Dat­ing web­sites bring an­i­mal lovers to­gether

Love me, love my dog, users in­sist

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Outside - SUE MAN­NING

LOS AN­GE­LES — On th­ese dat­ing sites, a pas­sion for pets will help you find more than just puppy love.

Sites like Pet­sDat­ing.com and YouMustLov­eDogsDat­ing.com have found a new niche as sin­gles flock to com­put­ers and smart­phones to find re­la­tion­ships, con­nect­ing dog own­ers to po­ten­tial mates who en­joy long walks in the dog park and slob­bery ca­nine kisses as much as they do. Many of the sites en­cour­age users to bring their dogs on first dates to break the ice or size up ca­nine chem­istry.

Many dat­ing sites cater to re­li­gious, cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal pref­er­ences, but won’t fo­cus as heav­ily on in­ter­ests like pets, mu­sic or travel, said Karen North, a pro­fes­sor of so­cial me­dia at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s An­nen­berg School of Jour­nal­ism.

“If you find some­body with the same life­style pas­sion, you don’t have to start out at square one,” North said.

When Joanie Pelzer signed up with a dog-friendly on­line dat­ing ser­vice a few years ago, she was hon­est about her Chi­huahua — he likes peo­ple more than other dogs, craves at­ten­tion, steals food and can’t stand to ride in the back seat of a car.

Even a man who loved an­i­mals as much as she did couldn’t keep up with her dog’s quirks. On their first date, her Chi­huahua, Hub- bell, stole the man’s break­fast as they drove from New York City to Long Is­land. They only had one more date.

De­spite that set­back, having a com­mon in­ter­est such as pets can help the search for love.

“Having a theme that is ... about one’s pas­sion makes it feel like you are look­ing for a nee­dle in a smaller and far more rel­e­vant and ap­peal­ing haystack,” said Michal Ann Strahile­vitz, a pro­fes­sor of mar­ket­ing at Golden Gate Univer­sity in San Fran­cisco.

The founder of one of the dog-fo­cused dat­ing ser­vices, YouMustLov­eDogsDat­ing.com, agreed. “Dogs on first dates are amaz­ing ice­break­ers,” said Kris Ro­tonda, who started up the site last year that now has two mil­lion mem­bers.

But other vet­er­ans of the dat­ing ser­vice in­dus­try say fo­cus­ing on a ca­nine con­nec­tion only adds an ex­tra hur­dle to find­ing love.

“When you con­sider how chal­leng­ing it al­ready is to find some­one who of­fers what you are seek­ing in a ro­man­tic part­ner, and who seeks what you are of- fer­ing, and where there is also mu­tual chem­istry, and the tim­ing is right ... you have to won­der who in their right mind would want to make it even more chal­leng­ing by in­sist­ing on ca­nine chem­istry,” said Trish McDer­mott, who spent 10 years as the dat­ing ex­pert and spokes­woman for Match.com.

McDer­mott points out that new love is hard enough to fos­ter, with­out any added is­sues.

“To squeeze dog­gie behaviour un­der the first date mi­cro­scope … is just an­other way to un­cover the fa­tal flaw of an oth­er­wise po­ten­tial ro­mance,” added McDer­mott, who now works for OneGoodLov­e.com, a gay, les­bian and bi­sex­ual match­mak­ing ser­vice.

McDer­mott’s con­cerns won’t change Pelzer’s plans to re­turn to Pet­sDat­ing.com. She re­mem­bers un­pleas­ant run-ins with dates from sites that don’t cater to an­i­mal lovers — once a man nudged her pooch off the couch.

“That was the last time we were to­gether,” Pelzer said. “You don’t do that to my dog.”

Re­becca Brit­tain/The As­so­ci­ated Press

Kris Ro­tonda, who founded YouMustLov­eDogsDat­ing.com, with his girl­friend Denise Fer­nan­dez and three of his four dogs.

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