| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - Leo is affectionate, likes stuffed toys, eats fish and is a hit with ladies looking for love online. Not bad, for a 3-year-old Golden Retriever.
Leo is just one of hundreds of dogs being signed up to a crop of dog dating websites in India by doting owners seeking a mate or a companion for their pet.
"A lot of dog owners want their dogs to have doggy friends with whom they can play and have their own fun time," says Geetika Nigam, who launched the 6,500-user-strong Puppy Love (www.puppylove.in/) community two years ago.
Just like human dating sites, dog owners can upload photos, blog, search for the perfect match and set up dates.
Many of the eligible dogs are pedigreed but some pet owners also advertise for strays they have adopted.
"People are very happy that finally someone has taken up this cause," says Mumbai-based Mekhala Lobo, who spotted a business opportunity in her newly launched Date Your Pet (dateyourpet.co.in/) website.
"Believe me, in the dog world, finding a mate is next to impossible," the MBA student said.
And it's especially hard for the boys.
Nigam, who owns a dog-grooming business, says a skewed sex ratio ensures females have the upper hand in the dog-meets-dog world. "Families generally prefer keeping male dogs so females are always in demand," she said.
But, just like humans, not all dogs are lucky in love.
Ishita Sukhadwala set up DogMateOnline (dogmateonline.com/) in 2008 to help her cousin's 6-year-old Doberman Rocky find a mate. "It was more out of necessity than anything else," she said.
Rocky had a profile set up on the website but died before a potential match was found.
Sukhadwala and co-promoter Robina Gupta dedicated the website to Rocky and now help nearly 5,000 registered members find a canine companion for their pets.
Pet ownership has boomed in India, thanks to its growing ranks of wealthy, middle and upper class professionals who are also driving sales of luxury goods.
But for the vast majority of the country, which lives on between $1 and $2 a day, pets are not an option. Stray dogs are also often beaten, herded into trucks, poisoned and dumped into pits by municipality health teams.