Crufts 2016: Wood Green matchmaking service takes inspiration from online dating to find dogs new owners

Like conventional dating websites, Wood Green places a heavy emphasis on matching personalities of prospective partners

There was a time when looking for love online was considered a little embarrassing. Nowadays, it seems every man and his dog is logging on in hopes of finding The One. 

Take Elvis, for example. Sensitive and affectionate, his favourite activities include long walks in the park and cosy nights in. Elvis is looking for both mental and physical stimulation, although he has a bad habit of licking people’s faces before they’ve been formally introduced.

Elvis is a dog, of course: a three-year-old collie crossbreed who resides at the Wood Green animal shelter in Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire. This weekend, he and a group of his abandoned friends took part in an intense bout of computer dating at the Crufts 2016 dog show.    

Perusing a doggy database in search of a new pet is not new. But Wood Green believes it is breaking the mould by taking inspiration from more conventional computer dating services that place a heavy emphasis on matching the personalities of prospective partners.

Many rescue dogs are adopted on a whim, it seems, their owners smitten by a pretty face or strategically wagged tail.

That’s all well and good says Sarah Etherington, who works at Wood Green, but harmonious relationships are based on more than instant attraction – it’s vital that owner and dog are a perfect match. 

“People have a lot of preconceptions and base things on looks, but personality is so important,” she says. 

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'Elvis' the Collie crossbreed is a sensitive soul (Martin Hill)

“Matchmaking dogs and owners on a personality basis rather than looks has huge potential. You understand the dog and know you are a good match from the off.”

To achieve a high degree of human-canine harmony, prospective owners are invited to peruse the shelter’s available dogs online where their history, preferences and personality traits are chronicled in detail. 

The shelter’s staff also probe the requirements and preferences of their human visitors before setting up an appointment to meet what could turn out to be the mutt of their dreams. 

“Instead of people coming to us with an idea of the dog they want, we ask as much as we can about the people who are potentially rehoming a dog – questions about their lifestyle, family, home, garden and we match the person with the dog that best fits that,” Ms Etherington says. “Someone might have their heart set on a particular breed of dog – often they have done their research – but sometimes it’s not the right dog for them. We like to be really in-depth and make sure that is the right fit.”

Visitors to the Wood Green stand at Crufts included Leza and Mark Greenop and their four-year-old daughter, Alice. They are searching for a new family pet to fill the “void” in their life following the death of their previous dog last year.

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Now Leza, Alice and Mark Greenop want a real live dog (Andrew Fox)

“One of the reasons we came to Crufts was to research rescue dogs,” Mrs Greenop says. “For a while we didn’t think we’d be able to put ourselves through it again but the family is not the same without a dog.”

Alice is eager to get a small dog she can play with. Jasmine, a dinky West Highland terrier, appears to fit the bill. Aged one, she is at ease around young children and loves cuddles. The Greenops aren’t ready to commit just yet, though. 

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'Abby' is described as being energetic and soppy (Martin Hill)

“We want to explore all our options,” Mrs Greenop muses, before continuing to scroll through the images on-screen. “It’s just a matter of finding the right one.”

Crufts, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary, is the world’s largest dog show and an event teeming with potential owners. More than 150,000 dog lovers and 22,000 immaculately turned-out pooches will pass through Birmingham’s NEC during the four-day extravaganza, which ends today.

The big question for Elvis, and his friends, is whether one of them is The One.

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