Results! – Paw Preference Project

Over the summer, we conducted a study looking at whether owner handedness affected paw preference in dogs. Some of you will have taken part, and we’re pleased to say the results are in! The project was conducted by Kimberley Charlton, MSc Clinical Animal Behaviour student, and she has summarised her project below:

“This study aimed to investigate whether owner handedness (being left- or right-handed) influenced which paw our dogs preferred to use in two paw preference tasks. In the first task, owners presented their dogs with their left or right hand accordingly and recorded which paw, if any, their dog lifted in response. The second task involved placing a desired item under a piece of furniture and recording which paw the dog used to try to reach for the item.

From our study, we found that owner handedness had a highly significant influence on which paw was used in the reaching task, and which paw was lifted in response to the owner presenting their left hand. When the owner presented their right hand, the age and sex of the dog was a significant predictor of which paw they lifted. Female dogs were found to be mainly right pawed throughout all age groups. Male dogs were left pawed in puppyhood but found to be right pawed in older age groups. Neuter status was not a significant predictor of paw preference in any of the tasks.

As paw preference was significantly predicted by owner handedness, this suggests a strong link of long-term imitation of owners from their dogs.”

A huge thank you from Kimberley and the whole of Pets Can Do to those of you that made this project possible. We hope that you enjoyed taking part and find these results interesting!

If you would be interested in taking part in further projects with the University, please keep an eye on our Projects and Surveys pages.