Why you should care
Because swiping left and right needn’t be so shallow.
Everyone loves dogs. In part because they love us unconditionally, no matter our taste in music, how we dress or whether we vote Democrat or Republican. So if you’ve been spending way too much time swiping left and right on Tinder, it might be worth taking a break to find a different kind of friend — one who will be unfailingly loyal and will literally wag his tail every time you walk in the door. All you need is BarkBuddy, an app for iOS that matches you with adoptable dogs in your area.
It couldn’t be simpler: BarkBuddy detects your location and shows you thousands of local dogs available for adoption. First you log in via Facebook authentication to confirm that you’re human (the app promises not to post anything on your behalf) and then you can set preferences, including gender, age (from puppy to senior), size (small to extra large) and energy level (couch potato to marathoner). After the initial setup, the canine matchmaking begins.
The main display shows a photo of a dog and, yes, similar to the human Tinder, you swipe left to reject or right to “favorite” before moving on to the next profile. The idea is for the app to improve its recommendations based on your preferences. More swipes equal greater likelihood of matching — in theory. For each dog there is a profile description, so you can learn more about the prospective pooch, such as age, breed and personality (depending on how much information the shelter provides), and obtain contact information for the animal shelter or rescue organization.
Digital services to find adoptable pets are nothing new. But BarkBuddy’s mobile, Tinder-like approach is clever branding and positioning that get us thinking about pet adoption. In the U.S. today, only about 30 percent of pets get adopted from animal shelters — and every year an estimated 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs that could have been rescued end up being euthanized. Makes you want to start swiping, right?
Which leads me to the one drawback to BarkBuddy’s simple “hot or not,” yes-or-no approach. A small piece of my heart breaks every time I swipe one dog left and another right. What if I reject *the* dog that would have been my perfect companion based on a two-second impulse glance at a photo?
But the fact is we can’t adopt them all — much to my dismay — so it’s a helpful technique for narrowing the field and finding a breed that’s right for you. (After about 500 swipes, the app pointed out that I’m drawn toward Australian shepherds and Labrador retrievers. Considering I grew up with a huge chocolate Lab that I absolutely loved, it’s not too far off.) Though the real test to determine if you and a prospective pup are truly compatible requires meeting up in the flesh and fur. An app can only serve as the connector.
The folks behind BarkBuddy are part of the same company — Bark & Co. — that brought us BarkCare (home vet visits), BarkBox (monthly subscription for dog toys and treats) and BarkPost (doggie news).
Who knows, by using “Tinder for dogs,” you might not need the actual Tinder app anymore. Once you’ve adopted an adorable pooch, you’ll find people coming over to pet him or her every time you take a walk together. Introduce yourself to these like-minded dog lovers and see where it leads — no swiping necessary.
Vignesh Ramachandran is a tech buff and journalist working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @VigneshR.