Do Dogs Have Dominant Paws

Do Dogs Have Dominant Paws

Author WDF Staff


Humans have a dominant hand; just think about which hand you use for writing, throwing, or basically doing anything with one hand. Whether you prefer using your left or right hand has something to do with how we are “wired.” The scientific term for it is laterality, and naturally, we wanted to know if dogs prefer using a paw. The answer is - Yes. Some dogs indeed prefer using one paw over the other. Here’s what you should know.

How can you tell which paw dogs prefer using?

We weren’t the first ones who thought about this question, and you might not be surprised to know some tests can help us determine which paw dogs prefer using. More precisely, researchers use two tests to measure paw preference (or, as we call it, pawference). The first test is called the Kong test, and the second is called the First-stepping test.

Kong test

You can easily conclude by the test’s name - it involves the famous Kong toy. Kong is a hollow rubber toy that has an irregular shape so that it bounces unpredictably. The rubber Kong is made of is very durable, which makes it such a popular toy.

dog head and paw

Researchers give Kong to the dog, but they fill the toy with treats. To get to the treats, the dog needs to keep the toy in place. The researchers then measure how many times the dog used their right or left paw to do that. Based on those findings, they can conclude if a dog is a righty or a lefty.

FUN FACT: Did you know that 90% of humans are right-handed? Only 10% of our entire population prefers using their left hand.

First-stepping test

Unlike the Kong test, the First-stepping test takes food out of the equation. Kong test can be influenced based on the dog’s food motivation. Researchers prefer the First-stepping test because they deem it more accurate.

This test is pretty simple. It will measure how many times dogs use their right and left paws for taking the first step. The dog needs to stand still, and both their front paws should be placed on the same line. If a dog seems to be using one paw significantly more than the other, they can determine whether a dog is a righty or a lefty.

Can dogs be ambidextrous?

Yes, dogs can be ambidextrous. However, humans that can use both hands equally are called ambidextrous. Dogs that have no paw preference are called ambilateral. A lot more dogs are ambilateral than humans are ambidextrous. Many dogs don’t seem to have paw preference; they simply use the paw they feel like using.

dog shaking

How can I determine my dog’s paw preference?

If you want to know which paw your dog prefers, there are a few tests you can perform at home. The first two obvious would be the Kong and the First-stepping test. However, there is another one your dog might enjoy because there are treats at the end of the test.

Place a dog treat underneath the couch or a bed. Make sure your dog sees you placing it there and make sure they can smell it. When your dog tries to reach the treat, look at which paw they are using to grab it.

Another thing you can do is teach your dog to give you a high 5 or shake. After you repeated the trick at least a few times, you can notice which paw your dog prefers using. You can also hide a dog treat in your hand and see which paw your dog uses to get you to open your hand.

Keep in mind that if you want precise data on which paw your dog likes to use more, you should repeat the experiment at least 50 times. The more you repeat it, the more precise your findings will be.

In conclusion

Dogs can indeed be lefties or righties. There are two tests scientists like to use to determine paw preference in dogs. They are called the Kong test and the First-stepping test. You can find out which paw your dog prefers by doing some easy experiments at home. Plus, you can be sure your dog will enjoy these experiments because they involve food.

World Dog Finder team

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