Posted 5 months ago ago
Written by Rachel Mainwaring
Have you ever wondered whether your dog is right or left pawed?
Well, it’s something that scientists have been pondering too, and a new study has relieved that the majority of dogs are, in fact, just like us humans, right-handed.
However, while just 10% of the human population are left-handed, 31% of the dogs in the largest-ever study of canine handedness, prefer using their left paw than the right.
What did researchers do?
Researchers from Lincoln University analysed the data from almost 18,000 dogs performing a food-retrieval task. Researchers told dog owners to prepare a plastic or cardboard tube that is wide enough for a dog’s paw and to place a treat at the end of the tube for the dogs to retrieve.
The experiment was repeated three times before owners were asked to describe the behaviour of their dogs based on whether the dogs used their left or right forepaw.
Also, the researchers were told to classify their dogs based on their sex and four age groups: puppy, young adult, adult, and elderly.
What did researchers find out?
The dog owners reported that about 74% of the 17,901 dogs in the experiment showed a clear preference on a paw while 26% used both paws equally during the task.
Among those dogs who showed paw preferences, 58.3% were right-handed, and 41.7% showed preferences on their left paw. So, left-handedness is much more common in dogs than in humans.
Researchers also found that preferences on the left paw are more common among male dogs. In terms of age groups, right-pawedness was more common in older male than younger male dogs.
What does this tell us about dogs?
According to Psychology Today, taken together, the study clearly shows that most dogs are either left-handed or right-handed, just like humans. However, at 24% the percentage of animals with no preference is higher than the percentage of ambidextrous humans which is roughly 1%.
Sebastian Ocklenburg, who wrote The Asymmetric Brain, explains: “Another interesting finding was that in dogs, left-handedness is much more common than in humans. Why this happens is not well understood. One factor might be that humans face stronger cultural pressure to use the right hand; for example, when learning how to write in school.
“In contrast, owners generally do not seem to care much whether their dog is left- or right-handed and would only very rarely try to train it to use the other paw for retrieving food. The effect of gender on left-handedness in dogs suggests that sex hormones may affect handedness in dogs, similar to what has been proposed in humans.”