets to continue and joyfully greeting Sam’s dogs, Dylan has all but ensured another night out. As they stroll into the park, Dylan takes Carlos' leash and Sam’s hand.

Photo of a woman holding her dog

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A Budding Relationship

It has been three weeks since Sam and Dylan’s first date, and while their first meet-up ended in an innocent kiss (55% of pet owners surveyed keep things casual on date one), they have spent a lot of time together over the past several weeks. Their connection has grown, and Sam recently asked Dylan to be exclusive. With Valentine’s Day looming in the future, the two are slowly taking their relationship more seriously.

“I can’t get over how often Dylan makes an effort to include my dogs in our dates.” Sam said, explaining his favorite part about dating Dylan. “She really has taken the time to get to know Margot and Carlos and gain their trust.” 41% of pet owners say that, along with their partners, they prefer to plan activities where they can bring a pet. Dylan laughs at this number and brushes it off, but 10% of dog owners agree that a great date is one they can share with their pet.

“I’d love to claim that’s why I suggest so many dog-friendly dates, but the truth is I’ve fallen just as hard for Carlos and Margot as I have for Sam.” She explains. But, as we ask them to pause their ice cream date for a photo, it is Sam whose gaze won’t leave Dylan. Before anyone notices, Carlos hops on Sam’s lap and takes a chomp out of the vanilla cone in his hand. After a mild panic and Dylan reaching for Margot’s leash to pull her away from the fray, they settle back in and catch up on each other’s week.

There are no flowers on this date, and it seems that it was an impromptu meetup Sam requested, but the connection is still evident even from afar. As we step back to give them some space, we see Margot rest her head on Dylan’s lap and Dylan instinctively stroke her head. Clearly, Dylan has earned the stamp of approval from Sam’s dogs, but how does Earl take to Sam?

A Valentine’s Night In

We pop by Dylan’s apartment to catch up on how things are going with Sam and to finally meet the infamous Earl, who spies us from the top of the refrigerator as Dylan explains the couple’s Valentine's Day plans. “We agreed not to get each other anything for Valentine’s Day, but I couldn’t help but spoil Carlos and Margot, so I made them heart-shaped dog treats.” Dylan beams while piling the homemade treats in a gift bag with a paw print on the front.

Like 55% of pet owners, Sam and Dylan decided on a simple evening in with their pets for Valentine’s Day. As we gather our things to leave, Sam arrives with Carlos, Margot, and a bag of takeout. In a flash, Earl hops from the fridge to circle Sam’s legs, meowing for attention. It is clear that Carlos and Margot are familiar with the apartment because Sam releases them from their leashes to pick up Earl and they both make themselves at home on Dylan’s couch.

Like Dylan, Sam has bent the rules of their no-gift agreement and has brought along a catnip-filled plush heart for Earl. As Earl scampers off with his prize, Sam and Dylan tell us they plan to curl up on the couch with their pets and watch zombie movies.

“It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day, and the perfect company,” Sam beams as they cross the room to plate their dinner. He leans down to kiss Dylan, who has joined Margot and Carlos on the couch, before politely shooing us out the door. As it closes behind us, we know that Sam, Dylan, Earl, Carlos, and Margot are on the verge of creating their own little family of humans and pets.

Love is in the air, so show your beloved pets how much you care by getting pet insurance. Customizable coverage through AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) is there for your cat or dog when they’re sick, hurt, and healthy. Get a quote now and stop an unexpected emergency from spoiling the mood this Valentine’s Day.

Photo of a woman holding her dog

Every Dog and Cat Deserves the Pet Insurance of Champions

Get prize-winning care for your pets.

CJ Silvasi

CJ has always wanted to be a writer. She even threatened to drop out after her first day of kindergarten when they weren’t immediately going to teach her to read and write. Fortunately, she stayed in school, earned her degree in Creative Writing from Christopher Newport University, and now gets to live her best life with her husband, 3 Japanese Chins, and cat writing for AKC Pet Insurance.


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