Teaching your best friend “paw” just got far more interesting! Turns out, dogs have a preference for right or left paw the same way that people are either right or left handed. Similarly, dogs can also be ambidextrous. The main difference? Whereas 90% of the human population is right-handed, the divide between right paw and left paw preference in dogs is an even 50/50 split!
Studies show that there are gender and breed preferences in “pawedness.” Overall, male dogs prefer their left paw whereas females opt for their right. That said, however if your pup is neutered or spayed at a young age the preference that their gender inherently favors, disappears!
Why does this matter? Though it would be nice to have love letters written from my right-handed bestie, this information is actually relevant because of the behavioral studies linked to “pawedness.” Dr. Nick Branson found that pets with no paw preference actually were more scared of loud noises, such as fireworks. He notes that, “dogs that do not show brain specialization, and therefore, do not favour the use of one paw over the other, may be prone to experience intense emotional responses to a broad range of stimuli.” This essentially means that living in Manhattan, July 4th celebrations, and birthday parties are all scarier to the ambidextrous pet!
Though it’s not necessary to determine your pets paw preference, through simple observation and at home studies you could soon know if you have a righty or lefty on your hands.
Simple experiments you can conduct:
- Hide a treat under the couch and examine which paw your pet uses to pry it out from underneath
- Give your dog a wobbly toy and pay attention to which paw he/she uses to stabilize it
- Put a piece of tape on your dogs nose (just for a minute) and see which paw he/she leans towards to help remove it
- Place a treat filled KONG toy infant of your pup and see which paw is dominant in helping to get the treat out. (This is the experiment researchers used primarily)
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