I Walked 4 Different Dogs To See How Many Dates They Got Me

As a single gal living in a major city, I mainly find dates on apps. It's easy, it's fast, and I can do most of the legwork while siting on my couch in my pajamas. But that isn't to say I don't enjoy meeting people IRL. I live for a meet-cute, and am always searching for ways to strike up conversations with attractive men I see in public. I once tried to pick up a guy at Whole Foods by helping him test whether or not a melon was ripe. (It didn't work.)

But a few weeks ago, while walking past a dog park with my cousin and her sons, I offhandedly mentioned that dogs are the ultimate icebreakers. "It's like throwing chum into the ocean," I told her. "If you've got a dog on a leash, I swear, people just swarm you. It's got to be the best way to pick up guys."

Soon after, my coworkers and I were chatting about dogs in the office (as we do), and my editor suggested I take this theory to the streets. And thus, an experiment was born.

For as many weekend days as it took, I'd borrow dogs of varying shapes and sizes, and walk them around different NYC neighborhoods too see which one got me the most, uh, tail. If a guy I met asked any questions about "my" dog, I'd tell him that I was walking a dog for a friend, so if we did wind up dating, he wouldn't ask where the hell the pup went. But otherwise, there were zero rules to this — I just had to secure some dogs and get to walking.

Scroll on to see if my theory was fur real or not. Okay, no more dog puns — but there are plenty of adorable pups, ahead.

Photo: Courtesy of Maria Del Russo.
Pup: Betty
Breed: Boston Terrier

Betty is the dog daughter of two of my best friends, so she and I have been acquainted for years. In fact, when her owners, Matt and JM, are out of town, I'll be a good auntie and take care of her. We like to sit on the sofa and watch Will & Grace, and I'll sneak her extra treats to distract her from the pizza I'm eating.

For the purposes of this experiment, I wanted to venture outside of Hell's Kitchen, where Betty lives and usually walks. So on a chilly Saturday morning, I put on her coat, and hopped into a cab down to the West Village. "Betty, we're going to pick up guys," I told her. She stared blankly at me, probably wondering where the treats were.

Betty and I went to Hudson Street, a very pedestrian-friendly stretch littered with coffee shops, bars, and cute brunch spots. But the weather must have been scaring off the eligible men, because there weren't many in sight. I smiled at one guy who was jogging down Hudson, and he smiled back. But I thought it would be bad form to shove Betty in his face mid-run and ask him to evaluate her cuteness. I figured I'd grab a coffee, sit on a bench, and just wait for the love to find us (me and Betty, that is). But it was cold out, there were not many people wandering around, and Betty's coat wasn't that warm, so we decided to go for a walk.

A few people did stop to pet Betty, but most of them were women. And while I love making friends, that wasn't the goal. The handful of West Village bros who I did pass on the street didn't seem to pay much attention to Betty, which I found very rude — she looks quite fetching in her plaid coat. After 40 minutes, we were both freezing, so we slipped back into a cab and went home to Will & Grace. We may not have gotten any phone numbers, but time spent with Betty is never wasted.

Dates landed: 0
Photo: Courtesy of Maria Del Russo.
Pup: Kirby
Breed: Golden Retriever

When I set out looking for dogs to walk for this little challenge, my friend and coworker Torey Van Oot demanded I take Kirby out. I was happy to, because I happen to love big dogs. I was also convinced that the bigger the pup, the more attention I'd get — especially from men. This is a total generalization, but what I've gathered from the straight men I know is that most of them prefer big dogs over teeny ones. Make of that what you will.

The hurdle this time would be Kirby's neighborhood: Cobble Hill is full of families and married couples, like Torey and her husband, so I knew that finding a single dude to slip me his phone number was going to be hard. But I had faith — plus the name of a great park and an adjacent coffee shop that might be good cruising grounds. So off Kirby and I went, into the familial paradise, in search of some tail.

I walked Kirby on a gorgeous Saturday, so people were out and about. After walking around the park for a bit with no bites, we parked at the coffee shop Torey suggested to me. I grabbed an iced tea and found a bench to relax on, while Kirby lay by my feet. Within five minutes, two guys who were riding their bikes skidded to a stop. "Can we pet your dog?" they asked. One of them had a sleeve tattoo, a beard, and no ring on his left ring finger — so my spidey senses were tingling. We shared smiles and a few pleasantries, but after a couple of minutes, his buddy got antsy and wanted to leave. Beard man looked at me, looked at his friend, looked back at me, and then gave me a weak smile. "Guess that's my cue," he said, and pedaled off before I could ask for his number.

Dejected, I walked Kirby home — but not before he gave me a big, wet lick on the cheek. Hey, at least I got a little action that day.

Dates landed: 0
Photo: Courtesy of Maria Del Russo.
Pup: Teddy
Breed: Yorkie/Havanese

Remember how I said I love big dogs? I love small, fluffy ones, too. (Actually, I love most dogs, so let's just go with that.) So when my coworker Candace Whye sent me a photo of her pooch, Teddy, I was smitten. He was teeny. He was furry. And in the photos she'd sent, Candace had tied a decorative scarf around his neck — so I knew we'd at least have a thing for accessories in common.

Teddy lives in Bed-Stuy, a neighborhood that houses one of my favorite brunch spots in New York City, Peaches HotHouse. Since it's a happening spot, Peaches always has a line out the door. It was a Sunday, so Candace advised that I take Teddy strutting by the restaurant. "People are just drawn to him," she told me. "You'll see."

She wasn't kidding. Nearly every person I passed on the street asked to pet Teddy or remarked on how cute he was as they passed. Old women walking out of church couldn't stop cooing at him. I felt adorable by proxy. Hanging out with Teddy was a real boost for my confidence.

There was a crowd outside of Peaches, and the weary brunch-goers were in desperate need of a distraction. So they latched on to Teddy. The majority were women, but there were a few clusters of guys, too. Unfortunately, Teddy seemed to suck up all the adorableness — he got most of the attention while I tried in vain to flirt. For five solid minutes, no less than a dozen people pet him and commented on how cute he was — but none of that translated into phone numbers or dates. (I blame the hunger and the hangovers of the brunch crowd.)

That said, chilling with Teddy for that half hour opened my eyes to a satellite benefit of taking a particularly cute pup for a walk: It's an amazing way to meet people in your neighborhood (but, as I was learning on this experiment, maybe not ones who want to date you).

Dates landed: 0
Photo: Courtesy of Maria Del Russo.
Pup: Mookie
Breed: Australian Shepherd

As the "son" of my coworker Cory Stieg, Mookie is kind of famous around the Refinery29 offices. He makes regular appearances on her Instagram, so when I was walking down the street to meet the two of them on a sunny Saturday morning, I felt like Mookie and I were already acquainted.

In my mind, Mookie was going to be the perfect wing dog for this experiment. He's fluffy and friendly with a tongue that always seems to hang out of one side of his mouth. He's like the Gerber baby of dogs.

Mookie and I went to Prospect Park, which on this day was packed with people. We walked around the lawn for a while while Cory picked a patch of grass to sit down and spy on us. After 10 minutes, I walked by two guys who asked to pet Mookie. With a smile, I said, "Of course!"

That's when Mookie sprung into action. He immediately licked the face of one of the guys, and then sat directly on his lap. The guy was enamored. He introduced himself as Steve*, asked a bunch of questions about Mookie, and then turned his attention on to me. There were fireworks between us. After a few minutes, I told them both we should get going, and Mookie climbed off Steve's lap. I waited a beat, hoping Steve would ask for my number, but he didn't. So I said goodbye and walked away totally bummed. Was I striking out completely in this experiment?

After about 100 feet, Mookie suddenly decided he wanted to sit, so we found a patch of grass to relax in, and 30 seconds later, here comes Steve walking over with a smile. "Are you seeing anyone?" he asked. "No..." I answered. "Well, could I have your phone number?"

Mission. Accomplished.

We chatted for a few minutes, said goodbye, and then Mookie and I went to meet Cory — who had seen everything. Steve and I have been texting, we're set to meet up next weekend, and I've told Cory that any time Mookie needs a walk, I will gladly haul my ass from the Upper East Side to do it.

Dates landed: 1

*Name has been changed.
Photo: Courtesy of Maria Del Russo.
So, what's the final answer: Are dogs the ultimate way to pick up dates? Not by a long shot. I've had a lot more success on my apps than I did with all four dogs combined. But these furry friends are pretty amazing icebreakers, and they definitely got me out of my apartment to meet people in other parts of the city. Because of this, they can be great wing-animals, but the obvious risk is meeting someone who's mainly interested in your dog. I tried to safeguarded myself against this by being upfront that each pup was borrowed — so here's hoping Steve isn't just in it for Mookie.

All that said, I won't be running out to the pound to pick up a pooch of my own any time soon. First of all, my apartment lease doesn't allow it. But there's also the fact that they're a lot of work. I can totally see myself out on a date — with someone I met while dog-walking — only to have to duck out early, because I have to walk my dog. They're high-maintenance pets, and, at this moment in my life, I'm a high-maintenance woman. And, sorry dogs, my needs are coming first.

That said: If anyone needs a dog-walker, please call me. I'd take a stroll in the park with your pet over another afternoon swiping through Bumble any day.
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