Does Gender Matter When Getting A Dog?


There are approximately 90.5 million dogs owned as pets in the United States. With so many furry companions living in households across the country, it’s only natural that people wonder if gender plays a role in dog ownership. Men and women often experience the world differently, so does that extend to our relationships with man’s best friend? This article will provide an overview of how gender can influence various aspects of dog ownership, from choosing a breed and training methods to forming emotional bonds.

While dogs make wonderful pets for people of all genders, there are some interesting trends and differences that emerge when looking at male versus female dog owners. We’ll explore the history of dogs as companions, how men and women interact with their dogs, factors that go into breed selection and training, and advice for choosing the right dog regardless of gender stereotypes. The goal is to provide research and insights to help all dog lovers build fulfilling bonds with their canine buddies.

History of Dogs as ‘Man’s Best Friend’

Dogs have a long history as companions and helpers for humankind. Archaeological evidence shows that dogs were domesticated from wolves as early as 15,000 years ago. The earliest known use of dogs was as hunting companions for early humans. Dogs assisted with tracking and retrieving prey during hunts. Their keen sense of smell and hearing made them excellent hunters. Over time, humans selectively bred dogs for desirable traits like strength, speed, and trainability that suited different hunting purposes.

dogs have a long history helping humans

As human settlements grew into villages, towns and cities, dogs took on additional roles. Their protective, territorial instincts were harnessed to function as guards and watchdogs. Dogs became useful for herding and driving livestock. Their strong work ethic and trainability made them ideal assistants with jobs that required mobility and athleticism. The loyalty and affection dogs show their human masters led to their cultural status as “man’s best friend.”


Differences in Male and Female Dog Ownership

Research shows that women are more likely to own dogs compared to men. According to a 2021 study published in the National Library of Medicine, gender significantly predicted overall pet ownership, with women more likely to own pets than men (

There also seem to be differences in motivations for dog ownership between genders. Women often view their dogs as surrogate children and are more likely to treat them as family members. On the other hand, men tend to view dog ownership as a way to facilitate social interactions and impress potential romantic partners (

Understanding these motivational differences can help explain why women are more drawn to dog ownership and are more likely to form deep emotional bonds with their pets.

Suitability of Certain Breeds for Men vs. Women

There are some commonly held stereotypes about certain dog breeds being more suitable for either men or women. For example, larger working breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Dobermans are often seen as “manly” dogs, while lapdogs like Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Yorkies are viewed as better suited for women.

However, these stereotypes are not necessarily accurate or helpful when selecting the right dog. Any breed or size of dog can potentially bond with and be a great fit for either gender of owner, with the proper training and care. Much depends on the individual owner’s personality, lifestyle, and commitment to meeting the dog’s needs.

According to research, men often prefer dogs viewed as loyal protectors, while women gravitate towards affectionate companions. But those are broad generalizations. For example, some men may desire a snuggly lapdog, while some women want a robust working dog. The most important factors are providing the proper care, training, exercise and affection needed for that individual breed and dog.

Stereotyping breeds based on gender suitability can actually be detrimental. It may pressure owners to select certain dogs based on preconceived gender norms, rather than objectively evaluating which breed best fits their lifestyle and personality. The most fulfilling owner-dog bonds form when personalities click, not when conforming to stereotypes.

Training Differences Based on Owner Gender

Research has shown some key differences in how men and women approach dog training. A 2006 study published in the Whole Dog Journal found that women made up the majority of dog owners as well as dog trainers, but men were still well-represented as trainers. The study pointed to contrasts in training styles – women tended to use more positive reinforcement techniques while men were more likely to employ dominance and punishment-based methods.

This difference is noted by renowned dog expert Patricia McConnell, who writes “It almost seems like male dogs take instruction better from female trainers while female dogs take instruction better from male trainers.” She theorizes socialization plays a role. Women are socialized to communicate more gently while men are conditioned to issue direct commands.

A 2022 Psychology Today article backs this up, citing research that men utilize outdated “dominance training” like physical corrections significantly more than women. The author connects this to gender norms and traditional perspectives on dominance and obedience. Meanwhile, women often lean towards reward-based training that builds cooperation through forming strong relationships.

Overall, when comparing approaches, studies consistently find women trainers prioritize developing trust, motivating through positives like treats or praise, and communicating softly. Men trainers tend to emphasize authority, issue corrections, and give orders directly. Socialization shapes perspectives, leading to divergent training styles between the genders.

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Activity Levels and Dogs

Research has shown that dog owners tend to be more physically active than non-dog owners. One study published in Nature found that dog owners engaged in more physical activity and spent less time sitting on average compared to non-dog owners Another study published in PMC showed that activity levels in dogs decline with age, with younger dogs being more active than older dogs. This study also found that dogs living in rural areas were more active than those in suburban and urban areas

When it comes to gender, research has not conclusively shown major differences in activity levels between male and female dog owners. However, some studies suggest men may be slightly more active with higher energy dogs while women may prefer walking with their dogs. Overall, factors like age, environment, and breed likely play a bigger role than gender alone.

Regardless of gender, prospective owners should consider their lifestyle and activity levels when choosing a dog. More active households may want to consider higher energy breeds that require more exercise. Less active households may prefer lower energy breeds suited for shorter walks. Understanding these needs and matching with the right breed and temperament can lead to better outcomes for both owner and dog.

Gender and Forming Bonds with Dogs

women tend to bond more with dogs

Research shows that women tend to form stronger emotional bonds with their pet dogs compared to men. A 2006 study by Prato-Previde et al. found that women scored higher on measurements of pet attachment than men (source). The researchers used questionnaires to assess the strength of attachment and found that women showed more intense attachments and viewed their dogs more like family members.

In a similar 2006 observational study, Prato-Previde et al. analyzed interactions between owners and their dogs (source). They found that female owners exhibited more social behaviors like talking, touching, and maintaining proximity to their dogs. Male owners interacted in more object-focused ways like playing with toys. This suggests women have more personal, affectionate bonds, while men see dogs more as playmates.

Overall, research indicates women form closer attachments and are more emotionally invested with their pet dogs compared to men. This likely stems from inherent differences in caregiving motivations between genders.

Choosing a Dog to Impress Potential Partners

Some studies have shown that owning a dog can make people, especially men, appear more attractive as potential romantic partners. This is likely because having a dog signals positive traits like responsibility, trustworthiness, and empathy (source). Surveys have found that both men and women find people of the opposite sex more attractive if they own a dog.

Certain breeds of dogs may be seen as more impressive in attracting a romantic partner. Large breeds like golden retrievers and German shepherds can convey protectiveness and make a male owner seem strong. Smaller breeds like French bulldogs may appear cute and approachable. Some men choose “macho” breeds like Rottweilers or Doberman pinschers to seem tough or daring. Women sometimes pick toy breeds like Chihuahuas or Pomeranians that could be carried around and pampered.

some breeds seen as more attractive

However, choosing a dog solely to attract romantic attention can be problematic. The priorities should be finding a breed that matches your lifestyle and that you can properly care for. Rushing into dog ownership without consideration for the dog’s needs could lead to cases of neglect or abandonment down the line. Rather than using dogs as “chick magnets” or accessories, responsible owners form close bonds and lifetime commitments with their pets.

Perpetuating Stereotypes

Some of the claimed differences between how men and women interact with dogs can perpetuate damaging gender stereotypes. Many assume women are inherently more nurturing and sentimental with their dogs, while men only care about companionship for more “masculine” activities like hunting or athletics. Pigeonholing genders into certain traits or relationships with dogs is not only false but can be harmful to forming strong bonds.

One example that challenges these assumptions is dog owner McKenna Smyth and her poodle.McKenna embraces her femininity and enjoys challenging preconceived notions about gender expression. She and her poodle have an incredibly close, affectionate bond that disputes the idea men forge stronger connections with their male dogs. McKenna also trains her poodle for athletic competitions, not just showmanship.

The reality is dogs bond deeply with caring owners of any gender identity. Making assumptions based on tired gender roles only limits our understanding. There’s no inherent difference between how men and women connect with their pups.

Advice for All Dog Owners

When choosing a dog breed, there are some important considerations to make regardless of your gender. Here are some tips for choosing the right dog for you:

Consider your lifestyle and activity level. Some breeds require more exercise and mental stimulation than others. Make sure to select a breed that matches your energy level (Tips for Choosing the Right Dog Breed).

match breed to lifestyle

Take size into account. Large breeds require more space and can be more expensive to care for. Small breeds may better suit smaller homes (Tips for Choosing The Right Dog).

Consider shedding and grooming needs. Some breeds require regular brushing and professional grooming (5 Tips for Choosing the Right Dog Breed).

Research potential health issues associated with breeds you are considering.

Make sure the breed’s temperament fits your household. Consider factors like kids, other pets, etc.

Meet the breed in person before adopting if possible. Each dog has a unique personality.

Take your time making a decision. Adding a dog is a long-term commitment.

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