When Czar and I first started attending classes at Knox, one of the trainers suggested learning some tricks as well as straight obedience. She had several good reasons, but the one that sold me was interacting with other people. "See Matilda over there? Her owner works in a school and the kids aren't interested in whether Matilda can heel, they just want her to shake. It's a great way for the kids to interact with a dog."
So, like Squishy and Koda's mum, I got down on the floor with Czar and we tried shake. I learnt a lot about shaping behaviours, and about Czar's personal space preferences. I was working towards Shake with the right paw, High Five with the left paw, both with my right hand. High Five came relatively easily...
("I can't get him to *do* this! Can you help me? I get down like this, and, oh! He did it.")
...but Shake didn't. Czar just wouldn't pick up his right paw. I came to the conclusion that he must be left-side dominant. He prefers to Spin to the left, he twists to the left when we play Bang! You're Dead!, he just seems to prefer to plant his right paw firmly on the ground. In the end I gave up on a right paw to right hand Shake. We worked on it neighbourhood kids and people Czar met out and about, and he was brilliant. Lots of positive interactions.
Dogs, cats and horses are all believed to have dominant sides. Unlike humans where a massive 90% may be right handed, other animals seem to be more evenly split to 50-50. Cats are said to be more ambidextrous than dogs and horses. In dogs, studies have reported a gender bias, that suggests left-side dominance is linked with testosterone production in males. In neutered males, scientists suggest right-side dominance is more common. Anecdotally, most dogs are reported as left-handed. I wonder if dogs and horses have been in some way influenced in their "handedness" by their interactions with humans? Have we selectively bred riding animals who were more comfortable being mounted on one side? How does our strong right handedness influence our interactions with our dogs?
Last night, my brother R and his partner, the lovely JMac came over to help with some wedding planning stuff. (There are 5 different people with the initials JM coming to our wedding, so excuse me if this gets confusing!) After dinner, we let the pups roam around and interact with our visitors. I asked Czar to give both visitors a High Five, and both times he picked up his RIGHT paw for a Shake instead! I was gob smacked. Months and months of never lifting that right paw, needing to have his weight shifted far to the side to release it from where it was glued to the ground! Unbelievable!!
Never mind, our visitors were suitably impressed and Czar and the others got lots of cuddles, especially with their Aunty JMac!