Although, at the species level, there is no tendency to use the right limb as in humans, animals can be right-handed or left-handed small dog collars. It may seem incredible, but vertebrates also have a tendency to use one of their limbs more than others. Within each species, the percentage of left-handed and right-handed is usually 50%.
Although this characteristic is not a condition in domestic animals, it is always curious to know more about the pet that lives with you. Therefore, here we show you which animals are left-handed or right-handed and how to find out.
Left-handed and right-handed animals in nature
Some studies have shown that in chimpanzees and gorillas, the use of the right hand is 65% and 75%, respectively. Furthermore, it seems to be positively correlated with the hand used by the mother. Therefore, many researchers consider that the use of the right or left hand in primates is something learned, unlike in humans, which seems to be something innate.
The issue of right- and left-handed animals is not just focused on primates and humans, as any vertebrate animal will show a preference for using one limb or the other.
Brain asymmetry and right- and left-handed animals
Vertebrate animals, including humans, have their brains divided into two halves or hemispheres. This lateralization also affects the rest of the body. Thus, the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and the left brain hemisphere controls the right side.
This could be the reason why, in humans, some of us have more control of the right side and others of the left. In the rest of the vertebrate species the same thing happens, because lateralization can cause right-handed and left-handed animals to exist.
The developmental processes that cause lateralization are still being studied. However, there are many empirical tests in animals that show that they can have greater control of their right or left hand, leg, wing and fin.
On the other hand, research in rats shows that right-handed rats have a different concentration of a neurotransmitter in a region of the brain than left-handed or ambidextrous rats. Despite this, this is a very broad area, which still requires a lot of research.
However, it is not known how these connections are created that could result in an animal being either right-handed or left-handed. It is not yet known whether they are influenced by genetic, environmental or behavioural factors, but there are only highly criticised theories.
Why is it important to know if a dog is right-handed or left-handed?
The fact that animals are right-handed or left-handed does not only concern which limb they use. When an individual uses his right paw, it shows us that the left side of his brain is more developed and may possess more neural connections in that hemisphere.
The brain as such is divided into different areas distributed in groups of neurons. If an animal uses some more than others, this could define many factors of its behavior. For example, a right-handed animal may have a greater ability to orient itself than a left-handed one, or a left-handed one may have a greater ability to concentrate.
If we focus all this on the dog we will know which animals are more successful in being guide dogs, therapy or help dogs, police dogs, rescue dogs, etc. Moreover, for this work only right-handed dogs are sought.
How do you know if your pet is right-handed or left-handed?
It is not so easy for us to know if your cat or dog is right-handed or left-handed. We can think that simply by calling it, when the animal is sitting or lying down, and see which limb it advances first, we will know if the pet is left or right-handed. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
To be able to say with some certainty that your dog or cat uses one paw or the other, you will have to repeat several exercises dozens of times. The tricks you can try are:
- hiding a piece of food under a piece of furniture where it can only get one paw.
- For dogs, keep a prize in your fist and watch which paw it hits your hand with.
- For cats: from your upright position, hold food. The cat will stand up and try to grab it with one of its paws (or both, remember there are ambidextrous animals)
- As we go forward, you can also call him from the sitting position and see which leg he goes forward
Finally, remember to make a note of each activity to try and discover whether your cat or dog is right or left handed. Although this feature is not particularly relevant to the animal’s routine, it’s always good to know more about your companion.