A new app asks users to swipe right for puppy love. No, this isn’t Tinder for the elementary school set. It’s a pet-finding app from pet adoption site All Paws.
Tinder’s swipe-selection system has gained popularity in app design, making the answer to almost any human need, “There’s a Tinder-like app for that.” So, much like when velour tracksuits swept the nation back in 2004, a doggie facsimile was inevitable—it was just a matter of when. And unlike several other Tinder derivatives out there, this one could actually do some tangible good in this world!
There’s little room for debate on whether online dating is a shallow sport: An OkCupid blog post confirmed five years ago that, basically, your profile picture is a key factor in whether people will message you. But our pet adoption habits, in some ways, have long been as shallow as our dating habits. Sites like Petfinder have helped shelters make leaps and bounds, according to Stephanie Shain with the Washington Humane Society. Many pet seekers start out wanting a certain breed, and apps allow shelters to list both purebred and mixed dogs of that breed.
“Just getting those pictures in front of people is a terrific first step, because you’re halfway there once they’re looking,” Shain said. Getting people through the shelter door has long been the biggest challenge, she said. Once you’re in, the dogs pretty much sell themselves.
This could even be a win for the less photogenic pooches. Darker dogs are said to take longer to get adopted, perhaps because it’s harder to photograph them—a phenomenon some shelter workers call Black Dog Syndrome. An app like this brings people in to see one dog, but also means they’ll walk in and meet several others. Anything that increases the dogs’ visibility, Shain said, is a helpful step, as it gets more potential families into the shelter and removes the negative stigma that’s surrounded them in the past.
Mongrel has long been a dirty word, and rescue dogs were sometimes assumed to have been abandoned through some fault of their own, rather than a change in the owner’s living situation. Shain said resources like this new app and Petfinder, coupled with creative marketing techniques from shelters themselves, have helped us overcome the stigma surrounding shelter dogs much faster than we probably would have otherwise.
Maybe a Tinder that helps us overcome our shallowness instead of encouraging it is less ironic than it is fitting: A dog won’t hold the zit on your nose, your bad haircut, or the temper tantrum you threw last week against you. With this app, people might be coming for the cuteness, but it’s the marvelous mutt on the inside that keeps their new companion with them forever.