I admit, I hadn’t read the scientific research papers. When I learned about the connection between behavior and left/right handedness in dogs, I was delightfully shocked. How had I missed that?
As it turns out, there are predictors of a dog’s propensity to be a more easily trained, and less troublesome. The predictors are based on observable physical characteristics that are associated with left or right paw preference.
On the left you can see Truman and Bear playing. Bear has a definite preference of using his left paw to whack Truman. He doesn’t just “paw” at him, he actually whacks him, like a–well–bear would. Bear usually steps off to a walk with his left foot first. He was too “playful” for me to get a snapshot of the whorl on his chest, the whorl being another predictor. I tried several times.
On the other hand, the right-hand photo shows the whorl on Truman’s chest. This is the first and only picture I took because Truman was so cooperative. The whorl goes counterclockwise. A sign that the dog is more trainable. I’d put money on Bear’s whorl going clockwise. Truman generally steps off with his right foot.
Truman is the easiest dog I have ever dealt with. He loves to please. He listens to everything I say. He listens and learns so quickly that he seems like a dog genius. Bear, on the other hand, while sweet as he can be, seems head strong, persistent. He is fearful of odd things even though I have worked on desensitization. (Nutcracker cracking pecans at a distance). Bear runs out of the room if he sees the nail clippers. Truman offers me his paw to get nails trimmed.
Below is an over simplification of right and left brain functions in humans (which is comparable to dogs with obvious differences). Possible dog behaviors in italics
Right side of the brain controls:
- Physical: left side of body (left dominant)
- Thinking: attention, memory, reasoning, problem solving
- Escapes from fence
- Helps themselves to food on the countertop
- Feeling: alertness, determination, disgust, avoidance, fear
- Digs the whole yard trying to get a mole
- Hates going to the vet
Left side of the brain controls:
- Physical: right side of body (right dominant)
- Thinking: language, number skills, reasoning, scientific skills, spoken language
- Quickly associates words or signals with actions
- Good at solving “dog puzzles”
- Watches you to try to understand what you want them to do
- Feeling: comfortable approaching and engaging with the world, happiness, pride, anger
- Good therapy or service dog
- Easy to get along with
Bear isn’t really a bad dog. He does have different behavior than Truman. That doesn’t make him bad, it does make him more challenging.
Of course, selective breeding pre-determines many behavioral characteristics. But within each breed, there are differences. The moral of the story is, as a general rule, if you want a dog that is more tractable, and less worrisome, pick a pooch that is right-pawed and has a counterclockwise chest whorl.