Comparing laterality in Canis familiaris and Homo sapiens: Differences between the left paw and right hand

Annette Gagliano


Studies have found that humans are not the only species who possess asymmetric characteristics in that they have two distinct hemispheres of the brain controlling motor laterality. Non-human species such as dogs, monkeys, cats, and fish have shown to exhibit laterality. This article reviews laterality between the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) and humans. Previous studies have indicated that, like humans, dogs possess asymmetric characteristics. Yet, dogs do not display a preference for a particular paw as do humans. The existing research raises the question of why human beings favour motor laterality on a dominant side (the right-hand side), while other species such as dogs tend to exhibit equal dominance on both sides. The “Right Shift Theory” developed by psychologist Dr. Marian Annett from theUniversity of Leicester presents one possible explanation for the human right-side dominance phenomenon. Understanding laterality in the domestic dog is important, as it can be applied to society, such as in the effectiveness of training guide dogs.


canis familiaris; homo sapiens; laterality; Right Shift Theory

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© University of Toronto Journal of Undergraduate Life Sciences.