Paw Preference In Dogs

Have you ever wondered if your dog is right-pawed or left-pawed (i.e., a “southpaw”)? In fact, dogs, like humans, do tend to have a preference for using one side more than the other.


What the studies say

According to the people who research such things, dogs are similar to humans. The majority of dogs are righthanders. A much smaller percentage are lefthanders. And quite a few dogs are ambidextrous or they can use both paws equally.


In one study of 28 dogs, 57.1 percent preferred to use their right paw; 17.9 percent preferred to use their left paw; and 25 percent were ambidextrous.


There appears to be some suggestion that male dogs are a little more likely to be left-pawed than female dogs.


Paw preference and behavior

Some researchers have speculated that there is a connection between paw preference and behavior. Findings from at least one study suggest that dogs which are ambidextrous are more likely to be reactive to noise from fireworks and thunderstorms. This theory has been suggested as a way to screen  dogs before training  them for bomb sniffing, guide dog work, and other programs which have a high rate of failure. Dogs that react to this kind of stimuli would not be good candidates for these programs,  if the theory is correct.


Testing your own dog

You can test your own dog and discover his paw preference in several ways:


  • Put a treat under your sofa and see which paw your dog uses to try to reach it;
  • Give your dog a bone and see which paw he uses to hold it when he chews on it;
  • Put a piece of tape on  your dog’s muzzle for a moment and see which paw he uses to try to remove it;
  • See which paw your dog normally uses when he steps forward;
  • Put a Kong filled with treats in front of your dog and see which paw he uses to try to get the treats out.

These are all good ways to determine which paw your dog prefers to use. Have fun and see what you learn about your dog.


Right brain and left brain

Other studies suggest that dogs have the same right brain-left brain reactions that humans do. Their left brain controls the right side of their body, while the right brain controls the left side of the body. Studies have shown that dogs react by wagging their tails to the right when they are happy and they wag their tails to the left when they are apprehensive. (You can try this at home. Your dog should wag his tail to the right when he sees you but if he sees a big scary dog, he should wag his tail to the left.) This is because with dogs (and humans) the left brain is associated with love, safety, and bonding. The right brain handles things like fear.


Does this explain why dogs or people are left or right-handed? Who knows? But it’s something else to ponder when you watch your dog.


Article by Nancy Cope, owner of the online dog boutique where you can find an assortment of wonderful gifts for your pampered pooch.  Items include gourmet dog treats, gift baskets, fancy rhinestone collars, unique toys and much more.