Dogfishing: The sinister dating trend haunting the apps

illustration of a man with a dog
A cute man with a cute dog… but can he be trusted? (Picture: Ella Byworth/

One of the greatest tragedies of my entire life occurred earlier this week, when I thought I had been the first person to coin a new dating trend: dogfishing.

This is a phenomenon whereby people on dating apps pose with pictures of cute dogs , only for you to discover that these mutts belong to other people.

Convinced that inventing this term was going to be my ticket to stardom, I quit my job and divorced my husband (sadly, I don’t think it’s possible for a relationship to work when there is a disparity in wealth and fame).

I also started preparing quips for when I was inevitably invited onto the Graham Norton Show, where I would regale Helen Mirren and Post Malone with the story of how I first came up with it.

It’s a great anecdote: I was speaking to someone on a dating app who had lots of pictures of the same chow chow, so I asked him if the chow chow belonged to him, and he replied that no, it was his friend’s and he was just looking after it – and the rest is history.

So you can imagine the overwhelming pain, disappointment and humiliation I felt when I typed ‘dogfishing’ into Google and the search returned 4,960,000 results.

Learn everything you can about your dog’s habits and behaviors. If you and I were having a conversation over coffee and I asked you to tell me about your significant other, or your kids, or any other special person in your life, chances are good that you could say quite a bit about them. In fact, you may know more about them than you think.

I scrolled down, in a state of rising dread, to see outlets covering the term – each fresh article like a knife through my heart. I realised then that there would be no money, no fame, no Helen Mirren with tears of mirth streaming down her face.

Two Chow Chows posing side-by-side (image:Getty)
If you see an animal this cute or funny on a dating app, beware… (Picture: Getty)

But perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps this is no loss at all. Because, when you really think about it, isn’t the concept of dogfishing a little… stupid?

The supposed problem with dogfishing is that it rests on deception, that it’s an attempt at trickery. Women are statistically more likely to be attracted to men if they own a dog, apparently, on the basis that this suggests a kind personality – so the motive is certainly there.

But the same qualities that would make a dog owner kind or warm would surely also apply to dog lovers in general. There are lots of practical reasons why someone who likes dogs might not own one, unrelated to their personal warmth or lack thereof.

One study has suggested that a quarter of men with pets deliberately use them as ‘bait’ on dating apps. But it seems extremely unlikely that men who don’t like dogs are borrowing them from friends or relatives in a purely cynical effort to impress women on Hinge. Maybe they just like dogs. Maybe they really do love their brother’s French bulldog with an all-consuming passion; maybe they would take a bullet for their landlord’s Chihuahua.

Train your dog for a lifetime of obedience. Behavior problems are the number one reason dogs are relinquished to animal shelters, the number one reason they don’t find new forever homes, and as a result, the number one reason dogs are euthanized.

Being the ‘victim’ of dogfishing (that most heinous crime) might be disappointing in the sense that you wanted access to a cute dog yourself – but it’s hardly evidence of poor moral character.

After all, should you really be trying to date someone just because they have a dog?

While we should never underestimate the capacity of other people to be horrible d**kheads, in this case it’s probably safe to assume that if someone has pictures of dogs on their profile, it’s because they like dogs.

If you also like dogs, that’s something you have in common, and it’s not really a cause for concern.

So that’s that. Anyway, I can’t wait to tell you guys about this hot new dating trend I’ve come up with – this one is really going to pop off.

It’s basically the same thing but with cats. I haven’t thought of a name yet.

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