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Dog paw preference – did you unknowingly create it?

Archie dog paw main image

You love your dog with very few bounds (after all you are reading this to know them better right)?

And there are many things that owners think bonds them with their dogs – and that there is a mutual flow of understanding between the two of you right?

Here is a brilliant thought experiment.  What if your hand preference (left or right) influenced what paw your dog dominantly used when doing a single paw task. AND a little more of a stretch from that, what if you influencing their paw preference affected how they see the world or behave?

Because just as much as paw preference might indicated dominant brain hemisphere usage, it might be possible that influencing which paw your dog uses, could alter how their brain works …

While the belief that left hand humans are mainly creative, and right hand humans more logical has been pretty much disproved ..  humans do have some subsets of these traits based on their preferred hand usage. And while our dog’s prefrontal cortex is less developed than ours (the reason they don’t verbally answer questions) – there is a LOT of similarity between dog and human brains – just a little less refinement (mostly for the dogs).

To answer the first part of this theory, we look at a 2022 dog experiment to “investigate whether owner handedness influences paw preference in their dogs.” Ref 1

You can read the specific test methods in the full paper, however results were based on “Sixty-two dogs (that) had their paw preference tested using a Paw Task and a Reach Task in their home over 10 days, recorded by their owners.” ref 1

The dog paw preference results

“Left-handed owners were more likely to own a dog with a left paw bias, and right-handed owners were more likely to own a dog with a right paw bias. “ ref 1

In the ‘Paw Task’ experiment, the human hand presented to a dog did not significantly predict which paw the dog lifted in response. But other test showed strong bias for each dog.

It was found that female dogs displayed a right paw bias at ALL age groups.

More male dogs had a left paw bias in puppyhood and right paw bias in older age groups.

OVERALL, The researchers concluded that “owner handedness influences paw preference in dogs, and it should be considered when suitably pairing dogs to potential owners, especially in assistance work.”  Ref 1

“Left paw laterality has been associated with an increased performance in dogs in tasks involving moving forward, searching, and finding objects.”  (Van Alphen et al. 2005),

Humans are 90% right hand dominant in tasks – and it is thought that is because the right hand is controlled by the left side of the brain in areas such as language.

“Left limb biases have also been linked to aggression, reactivity, and vigilance in numerous species.” ref 1  But in general. it has been found that “limb preference seems linked to emotional functioning” ie not specifically the type of task performed. “Therefore, limb preference could be a useful measure when considering the welfare of captive species (such as our pet dogs)” ref 1

The results are clear – “Left-handed owners (who had dogs from an early age) were significantly more likely to have a dog with a left paw bias, and right-handed owners were significantly more likely to have a dog with a right paw bias. This was found in both the Reach Task and in the Paw Task.”  Ref 1

“There is also strong evidence of a sex (hormone influence) and age interaction influencing strength and direction of paw preference in dogs.” Ref 1

This research is early days, and relied a lot on owner questionnaires, but early results show a connection between a young dog that is trained and mostly influenced by one person to have that persons limb preference for completing tasks – ie being right or left pawed.

While humans are 90% right handed, potentially because of the connection to language skills, dogs do not have such a specialised part of the brain, and if all was equal, then there would be an even split between left and right paw usage and no correlation with owner hand preference.

Dogs are Left or right paw but does it affect their creativity?

archie dog paw close up Latest research shows that for humans it’s not as simple as left brain (right hand) is for logical thinking and the right brain (left-handed person) is for creativity. “Scientists deduced that the left brain was better at language and rhythm, while the right brain was better at emotions and melody.”  Ref 2 – but the many parts of the brain still work in cooperation with each other.

In another recent dog experiment by “Psychology Today, researchers 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.” Ref 2

In this experiment “ 74% of the 17,901 dogs 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.

Like the primary research we based this article on, the ‘Psychology Today’ researchers also found that preferences on the left paw are more common among male dogs and right-pawedness was more common in older male than younger male dogs.” Ref 3


Like humans, most dogs have a preference for a left of right paw for many tasks.

Unlike humans, dogs have a much closer ratio between those that prefer left and right paw (humans are only 10% left-handed).

There are differences between female and male dogs for paw preference, and paw preference can change with the age of dogs (particularly males).

It has been shown in humans that there are specific areas inside of each half of the brain (left and right) that deal predominately with tasks such as language or logical operations.  But because of the multitude of tasks and thinking that our advanced brains do and the interconnectedness of the halves, scientist do not typically want to claim that one side of the brain is more creative than the other.

Yes, the right side of the brain has some tasks that are perceived as creative, and the right side of the brain controls the left hand. But there is no rule of thumb about how much more creative left-handed people are than right, or how more logical etc right hand people are.

While dogs have a simplified brain structure compared to humans – except when it comes to the parts that process smells (dog’s brains are much more advanced than humans) – there have been no specific testing of dog creativity or logic skills to correlate with their paw preference – YET.

However, from the tests so far, it appears that dogs when acquired young by a person, dogs can take on the paw preference of their owners hand preference. This has important applications in training some working dogs for areas such as human assistance training etc.

More research is needed, but if dogs go to that kind of length in mimicking their owners – how brilliant is that discovery into the bonding and reverence that dogs show towards yet another quirk of their owners!


Ref 1      Does owner handedness influence paw preference in dogs?    Kimberley Charlton & Elisa Frasnelli –    Animal Cognition (2022)

Ref 2   The “Left Brain, Right Brain” Myth  webmd

Ref 3  Left or Right-Pawed: Dogs Can Be Just Like Humans With Preference on Using Their Hands – science times  Margaret Davis Apr 08, 2021  (based on Psychology Today experiment)

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