15/10 A Very Good Boy

Matt Nelson of WeRateDogs and Doug, the Senior German Shepherd he adopted
15/10 A Very Good Boy
WeRateDogs, begun as a joke Twitter account rating “good doggos” on the Internet, has raised over $2 million for pups in need

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Through his devoted following, Matt Nelson of WeRateDogs has raised over $2 million to help dogs in need. He’s keeping the feel-good vibes flowing with his own philanthropic organization, the 15/10 Foundation.

WeRateDogs

We RateDogs is one of the largest digital pet platforms on the Internet—but when Matt Nelson started it, he certainly wasn’t thinking about a career. 

Then a 19-year-old college student at North Carolina’s Campbell University for Professional Golf Management, he started an account sharing cute dog photos on Twitter as a way to, well, pass some time.

WeRateDogs

His quick-witted humour, in combination with some of the cutest photos on the planet, ended up being an unexpected recipe for success: when the account launched in 2015, the follower count steadily grew by the thousands—and today sits at just over nine million (or a combined 12 million if you include Instagram and Facebook). By age 21, he was making in the six-figure range by rating dogs on Twitter.

Matt Nelson of WeRateDogs with Zoey his Golden Retriever and Sizzle his adopted Pooch

“I love dogs. I love Twitter. I love making people laugh,” Nelson tells Modern Dog, reflecting on how the account got started. “Those interests, combined with being a bored college student, is what eventually led to WeRateDogs.”

Capitalizing on a social media following is big business these days, especially when it comes to opportunities for merch and collaborative branded content, which can generate serious revenue. Simply put, the chance for a dream career with dogs (that also paid the bills) was too lucrative for Nelson to give up.

WeRateDogs social post

“I still love golf, but when the opportunity to drop out and work with dogs full time presented itself, I had to take it,” he says.

WeRateDogs has also had a major influence on dog internet culture; beyond becoming a brand in and of itself, the platform has spawned popular terms like “pupper” and “doggo.” If you follow any dog meme accounts, the two terms are quite literally impossible to avoid—even in 2022.

WeRateDogs Social Post

“It’s a very interesting thing to have a major influence on,” Nelson shares. “Depending on how you feel about it, I’ll take this opportunity to apologize to those who feel personally victimized by ‘pupper’ and ‘doggo’. My olive branch is that we haven’t used those words since 2017,” he adds.

While the account will forever be known for people sending in photos of their dogs to get a rating (“don’t worry, they always get above 10/10,” Nelson reminds readers), it’s become much more in recent years. In 2020, WeRateDogs helped raise over $1.3 million for pets in need by resharing links to fundraisers—putting them over the $2 million mark for funds raised altogether.

“As soon as the account became popular, we started to receive GoFundMe campaigns from members of our audience who couldn’t afford their dog’s medical bills,” he explains how the charitable component started. Shortly after, WeRateDogs began sharing links to fundraisers each Friday.

WeRateDogs Matt Nelson with Willie one of many four legged friends

“We featured our first one in 2016, and it was met with overwhelming support. Since then, we’ve been committed to helping a dog in need every week and have raised over $2 million so far.”

In some ways, it’s not a surprise to see Nelson, now 25, channel his passion for dogs into a business; throughout his life, he always had an affinity for his four-legged besties.

“My family has always had Golden Retrievers. We never went more than a few months without!” he says, fondly remembering his childhood pal Zoey, who remains with his parents, along with a more recent addition, Sizzle. 

Today, he’s a proud doggo dad to a pooch of his own, who also just happens to be the “CEO” of WeRateDogs. “I adopted a now 11-year-old German Shepherd in late 2020. His name is Doug and he is my wonky-eared wolf baby,” he says of his BFF. “We also made him the CEO of WeRateDogs.”

WeRateDogs Social Post

Together, Nelson, Doug, and his team have gone beyond helping people and their pups on platforms like GoFundMe. Recognizing their capacity to help more dogs, they launched their own non-profit in 2020, aptly naming it the 15/10 Foundation. The name, of course, is a reference to their Twitter “ratings,” 15/10 being the highest rating awarded.

The charity focuses on dogs whose medical needs prevent them from being adopted and finding forever homes. The concept was inspired, in fact, by Doug. When Nelson adopted him, the senior dog was arthritic, suffered from ear infections, and didn’t get along well with other dogs. Had Nelson not adopted him, there is a good chance Doug wouldn’t have made it out of the shelter. 15/10 Foundation identifies and helps dogs like Doug by removing their financial hindrances to adoption via sponsorship, expediting their happily ever after. 

WeRateDogs Social Post

For Nelson, launching the foundation has been his proudest accomplishment so far. 

“We’ve spent years being exposed to the entire financial ecosystem of the pet world and found a gap in services that a passionate audience of dog lovers can fill,” he says.

As for what’s next, Nelson’s hope is to keep building the platform to do more good for dogs in need—but also keep the laughs coming on new platforms, like TikTok.

WeRateDogs Social Post

“We hope to continue entertaining in our usual ways. I’ve tiptoed into TikTok, which has been creatively fulfilling,” he says. “But our main focus going forward will be translating the power of an amazing community into an even more powerful force for good with the 15/10 Foundation.”

As for his future goals, Nelson is hopeful the WeRateDogs name will be known as a do-gooding platform for dogs around the world.

“We will most likely always be known as the ‘heckin 12/10 puppo’ account, but hopefully one day soon we can be more synonymous with rescue and adoption.”

This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!

 

 

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