Are dogs left- or right-pawed?
The short answer is yes, dogs do have a preference for using one paw over the other.
Dogs tend to use their front paws more than their back paws, and they often alternate between using their right and left paws when performing different tasks. When reaching for a treat, a dog may use their right paw, but they may use their left paw when getting your attention.
Do dogs have a paw preference?
It's unclear, but it could be related to their brain function and how they process information. Like humans, dogs have a dominant side of their brain, which could influence their paw preference.
Most studies agree that dogs are closer to an equal distribution between paw preferences — far less varied than humans. Researchers often point out that dogs, especially adults, may exhibit learned behavior that may not align with any inherent preference.
This can happen after years of rewards in exchange for shaking with a specific paw that just might be opposite their human mom or dad’s dominant hand.
How to tell if your dog is left- or right-pawed
Studies like the Kong test have formally analyzed dogs and their tendencies toward left or right body movements, but you don’t have to go that far to figure out your pet’s preference.
Observing them in action is the easiest way to determine whether your dog has a paw preference. Watch as they perform different tasks, such as playing fetch or solving a puzzle toy.
You may notice a pattern with male dogs lifting a certain leg to pee, but this could be a more strategic choice when marking a specific spot at that moment.
The first-step test
When dogs start walking from a sitting or standing position, you might observe a pattern in what is called the First-step test. Researchers have found these types of observations more meaningful than those affected by whether or not a dog is hungry or interested when offered a treat.
Determining your dog's paw preference can be a fun way to learn more about their unique personality and behavior, but don’t worry if they don’t have an apparent preference — many pets don’t.
Let's shake on it
Sure, dogs can have a paw preference. It's just not as obvious as hand dominance in humans.
Next time you watch your dog perform a trick or reach for a toy, pay attention to which paw they use. It could be their way of showing off their ambidextrous skills.
In any case, give them a high-five for us, just for being a dog.
Dylan M. Austin is Independence Pet Group’s highly caffeinated Sr. Content Writer, supporting Figo Pet Insurance, Pets Plus Us, and PetPartners. Based in Seattle, he's usually hanging out with his Chihuahua Terrier mix, Will, and tending to an increasingly excessive houseplant collection.