Are you left or right pawed?Featured science projectScience project video

popular science fair projects
Complexity level:
7
Project cost ($):
30
Time required:
1 day to prepare, 1day for the science project experiment
Material availability:
Easily found
Safety concerns:

Have a qualified dog handler around to ensure your safety, when handling the dogs

Abstract

This science fair project was conducted to find out if dogs preferred to use their left or right paws, or if they have no particular preference. The dogs were tested to ascertain their preferred paws to perform handshakes and to grip their food.

Hypothesis

Most dogs are right pawed, just like human beings.

Background

A dog’s paw preference

Studies claim that just like humans, animals like dogs and cats show a preference to use their left or right paw and that the preferred paw for a dog can be determined by observing the paw it uses during a handshake or to hold a bone while chewing it.

It is believed that although dogs prefer either the left or right paw, some dogs are known to be ambidextrous. The preference over the left or right side gives the animal an advantage in the natural environment because one side of the animal will grow to become more dominant help the animal respond more quickly in an emergency/dangerous situation.

Studies have shown links between a dog’s paw preference and its phobia to noise. Dogs that are either left or right pawed have apparently been found to react less reaction to loud sounds like thunder and fireworks. The dogs that were ambidextrous were found to show extremely fearful reaction in the same loud scenario. It was observed that dogs without a paw preference react more emotionally to various stimulations, as compared to "lateralized" animals (those with a paw preference).

Scientific Terms

Ambidextrous, left pawed, right pawed, phobia

Materials

The materials required for the science fair project:
- 20 dogs
- a dog trainer
- 1 box of dog biscuits
- a pouch

Procedure

1. For this science fair project, the independent variable is the type of test done on the dog – the handshake test and "food touch" test. The dependent variable is the preferred paw of the dog. This is determined by observing the paw used by the dog to perform the given task. The constants (control variables) are the number of dogs and the type of dog food used.

2. 20 dogs of various breed and gender were selected for this science fair project. The help of the dog owners and a dog trainer was obtained, for conducting the science project experiment.

3. The dogs were first tested with the hand shake. They were shown the left hand  twice and the right hand twice. Stretch your hand towards the dog, placing it not too high nor too low, and in between the dog's left and right paws. If the dog responds more than twice using the left paw, then it is left pawed. If it responds more than twice with the right paw, it is right pawed. If it responds twice with the left paw and twice with the right paw, it is then considered ambidextrous.

4. The dogs were next tested with the food.   Dog biscuits were placed inside a pouch and kept in front of the dog. The dog will use one of its paws to pin down the pouch while trying to take the food from the pouch. If the dog holds the pouch more than twice using the left paw, then it is considered left pawed. If it holds the pouch more than twice with the right paw, it is right pawed. If it holds the pouch twice with the left paw and twice with the right paw, it is considered ambidextrous.

5. In the table below, if the dog used different paws for both the tests, we record it as being ambidextrous. If it is ambidextrous in one test and has a paw preference  for another test, we regard the dog as having a paw preference.

Observation

It  was observed that out of the 20 dogs, 12 dogs or 60% of them were left pawed. Another 3 dogs or 15% were right pawed and 5 dogs or 25% were ambidextrous.

Dog no

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Paw shake

L

L

R

L

R

L

A

L

L

A

L

L

L

R

R

L

L

R

A

L

Food touch

L

A

L

L

R

L

L

L

R

R

L

R

L

L

A

L

L

L

L

L

Preferred paw

L

L

A

L

R

L

L

L

A

R

L

A

L

A

R

L

L

A

L

L

L – left pawed, R- right pawed, A- ambidextrous

Conclusion

Our results show that the majority of the dog had a paw preference, and they were mostly left-pawed. The hypothesis that most dogs are right-pawed is proven to be false.

Understanding the relationship between  animal behavior and their preferred use of leftor right paw or if they are ambidextrous, may help in the selection of dogs for specific tasks. For example a police dog that was trained for months may have to be deployed for other uses, if it cannot overcome its fear of  loud noise from a gun or explosion.

Also consider

How different would your results be, if the science fair project were to be repeated using cats instead of dogs? How about other pets such as hamsters?

The science project experiment can also be repeated to compare the preferred paw based on the breed and gender of the dog or cat.

References

How does handedness affect behavior - http://www.animals.com.au/articles/400/dogbehaviour.html

Paw preference - http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/pets/testyourpet/tests/static/dog_1.shtml

Left handed dogs - http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/left_handed_dogs_09172006.html

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