Surprisingly, dogs can be right- or left-pawed in the same way as humans. While only 10 percent of the human population is left-handed, dogs’ paw preferences seem to be almost evenly split. It’s also possible to not have a paw preference leading researchers to label them ambilateral.
How do researchers determine righties or lefties?
Researchers use different methods to determine paw preference. One is the first step test where a dog will arise from a sitting position. They tend to use their dominant paw to start off walking. The other test is where you give the dog a Kong toy filled with treats and see how many times the dog uses one paw or the other to get the goodies out.
Some research suggests that dogs have dominant paws for all activities, or perhaps it is related to the activity. One study showed dogs might use one paw for tasks, and the other paw for walking. The research is ongoing and in the early stages of learning about our pets’ brains
Does it really matter if dogs prefer one paw over the other?
In the human world, it can be challenging to be left-handed in a right-handed world. But does paw preference affect dogs? There is ongoing research to determine if being left or right paw dominant has any effect on the pet’s personality. Early studies showed that of puppies in guide dog training, right-pawed dogs were more successful in completing the training program than left-pawed dogs.
There’s been some interesting information about ambilateral dogs. Other research showed that ambilateral dogs were less aggressive, while left-pawed dogs showed more aggression. That research is ongoing and you have to take into account that many factors influence aggressive behavior in dogs such as early socialization, environment, and breed.