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Give Me a Paw!

Most people are either right-handed or left-handed. The same is true for dogs!

A woman sits on grass smiling and holding a dog’s paw.

© Thirawatana Phaisalratana/

Are you right-handed or left-handed? Most people are better at using one hand than the other. Experts say dogs are the same. Some are right-pawed, and others are left-pawed.

Scientists learned this by doing tests on dogs. They had dogs do things like stop a rolling toy, get a treat out of a container, or give a paw to shake hands with a human. Scientists also watched dogs as they began walking to see which paw the dogs put forward first. The tests showed that most dogs used the same paw every time—either the right paw or the left paw.

Scientists also found that about half the dogs were right-pawed and half were left-pawed. That’s different from humans. Only about one out of every 10 people is left-handed. For reasons scientists still don’t understand, most people are right-handed.

Scientists have found that many animals have a hand, foot, or paw they’re more likely to use. Here are a few ways to find out if your pet is a righty or a lefty.

  • Watch your pet walk. See if it uses its right foot or left foot first.
  • Wave a toy in front of your pet. See if it bats the toy with its right or left paw. (This works best with cats.)
  • Before your dog lies down, it may turn in a circle a few times. If it turns to the left, it may be left pawed.

Seeing your pet use one paw one time isn’t enough to figure out which paw they prefer. You’ll need to see them use that paw many times before you know it’s their favorite.

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© Isselee, Icefront, Iakov Filimonov, Vasyl Helevachuk, Irina Kozhemyakina/, © Erik Lam/, © GlobalP, suriyasilsaksom—iStock/Getty Images, Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-ppmsca-372934); Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Many U.S. presidents have had pets, but President Theodore Roosevelt had LOTS of pets. Roosevelt, who was president from 1901 to 1909, had a bear, a lizard, guinea pigs, a pig, a badger, a hen, a rooster, a hyena, a barn owl, a pony, and a macaw (a type of bird)!

Lefty or Righty?

Famous left handed people such as Lizzo and Paul McCartney flash on and off the screen.

Sean M. Haffey, Jason Merritt, Hulton Archive, David Livingston, Michael Ochs Archives, Frank Micelotta, Steve Powell, Michael Loccisano, Leon Bennett—Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1953, 53.600.3177; White House photograph by Pete Souza; © Sbukley/; NASA/Johnson Space Center; © 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.; © PA Images/Alamy; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

All the people shown in these photos are left-handed!

Most people are right-handed. In fact, scientists have found that even millions of years ago, early humans used their right hands to do things like pick berries. Scientists aren’t sure why so few people are left-handed.

Why do most people find one hand easier to use than the other? It may be because switching hands all the time would be too complicated for our brains. Instead, our brains tell us to use just one of our hands to do things like write, hold a fork, or throw a ball. And using just one hand to do those tasks helps us learn them faster.

How To Be a Vet

© Seventyfour/

Do you love animals? Maybe you’d like to be a veterinarian—a doctor who takes care of animals. You can read more about being a veterinarian at Britannica School!

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Word of the Day


Part of speech:



: able to use both hands equally well

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