Single Women—Going To The Dogs And Loving It!

May 13th, 2009
Posted by | Posted in Dog Facts, Tips 6,536 views

dog_womanOprah. Martha. Your widowed grandmother and your pony-tailed personal trainer. What could these women possibly have in common? They’re all single and they all just adore their dogs.

Forget the cliché spinster with a calico cat. Single women are out there cruising with chihuahuas, bear-hugging border collies, romping with rottweilers, and jogging with Jack Russells. In the interest of full disclosure, I too am one of THOSE, a single woman who is mad-hot for her dogs. Yes, that’s right-I have more than one.

According to the Humane Society, Americans are crazy for dogs. There are 72 million owned dogs in the US. 43% of American households own at least one dog, and 35% own 2 or more. And while nobody seems to keep dog ownership statistics by gender or marital status, Robert Yau, Co-Founder and CEO of datemypet.com (a national online dating service for single pet owners) reports recently that 74% of his membership is female, and 65% of the group’s members own dogs. Apparently for single women, life is just better with a dog or two. Or three. I’ve taken to calling one of my neighbors “Anne of Three Dogs” for the menagerie of huge dogs she walks every day.

What is it between us single women and our dogs? Security for one thing— many single women who live alone feel safer with a dog. Early alarm system and all that. For others it’s a matter of wanting an active pet. Michele, a single woman from Washington DC says “Now that I have a dog, I get more exercise… I love seeing Charlie jumping around …or jaunting alongside me with a smile on his face while we’re out hiking.”  Still other single women who had grown up with a dog in the family say that once they became homeowners and had the space, they immediately added a dog as a permanent part of their lives. Ari, who is single and 24, recounts online that “as a little girl I owned two Rotts, a Chow, a Beagle, a Pug and a Mutt called Ham. Now I have a miniature schnauzer…” And Phyl from Virginia says that it’s a matter of the pleasure of their company: “I may be single but I’m never alone because I have my dogs. They are my constant companions.”

I got a dog because I fell hard for my daughter’s four-legged cutie. Growing up, my daughter wanted a dog and I had always refused because I was afraid of dogs and allergic to anything with non-human hair. But several years ago she adopted Nacho, a cairn terrier (think Toto in the Wizard of Oz, only blond) from a local shelter. Badly abused and ratty from street life, Nacho took some getting used to, but oh, how he improved upon acquaintance. As my daughter gently shared him with me, inexplicably, my quality of life improved. I was laughing a lot more, becoming more relaxed and free. Canine love was totally engaging! So six years ago, it was easy to visit the same shelter and bring home CJ (Certifiable Joy for long), my snub-nosed black and white Shih Tzu boy. Two years ago I went totally crazy and brought home a little Shih Tzu rescue girl, Kizzie. At last—my fur family was complete!

Now we single women hear all you people whispering that we are way too close to our canines, perhaps sublimating our need for other relationships. For most of us however, our dogs are not leash candy, man-magnets or surrogate spouses. And notwithstanding a little baby talk, we know they are not our infants. As one woman put it, “I don’t need kids. I have dogs!” But dogs often have the same effect as kids. Debra from Chicago belongs to an online community of dog lovers and owns a pair of Shih Tzus. She describes how “When I pull my car into the drive way and see those two little faces looking out of the window, the stress is gone and the day’s headaches are forgotten. When I enter the house, they are running around in circles and jumping on me for kisses. There is no better welcome in the world.” All together now…awww!

Dogs are our loyal and loving animal companions and as such we single women reward them well. Michele’s poodle Charlie “…gets premium, all-natural or organic dog foods and treats… (we go for) long hikes in regional parks and swimming in the creek. I brush his hair and teeth, bathe him with special skin-sensitive shampoo; take him with me when I go to the homes of friends and family, and take him to outdoor restaurants that accept dogs. My dog is a part of my family.” And much to her surprise, her boyfriend is all for it. “(He) thought I would be a good dog owner, but he’s (happily) surprised that I’m this into it, she says.

Single women are indeed “into it” and for the long haul. Through puppy poop, adolescent aggression, and the inevitable senior aches and pains, a dog is not an inexpensive proposition. According to the 2008 American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) National Pet Owners Survey, basic annual expenses for dog owners in dollars include:

  • Surgical Vet Visits                      $453
  • Food                                                 217
  • Kennel Boarding                          225
  • Routine Vet                                    219
  • Groomer/Grooming Aids           127
  • Vitamins                                         77
  • Treats                                              66
  • Toys                                                 41

That’s a total of $1425 in people dollars, and remember, these are just the basics. Most of the single women interviewed for this article say they also shell out plenty more for obedience training, doggie day care and the occasional bling. Big name companies like Ikea, Isaac Misrahi for Target, Harley Davidson, Old Navy and Paul Mitchell are now offering pet product lines ranging from funky designer duds to gourmet treats, pearl necklaces, custom-made beds and high-end hair products. Apparently, it’s all good!

When the dog gets sick, we single women don’t penny-pinch either. Indigo, a single woman in her thirties from Miami writes “I loved my dog so much that when he got sick, I shelled out $1500 for an operation to try to save him. He damn died anyway but still…” I know what she means. In the first 10 weeks I had him, I blew my entire first-year vet budget on CJ, just trying to stabilize his lemon of a gastrointestinal tract. Recent and ongoing scares about toxic pet food not only have spawned millions of outraged female dog owners, but also a new cottage industry: home cooking for canines.

But beyond the physical care, we single women dog owners are simply devoted to our pets. Indigo says that her real friends appreciated her love for her dogs, but that “…when one boyfriend tried to buy me a new dog to replace my male dog (that) didn’t like him, I dumped the guy.” Hence the success of pet-based dating services, pooch parties at dog-friendly cafes, and dog-loving hotels with carob-treat turn-down service. Dogs really are family for many single women, so suitors be warned: it’s a package deal.

In the end, perhaps the special thing between single women and their dogs is not all that complicated. There’s an old Motown classic that goes “Ain’t Nothin’ Like The Real Thing.” Maybe that’s what we single women know. The love we share with our animals: it’s for real. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m ready for some serious DOL (dog-on-lap) time.

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  • Henry

    Very interesting and dogmatic (smile) article Joy. Expressed with the passion and knowledge of a genuine pet lover. As a non-pet owner, you actually addressed all of the questions that I wanted to ask, but was afraid to. I guess that all the money that's spent to maintain one's pets is worth it when you consider all the love, satisfaction, and general well-being that is reciprocated. Actually, I think that the dogs are as or more fortunate than the owners. Based upon what I learned in the article, “being treated like a dog” conveys a new and more acceptable meaning. I hope that CJ and Kizzie appreciate you as much as you appreciate them. Actually, I know they do!

  • Mary

    Too true. Too true. This article puts an illuminating light on a phenomenon that seems to be increasing among females that I know. As one who does not own a dog (or any pet), and has not had a single urge to do so, I have worked very hard over the years to understand why a female with no children in the house (and therefore free to do anything she wanted on the spur of the moment!) would want the responsibility of being a caring and responsible dog owner. Cats, I understood as they do not require the same degree and kind of care. Joy’s article confirms some of the suppositions I had begun to form over the last twenty years as I exposed myself more and more to the company of single women dog owners and their particular and varied dogs. I began to feel tugs at my heart …as I stared into the dogs’ eyes and felt a connection, or as I saw the relationships between the dogs and their owners. While I don’t believe I will ever own a dog, this article articulates additional nuances of a phenomenon that I did not understand. Thanks, Joy!

  • Mary

    Too true. Too true. This article puts an illuminating light on a phenomenon that seems to be increasing among females that I know. As one who does not own a dog (or any pet), and has not had a single urge to do so, I have worked very hard over the years to understand why a female with no children in the house (and therefore free to do anything she wanted on the spur of the moment!) would want the responsibility of being a caring and responsible dog owner. Cats, I understood as they do not require the same degree and kind of care. Joy’s article confirms some of the suppositions I had begun to form over the last twenty years as I exposed myself more and more to the company of single women dog owners and their particular and varied dogs. I began to feel tugs at my heart …as I stared into the dogs’ eyes and felt a connection, or as I saw the relationships between the dogs and their owners. While I don’t believe I will ever own a dog, this article articulates additional nuances of a phenomenon that I did not understand. Thanks, Joy!

  • Joy Jones

    Thank you EVERYONE for your comments!

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  • uigs

    One big question remains, no matter how loving, how unconditional and rewarding having a special dog is: Does it limit your socialization with humans and keep single women more single, or does it make it just a wee bit harder to meet a man? I can count many times I left a happy hour a bit earlier than I would have if my dog was not home alone. And the guilt…omg! Even still I do so much, hired a dog walker, take long walks with my dog. I really think that dogs are better off in homes with multiple people, or multiple dogs which I can’t afford. I would never leave my dog alone without a walker when I work, I have to plan everything around him. Before I was more content to stay home – which kept me home with my dog. As wonderful as that was it’s not the same as being out and making human connections. Just a tidbit from the other side.