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Pet a righty or lefty? Tests clue to dominant paw

– Could your dog or cat be a southpaw?

Paw preference won’t make a dog or cat walk, talk or wink like a human. You won’t even get a high-five or a fist pump out of it, said Dr. Nick Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

There’s the curiosity factor though, he said. “Wow, I thought that was something unique to people, and how weird to think the dog could be” left- or right-pawed.

Vets and owners agree that pets, including horses, have right and left preferences.

Researchers are studying things such as right brain-left brain connections, genetics and sexual orientation that may one day change the way dogs and cats are bred, raised, trained and used, said Dr. Stefanie Schwartz of the Veterinary Neurology Center in Tustin, Calif., and a member of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

But for now, here are a few simple tests you can do to determine your pet’s preference, she said. Doing it 100 times over several days should give you an answer, she said.

•If you teach a dog to shake, which paw does it offer you first and most often?

•Fill a toy with something delicious and put it in the center of the dog’s visual field. Which paw does it use to touch the toy first? Which paw does the dog use to hold the toy?

•Put something sticky on a dog or cat’s nose. Which paw does the animal use to remove it?

•Place a treat or a piece of cheese under a sofa. Which paw does it use to try and get it out?

•When a dog wants in the backdoor, which paw does it “knock” with?

Schwartz said there are a few things that might alter test results:

•If a dog has arthritis or an injury in a shoulder or leg, it could use the other to compensate.

•When a cat really wants something, tests show it uses its dominant paw, but when it’s just fooling around, it might use either or both.

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