Have you ever noticed if your dog or cat is left or right-pawed? Veterinarians and research scientists agree that dogs, cats, and horses have left and right preferences. Dr. Nick Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic Department of Clinical Sciences at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts states being left or right handed or shall we say right or left-pawed is just not unique to humans.
Race horses generally are only required to lean to the left since they run counterclockwise, however other national and international competitions sometimes demand horses race or canter both ways thus requiring some horses to be ambidextrous.
Luckily for cats and dogs, their choice of right-paw versus left-paw is not likely to affect their livelihood. Researchers however, according to Dr. Stephanie Schwartz of Veterinary Neurology Center in Tustin, Calif. hopes the study of the right brain and left brain connection along with genetics may someday change the way dogs and cats are bred, raised, trained and used. The study may predict which dogs will make the best service, therapy, or military dogs.
A 1991 study at Ataturk University in Turkey revealed 50 percent of cats are right-pawed, 40 percent are left-pawed and 10 percent are ambidextrous.
In the human population 90 percent are right-handed and 10 percent are left-handed.
According to livescience.com, Professor Daniel M. Abrams and graduate student Mark J. Panaggio published their hypothesis in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface that all social behavior is related to population-level handedness:
“The more social the animal—where cooperation is highly valued—the more the general population will trend toward one side,” says Abrams, an assistant professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“The most important factor for an efficient society is a high degree of cooperation. In humans, this has resulted in a right-handed majority.”
So how can you determine if Fido or Fluffy are left-pawed or right-pawed? The study offers these suggestions to test your furry friend:
- Teach your dog to shake. Which paw does he offer most often?
- Fill a toy with a great treat. Hold the toy in the center of Fido’s visual field. Which paw does he touch the toy with first?
- Which paw does Fido use to hold a toy?
- Put a sticky note on Fido or Fluffy’s nose, Which paw do they use to wipe the note away?
- Place a delicious treat under the couch slightly beyond the reach of your dog or cat. Which paw do they use to try and swipe at the treat?
- Dangle a toy over the top of Fido or Fluffy’s head. Which paw do they use to swipe at the toy?
- Place a treat under their bowl and watch which paw they use to move the bowl.
Of course these are pretty subjective tests, and one must remember the results may be skewed if your pet has an injury or arthritis which might force him to favor the other paw. Also the researchers remind us that cats can be more difficult to judge since they can change paws depending on their mood or their motivation.
Nevertheless, at the very least every pet owner who performs all of the tests described above gets to spend some valuable one on one time with their fluffy, four-legged friend regardless of their paw preference.
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