You probably already assumed that left-pawed dogs — and yes, some dogs do have forepaw and even hindquarter preferences — are ever so slightly evil, but now there’s a scientific study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior to confirm your suspicions that left-pawed dogs are scheming to bark at you and make you seem needlessly skittish in a public park. After an exhaustive round of play-testing, researchers have uncovered evidence that left-pawed dogs show more aggression towards strangers than their right- or ambi-pawed counterparts.
If your dog is left-pawed, you may have had occasion to watch it play a ruthless game of Risk against a cat, say, or maybe you even caught it attaching razor blades to the nails on its favored forepaw. You probably always suspected that the left-pawed scavenger you let sleep at the foot of your bed was watching you hungrily while you slept, but you could never be completely sure, like in The Thing. After all, how could such a beautiful husky really be a parasitic alien creature with homicidal proclivities? It’s so fuzzy!
Ah, but you see, a dog’s left paw is controlled by the right hemisphere of its brain, and that hemisphere is associated with more negative emotions. Although researchers failed to detect a link between left-pawedness and other behavioral traits like excitability and attention-seeking, dogs with a left-paw preference were more likely (and just slightly more likely) to show aggression towards strangers.
According to the University of Adelaide’s Dr. Luke Schneider, the correlation between left-paw preference a aggression in canines mirrors some of what has previously been observed in humans:
We found that dogs with a preference for left paws were reported by their owners to show high levels of aggression towards strangers. The left pawed dogs scored almost twice as high as ambilateral (ones with no preference) and also higher than dogs with right paws.
There is research in the human world as well that positive and negative emotions can be located in the left and right hemispheres and it seems to go the same way in humans and other animal species, that the negative emotions are located in the right hemisphere. There are many, many overlaps between human and animal brains.
Researchers analyzed the behavior of 75 dogs after a series of tests with a cylindrical object to determine which forepaw the dogs preferred. Unlike in humans where right-handedness is so predominant that lefties were regarded, not too long ago, with undue suspicion, paw preference in dogs is more evenly matched. The study wasn’t very large, and, though it included both mixed breeds and pedigrees, the majority of pedigrees used were labs, golden retrievers, Shetland sheepdogs, and border collies. Not even the most aggressive of the left-pawed dogs was particularly noted for its aggression, leading researchers to conclude that even the meanest of dogs do, in fact, go to heaven, a phenomenon that had been long-disputed in the scientific community.
Image via Shutterstock, WilleeCole