By most accounts, dogs are supposed to help you get laid.
That’s the idea behind the storied dog-park meet-cute of rom-com lore, anyway. It’s also at least part of the reason there are (against my better advice) enough dog pics to rival talk of pizza and tacos on dating apps — including the reportedly more-than-occasional snap of dating-app users posing with someone else’s dog and failing to disclose that lack of ownership in a practice that’s been dubbed “dog-fishing.”
It admittedly feels a little skeevy to be positioning dogs as some kind of unwitting sexual go-between for human horniness. But whether or not getting some tail (sorry) is the front-of-mind endgame, man’s best friend often has a tendency to also excel as man’s best wingman.
However, while leaning into your dog’s natural pick-up powers may be an effective means of initially attracting a partner, it turns out your dog may be significantly less helpful when it comes to actually sealing the deal. In fact, dogs’ penchant for ruining your sex life may even rival their reputation for giving you one to speak of in the first place.
From Reddit threads to advice columns, the internet is rife with sexually frustrated dog-owners complaining about attention-hungry pups who seem determined to destroy their sex lives by any means possible.
From jumping on the bed to incessant whining and crying and even, as Bobby Box once detailed for Elite Daily, attempting to join in with a surprise rim job, it seems dogs don’t take too kindly to being sexiled.
As a contentedly soulless non-dog-owner who has — more or less intentionally — largely avoided dating men with dogs, the plight of the sexually frustrated dog owner is a dating dilemma with which I consider myself fortunate to not be personally familiar.
In order to further investigate how often this phenomenon occurs in actual bedrooms outside the internet, I decided to go where no one ever should with questions of a sexual nature: my family.
Because I would like to be able to still look my cousin in the eye next Thanksgiving, however, I decided consulting his girlfriend would be the best shot at minimizing the awkwardness often associated with asking about the sex life of a person with whom you share a set of grandparents. Fortunately for my cousin and his girlfriend, it seems the biggest dog/bedroom problem they’ve faced is a slight voyeuristic streak in their red lab.
“I have been wracking my brain and I don’t think I really have anything exciting,” my cousin’s girlfriend texted me (following a 26-hour period of silence during which I wondered if I would ever be able to see my family again). “Ellie is very attached and likes to keep us in sight, so often times she’ll walk into the room and inquisitively watch/stare, which is definitely creepy AF.”
Having already exhausted my (extremely overestimated) will to subject my dog-owning family members to questions about their sex lives, I decided to return to the internet, where I — for the first time in five years of dating-app use — began actively swiping exclusively on dog owners.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, that went much worse.
After admitting that he did not actually own a dog, one confessed dogfisher on Bumble informed me that he does “have a lot of hair though, if you want to run your fingers through my head,” while another Bumble user took the opportunity to let me know that his beloved dog of 14 years “passed away right before Christmas. Never getting another dog again.”
I did eventually find one guy, a 43-year-old named David, who told me that his dog “always wants to join in.”
“Is that common?” he asked me.
Although, as previously established, dogs are often unwittingly exploited on dating apps, I felt bad about using this guy strictly for dog info and stopped replying. However, I subsequently consulted an expert, and David, if you’re out there, I can happily report that it is, in fact, common.
“I actually have a lot of clients, people in their late twenties, early thirties, who are dating and have a hard time even getting their dates into their apartment without the dog having aggressive tendencies or being really scared,” Lauren Novack, a training director and behavior consultant at Behavior Vets of NYC told me.
Those more intense cases, however, tend only to appear in dogs with extreme anxiety and aggression issues, Novack added. “The average person is probably just dealing with the dog wanting to be on the bed and be part of things — being in the room, maybe sitting there and staring at them.”
Fortunately, Novack says these behaviors are a pretty easy fix that mostly comes down to resolving any underlying separation anxieties your dog may have. “Make sure that your dog is comfortable being separated from you,” she says, adding that it also helps to provide your dog with “a fun, safe space that they really like going to,” ideally filled with toys or treats to keep them busy while you’re getting busy.
As for the question we all really want to know the answer to: Do dogs like my cousin’s voyeuristic lab or Bobby Box’s ass-licker know what’s going on? Can they recognize the behavior, at least when it’s happening in the position we lifted from their species, for what it is?
“Who knows?” Novack tells me. “If I could read a dog’s mind, I would be a billionaire.”
Was this the answer I expected? Of course. But it was not the one I wanted.
It wasn’t the one the rest of InsideHook’s editorial team wanted either when they immediately asked me the same question after my conversation with Novack. Fortunately, editor-in-chief/dog owner Walker Loetscher was willing to weigh in, with some confidence.
“I think they know.”