The Effect of Sex and Age on Paw Use within a Large Sample of Dogs (Canis familiaris)

Kirsty, Leverack, Pike, Tom, Cooper, Jonathan and Frasnelli, Elisa (2021) The Effect of Sex and Age on Paw Use within a Large Sample of Dogs (Canis familiaris). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 238 . p. 105298. ISSN 0168-1591

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105298

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The Effect of Sex and Age on Paw Use within a Large Sample of Dogs (Canis familiaris)
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Abstract

Many studies have focused on handedness as proxy for lateralization, highlighting that population-level biases in handedness seem to be characteristic of most animals, although the strength and direction varies between species. Gender has been found to influence handedness in some species; in humans, for instance, males are more likely to be left-handed than females. Another aspect that has been comparatively unexplored is the role of age in shaping functional asymmetries, especially in adulthood.
Handedness has been widely explored in dogs (Canis familiaris), although there are contrasting findings about the influence of the dogs’ sex and age, possibly due to the comparatively small sample sizes used in previous studies. Here we overcame this issue by investigating these effects on a unique sample of 17,901 dogs of unknown neutered status. This study used pre-collected data from the BBC’s ‘Test Your Pet’ survey, during which owners tested their dogs’ paw preference in retrieving food from a tube in 3 consecutive trials. Based on the results of these 3 trials, owners were asked to assess whether their dogs used their left or right forepaw most of the time, or if it was difficult to tell. 13,240 dogs were scored as having a paw preference (i.e., were not ambidextrous or ambiguous), representing 74.0% of the 17,901 dogs tested. In those dogs that showed a paw preference, there was a population-level right-paw preference in both male and female dogs (60.7% female and 56.1% male), however, the proportion of dogs with a right-paw preference was significantly higher in females than males. Elderly dogs also tended to show a stronger right-paw preference than younger dogs. We conclude that the effect of sex on handedness may be influenced by factors such as sex hormones, while age changes may reflect the development of handedness and its maintenance in dog populations.

Keywords:Dog, Handedness, Lateralization, Paw Preference, Age, Sex
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
B Subjects allied to Medicine > B140 Neuroscience
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:44204
Deposited On:29 Mar 2021 11:14

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