Tag Archives: Journal of Veterinary Behavior

Behaviour in dogs depends on the paw preference

I’ve previously written about how to test if your dog is right-pawed or left pawed.  Researchers at the University of Adelaide led by Dr Luke Schneider tested a group of 73 dogs using 50 manipulations of an object to determine their paw preference.  They then interviewed the dog owners about their dog’s behavior to see if there was a pattern.

“We found that dogs with a preference for left paws were reported by their owners to show high levels of aggression towards strangers. The left pawed dogs scored almost twice as high as ambilateral (ones with no preference) and also higher than dogs with right paws.

“There is research in the human world as well that positive and negative emotions can be located in the left and right hemispheres and it seems to go the same way in humans and other animal species, that the negative emotions are located in the right hemisphere. There are many, many overlaps between human and animal brains.”

Blake the Beagle shows his preference for the right paw

Blake the Beagle shows his preference for the right paw

When testing dogs for paw preference, the research team found a roughly even split between those dogs that had a right paw preference vs those with a left paw preference.

None of the dogs in the study were noted as particularly aggressive, and so the research team wants to do more work with dogs who are noted for aggression-type responses.  A larger testing group would also help to validate results.  The research team’s study has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

The importance of pain management

Whenever I take on a new client, I use a health questionnaire that covers current conditions as well as the dog’s health history.  One of the issues I address is any recent changes to the dog’s behaviour or living conditions.

What I am trying to ascertain is if a dog is in pain or having adjustment difficulties. There is a clear link between pain and aggression and this has been supported in a recent study by researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.

In the Spanish study, which has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 12 dogs that were brought in by their owners for ‘aggression problems’ were studied.  All were found to have pain-induced aggression with eight diagnosed as having hip dysplasia.

The breeds in the study were:  a Giant Schnauzer, Irish Setter, Pit Bull, Dalmatian, two German shepherds, Neapolitan Mastiff, Shih-tzu, Bobtail, Catalan Sheepdog, Chow Chow and Doberman.

The researchers concluded “if the pet is handled when in pain, it will quickly act aggressively to avoid more discomfort without the owner being able to prevent it.”

So, when a dog is behaving differently or is “out-of-sorts”, a visit to the vet is recommended.  Behaviour changes can be the first indicator that something is wrong and your vet can help to run appropriate tests to see if there is an underlying health problem.

Dogs have a way of not telling us they are in pain until a problem is more pronounced because their natural instinct is to protect themselves by not exhibiting any noticeable vulnerabilities.  Therapies such as massage and low level laser (which I employ in my canine rehabilitation practice) are useful in helping to manage pain through appropriate stimulation of acupressure points and managing muscle, tendon and ligament condition.  I’m also a strong supporter of acupuncture and refer clients to a local vet who is trained in veterinary acupuncture.

These complementary therapies can be employed alongside traditional pain medications such as NSAIDs to support your dog’s quality of life.  When pain is managed, quality of life improves for everyone in the household.

Source:  Plataforma SINC. “If your dog is aggressive, maybe it is in pain.” ScienceDaily, 13 Jun. 2012. Web. 15 Jun. 2012.