Is Your Pet a Southpaw?

by Keri K. on May 20, 2011

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Just like humans tend to favor one hand over the other, many animals display signs of having a dominant side. In the cases of cats and dogs, studies suggest that females tend to be “right-pawed,” while males tend to be “lefties” (though spaying/neutering tends to even the odds). Most pets will consistently use one paw to perform thoughtful tasks, and will lead with that foot when jumping or using stairs.

jarAfter reading an article about this online, I decided to test our kitties myself. A reliable way to determine handedness for cats is to place food in a jar and see how he or she tries to fish it out. Easy enough! I found an empty pasta sauce jar and dropped in a few Liver Bites, then shook it in front of the cats and set it down.

For a dozen small pieces of Liver Bites, Pan used his left paw ten times and was finished just as fast as he could frantically scoop them out. Dozo, however, chose not to be rushed, and very carefully used his left paw seven times and right paw five times. I know that’s not enough repetitions for a truly “scientific” study, but I’d like to conclude that Dozo’s talents include ambidexterity.

Mo: I'm a righty

Mo: I'm a righty

When I was teaching our dog Mo to “roll over,” I noticed he would only agree to roll to one side, every time. Trying to convince him to roll the other way is impossible… he sprawls to his right even if it means he’ll roll straight into a wall or off the couch! I mentioned it to our trainer at an obedience class, and she confirmed that dogs seem to have a preferred side. As we went on with training tricks, I also noticed that Mo offers to “high five” and “shake” more with his right paw, and resists using his left one even if I specifically ask for it.

Does your pet have a preferred paw? Share how you figured it out!

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Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheryl Jones May 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I think my dog, Megan, is a rightie because that is the paw she prefers to offer when commanded to shake. However, I have taught her right and left so that she will offer the paw I ask for. I’m lykophile and I follow @DFS_Ellen in Twitter!

Sherry G May 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Interesting! I’ll have to watch Maddie and see if I can devise a way to test her out.

“I’m @skgberry and I follow @DFS_Ellen in Twitter!” (where blank is your Twitter username).

Sonya Q. May 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I think my dog Harry favors his right hand because he always spins when he’s excited and ALWAYS turns to his right!
I’m cuzio23 and I follow @DFS_Ellen in Twitter!

samantha h May 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

my max is a leftie just like me! he always uses his left paw for shaking and even when he walks he puts his left paw first.

Edward June 9, 2011 at 12:41 am

Your post on this subject is really enlightening. I never thought about that. Yes, one of my dogs, Jon, is a “left-pawer”. offers the left paw when asked for “hand”; rolls over to his left for belly rubs. Not sure about Max. Will have to observe.

makayla December 14, 2012 at 7:43 am

me and my friends are doing a project on the dominate animal paw…we need some help

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