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Do Dogs Have a Dominant Paw? Is Your Dog a Lefty or Righty? What Science Says

Written by: Jessica Kim

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

a woman holding paw of brown dog

Do Dogs Have a Dominant Paw? Is Your Dog a Lefty or Righty? What Science Says

While the majority of humans are right-handed, dominant paws in dogs don’t lean heavily towards one side. Studies show that most dogs have a paw that they prefer to use, while some dogs don’t.

Not a lot of evidence is available for what the split is between right-pawed and left-pawed dogs. Also, while there’s research on how physiological and neurological differences relate to dominant hands in humans, there isn’t much completed on dogs. Here’s what we know so far about the science of dog paws.


Dogs and Dominant Paws

Most dogs have a dominant paw, but the split is more even than the split between left-handed and right-handed humans. Also, many more dogs are comfortable with being ambidextrous or ambilateral than humans.

Like humans, dogs have two hemispheres in their brains. So, it is very possible that their dominant paw can point to correlations between neurological and behavioral consistencies. For example, one research on graduate students showed that left-handed people tended to be more agreeable, and left-handed females had more extroverted personalities 1.

While the exact correlations are unclear, some studies have found certain personality traits and susceptibilities to mental disorders may connect to handedness 2. However, the findings of these studies aren’t definitive, and usually, many other factors, like genetics and upbringing, contribute to a person’s physiological and psychological makeup.

It would be interesting to see how a dog’s dominant paw may indicate correlations to behavior, temperament, and health issues. As of now, there isn’t much research that proves such correlations.

Some studies 3may have discovered that ambilateral dogs are less aggressive towards strangers or that right-pawed dogs have a higher success rate of becoming guide dogs 4. However, these studies didn’t have enough controls to provide concrete evidence to back these findings 5.

Woman shaking a black dog's paw
Image By: Blue Bird, Pexels

How to Test If Your Dog Has a Dominant Paw

Sometimes, you can have an inkling of if your dog has a dominant paw just by being observant of your dog’s behavior. However, there are some small tests you can try to determine if your dog uses one paw more than the other.

One popular test is the Kong Test. In this test, dogs are given a Kong toy stuffed with treats. You can count the number of times your dog holds the toy with a particular paw. The paw that your dog uses more may be the dominant paw.

You can also try the First-stepping Test. This test observes and counts which paw dogs use to take their first step forward. The paw that dogs tend to step forward with first often indicates that it is the dominant paw. One study on this test documented that most dogs that participated in the experiment had a dominant right paw.

divider-dog paw


More research must be completed to determine how dominant paws or ambilateral paws relate to behavior, temperament, and health issues. For now, individual owners can do their own tests to discover which paw their dog uses as its dominant paw.

Knowing your dog’s dominant paw can be a fun way to observe and track your dog’s behavior and compare it with other dogs that share the same dominant paw. You’ll never know if your findings might end up helping with a major scientific breakthrough in dog research.

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Featured Image Credit: Ivan Babydov, Pexels

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