Dogs are amazing animals. Our canine friends have a brain that is composed of hemispheres, just like ours and it isn’t uncommon for dogs to show signs of one-sidedness and as such they can either be right or left pawed. This is what we call “handedness”, the scientific term is “laterality”.
Paw preference in dogs relates to where activity in the brain is controlled: for the left, it’s in the right hemisphere; for the right it’s in the left hemisphere. Because each hemisphere handles different emotions and processes information differently, this could affect the personality and behaviour of your dog.
One study indicated that potential Guide Dogs have a higher success rate when they are right-pawed, however more research would need to be completed before any definitive correlations can be made.
Another study showed that ambilateral dogs exhibit less aggression towards strangers. In the same study it was found that the left-pawed dogs exhibited aggressive behaviour the most often. Although, of course, paw preference is not the sole indicator of aggression, there are many other factors at play so this is inconclusive.
So, how do you tell if you have a lefty, or a righty?
Here are seven fun ways you can tell if your pup is left or right pawed
The Kong Test
Fill your Kong with a scrummy stuffing and give it to your dog. Watch them and count how many times they use each paw or both, to hold the toy whilst they lick the filling out. Did they use their left or right paw more? or no preference?
The Leading Paw
When your dog is about to walk, see which leg they lift to take the first step. According to a study in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour this test (known as the first-stepping test) showed that most dogs lead with their right paw. Does yours?
Put a bowl of the same food either side of your dog at about a 45-degree angle and let your dog choose. Which did they choose first? The left or right.
Make a fuss of your dog and watch which side and how high they wag their tail. Is it higher to the left or right? This may indicate a ‘handedness’.
Run up a flight of stairs and watch your dog from the top. Like humans, your dog will use their stronger leg to pull themselves up. They will also take the steps with their preferred paw.
Fetch and Turn
Throw a ball for your dog and send them to retrieve it. Just before they get there, call them back and see which side they turn to. Repeat this (but let them fetch the ball a few times in between). Do they always turn to the same side?
The Bed Circle
Most dogs turn around several times when they get in their bed. Does your dog turn to the right, or left more each night?
You’ll need to repeat these tests (at least 50 times if you’re being scientific about it) to see if your dog has a favoured paw.
Whilst there is no definitive way to determine whether your dog is left or right pawed it might be useful to see if they have a preference to help with training. If you’re teaching your dog a ‘high five’ or a ‘shake paw’ it would make sense to use their dominant paw first before transferring the skill to the other paw.
Over one half of dogs are ambilateral (that’s like being ambidextrous as a human), meaning they are equally comfortable using either paw. So don’t be surprised if your dog shows no real preference.