The pet test can help you figure out if he’s worthy or not.
By Amy Schoen — Last updated on Jul 13, 2023
Photo: Getty Images
“My dog doesn’t like my boyfriend so it’s a no-go.”
“If she’s worth dating, my cat will cozy right up to her.”
“My pets can always tell if someone’s a good person. Always.”
If you’re thinking, “My dog doesn’t like my boyfriend,” the pet test can be a great judge of character.
Whether or not you’re consciously employing them, your subconscious is always busy at work sizing up people and situations. How does your date treat the wait staff in a restaurant? Does he tip well, and does he say “please” and “thank you”? How does the person treat old people, children, and animals?
If you can step back from your infatuation and become a quiet observer, you can really learn a lot about a potential partner. However, if you’re still convinced that your current catch is too good to be true, you may want to put someone else on the job. Someone, that is, whose primary infatuation and devotion are to you: your pet.
Specifically, your furry, domesticated, “I put my vet’s kids through college,” and “Can’t live without ’em” Fidos and Fluffies.
If you’re lucky enough to share your digs with some Frito paws or a hairball machine, you’ve got a built-in judge of your new relationship.
We all know that dogs can smell fear. Or maybe we’re just so used to hearing that, we believe it’s true.
It turns out, it really is true. And your furry friend’s detection abilities aren’t limited to just one emotional state. A 2018 study confirmed just that. Humans secrete chemo signals in their armpit sweat during different emotional conditions. And Fido can smell them a mile away!
While your faithful friend picks up your vibe from its sniffer, you pick up his from his behavior. And that is how your dog can help you screen your potential romantic partners.
Cats may not be the shameless sniffers that dogs are, but they’re no slouches when it comes to protecting their owners’ best interests.
Is there real merit to putting a potential partner to the pet test?
While you’re not likely to bring a new romantic interest to a lab for controlled sniffing, the pet test is still important. Think of it this way: Parents don’t apologize for having their own kids when they get into a relationship with someone new. They may wait until they’re in an exclusive relationship before introducing the kids. But their children are always a disclosed and understood part of the “package deal.”
And trust me, anyone with children — especially a marriage-minded person — is constantly sizing up their dates for their potential fit with children. If you’re going to date someone with children, you should be prepared to welcome and enjoy them and your heart to love them. You don’t get one without the other.
But what about those singles who don’t have children, but pets that they love just as much as family members? Should they be expected to downplay their love for their pets?
One of the biggest things I focus on with clients is authenticity. We dive deep into their values and life visions until they know themselves by heart and can express their core without apology.
If you have a pet, you already have a big love in your life.
Someone who wants to date you will either “completely get it,” or not. And he or she doesn’t necessarily have to get a hand sniff before you administer the pet test.
Hopefully, your online dating profile has at least one picture of you and your pet together.
Those who don’t want to “share” a partner with an animal will often tell on themselves in their communication. They will disregard that part of your life or become sarcastic about your relationship with your pet.
If the two of you make it to a first date, you’ll have the opportunity to talk about what’s most important to you. You’ll also get to share “a typical day” in your life. Do you get up extra early to go for a morning run with your dog before work, then come home at lunch to let him out? Have you ever taken your dog on vacation with you?
If you have a cat, you may have a different kind of story to tell. But the content of your relationship will come across similarly.
What does the pet test look like in a new relationship?
It’s all about the person’s response to your sharing. Does he smile and show interest when you pull out your phone and share pictures? Or does he casually glance at your phone and say, “Uh-huh, cute,” then go on with a non-related topic?
Does he listen attentively to your story of going to the ends of the earth to help your best friend when he was sick? Or does he look at you quizzically and ask why you would ever spend so much money on an animal? Does he validate your devotion by telling a similar story of his own, complete with pictures? Does he suggest something all of you can do together on a second date?
If you have a kitty, how does your date respond when you talk about your feline companion? Does she light up and ask about the cat’s breed and personality? Or does she cringe and immediately talk about being allergic?
The point is, you can and should start the “pet test” before your date and pet even meet.
After all, it’s only the best for your furry friend, right?
Pets, despite being non-human, are like human children in terms of the responsibility involved in caring for them. They thrive on routine, and they never grow into independence the way humans do.
If you have hopes of a family one day, the pet test is a very good gauge of a potential partner’s parenting instincts. Anyone who wouldn’t think twice about canceling an evening’s plans to rush you and your sick pet to the emergency vet, for example, is a keeper. If someone walks through your door and becomes visibly agitated, uncomfortable, or even aloof around your pet, consider it a red flag. And if you don’t catch it, your pet surely will.
Likewise, if your dog still jumps when excited and happens to deposit a dirty paw print on your date’s nice clothes, what’s the reaction? Shock? Anger? Whining? Or a laugh and a shrug? Do they say, “They’re just clothes. Don’t worry about it. And I’m excited to meet you, too, buddy!” If Fluffy can’t even rub against a leg for a few purr-fect seconds to say hello, what does that tell you about future potential?
When I was dating, I watched the reaction of my dates and how they responded to my cat. Even though she was a feline, she was a faithful companion and was my emotional support to help me get through my divorce. And we were a package deal.
I would watch my date’s reaction carefully. Some didn’t care if the cat was there at all whereas my husband, Alan, went over and picked my cat up. (Luckily, she liked people and was willing to let him do so). It was then I knew he had great partner potential for me.
No one knows your pet as well as you do, especially not your new romantic partner.
So, watch for his or her behavior while your date is around, especially if you want to avoid telling everyone “My dog doesn’t like my boyfriend.” Look for body language like ear position, tail wagging, relaxed mouth, rolling over, lying in a “settled” position, and soliciting engagement. Watch how your date responds, as well.
And for the person who shows up to this very important meet-and-greet with a gift bag of treats and toys in tow? Schedule the next date. Now.
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Amy Schoen is a D.C.-based national expert in dating and relationship life coaching with a proven methodology to access true love through her Meet Your Mate Strategy Sessions.