- Left-pawed dogs (18% of population) are more likely to be male.
- Left-pawed dogs have a weaker immune system response compared to right-pawed or ambidextrous dogs.
- Right-pawedness (57% of population) is more common in female dogs.
- Ambidextrous dogs (25% of population) show no sex bias.
- Ambidextrous dogs are much more likely to exhibit noise, thunderstorm phobia and separation anxiety than their left or right handed cousins.
How do you find out whether your dog is left- or right-pawed?
You will need:
- Some soft dog food – your dog’s regular brand is less likely to cause a stomach upset than anything else.
- A Kong® (or similar) toy.
- A sheet of paper numbered from 1 to 50.
- A pencil.
- Plenty of time. This test can take up to four hours.
- Pack the Kong® with food, and freeze it solid. To start the test place it in front and to the center of your dog’s paws.
- Record the paw used to first touch the Kong® at number 1 on the recording sheet.
- Continue to record the paw used to touch the Kong® until the dog has made 50 paw interactions classified as left paw (L) or right paw (R). Definitions for the way in which interactions are classified as L or R appear below (interactions with both paws placed separately on the Kong® at the same time are not counted).
- If the dog repositions its paw or paws on the Kong®, without the paw or paws completely leaving the
Kong®, that interaction with the apparatus is not counted or recorded.
- If the dog holds the Kong® down with a certain paw or with both paws for longer than 10 seconds, gently remove the Kong® from under the paw or paws and place it in front and to the centre of your dog’s paws.
- Some dogs retrieve only the top layer of food from the Kong®. For these dogs, the Kong® must be topped up with food to achieve the 50 paw interactions. Large hungry dogs empty the Kong® quickly so they are the most likely to need it topped up.
|Left paw (L)||Right paw (R)|
|- Left paw on Kong®, right paw not. |
- Left paw over right paw on Kong®.
- Left paw on top of Kong®, right paw underneath.
|- Right paw on Kong®, left paw not. |
- Right paw over left paw on Kong®.
- Right paw on top of Kong®, left paw underneath.
|Greyhound demonstrating classification of paw interactions with Kong.– left paw interaction (L)||Greyhound demonstrating classification of paw interactions with Kong.- right paw interaction (R)|
Interpretation of results:
Once you have recorded 50 interactions of the left or right paw with the Kong® you have sufficient data to determine whether your dog is left-pawed or right-pawed. Dogs that use their left paw 32 times or more are left pawed.
Those that use their right paw 32 times or more are right-pawed. Dogs with less than 32
uses of either paw are considered ambidextrous.
Published with permission from Fergus Veterinary Hospital.
Research reviewed to compile this document:
Lateralised behaviour in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris; Behav Processes. 2003 Feb 28;61(1-2):27-35.
Paw preference in dogs: relations between lateralised behaviour and immunity; Behav Brain Res. 2004 Aug 31;153(2):521-5.
Relationship between paw preference strength and noise phobia in Canis familiaris; J Comp Psychol. 2006 Aug;120(3):176-83.