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Dog Paw Preference - Is Your Dog a “Righty” or a “Lefty”?

By: PetPlace Staff

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It is believed that only about 13 percent of the world's human population is left-handed. (They are often called "southpaws".) Genetics are believed to be primarily responsible for this trait because left-handedness can definitely "run in the family". In fact, a gene that researchers believe is responsible for left-handedness has now been isolated.

Here's another interesting fact – left-handed people are much more likely to be creative. Most left-handers are visual thinkers who excel in creative fields like art and music. They are also more likely to excel in ball sports and at tasks that involve three-dimensional thinking and hand-eye coordination.

Interesting.

But does "handedness" apply to pets, too? Can dogs be "left-pawed" or "right-pawed"?

The answer is "YES"!

Animals have a preferred side, meaning your dog may be "right-pawed" or "left-pawed". If he is a male, studies show that he is most likely "left-pawed". If your dog is a female, she is most likely to be "right-pawed".

Studies have tried to determine common characteristics of dogs and cats based on "pawedness". A study at the University of New England determined that ambidextrous pets (with no bias for either the left or right paw) were at higher risk for behavior problems, separation anxiety and noise phobia (they are frightened by things like thunder and fireworks).

Discovery News reported a study on paw use that was done on 42 domestic cats (21 male and 21 female). It found that in simpler tasks, a definite paw preference might not emerge – but in more complex tasks, a strong paw preference exists in cats based on sex.

Most female dogs and cats prefer to use the right front paw while male dogs and cats prefer to use their left front paw. But in tests of pets that had been neutered, "pawedness" could not be determined by gender (the neutered animals showed no preference to one paw over the other).

Animal behaviorists at the University of Sydney (Australia) found that male dogs are more likely to be left-pawed than female dogs, but they found no predisposition to left-pawedness among different breeds. The breeds they studied were boxers, pugs, whippets and greyhounds. Their study also concluded that dogs with no distinct paw preference could never be trained to the same level as those with a specific paw preference. Also, left-pawed dogs are much favored as police dogs and guide dogs – but left-pawed dogs have a greater risk for some diseases.

Here are some tests you can do to see if your dog is left-pawed or right-pawed. You must do each test many times watching for a "repeat" pattern. Clinical trials perform each test about 100 times, but a sample of 10 to 20 tests should provide a fair indication.

  • When you teach your dog to "shake", notice which paw your dog offers most often.

  • Give your dog a puzzle treat toy, like a Kong or the Squirrel Dude, filled with a soft treat. Place it directly in the center of your dog's line of vision (not off to the left or right side) and see which paw your dog first touches the toy with and which paw he uses most often to hold the treat toy.

  • Put a small piece of tape on your dog's snout and see which paw he uses to remove it.

  • Place a treat or a toy under the sofa just out of your dog's reach and see which paw he uses to try to grab for it.


    Demostration of Paw Preference Testing in Dogs

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    Do you think dogs have a dominant paw? Take our poll. Go to: Can Dogs Be "Left-Pawed" or "Right-Pawed"?

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