A southpaw is what they used to call a left-handed pitcher in baseball and believe it or not, just like us humans where some of us are born right-handed and others left-handed, a dog can be either left pawed or right pawed. I always thought that was a funny way to describe a left-hander because when I hear “paw” I think of a dog, but baseball is a weird game anyway.
It has been well documented that some dogs will twirl when they get excited, especially the smaller ones like Yorkies or Pomeranian’s. Which direction they twirl in, we suspect, has to do with the “handedness” of a dog. A right pawed dog would twirl in a clockwise direction and a left pawed dog would twirl in a counterclockwise spin. I got this bit of dog lore from Clay Thompson’s column in the Arizona Republic although he does say he is only guessing when he responds to a reader with a question about twirling dogs. I think it’s a reasonable explanation as to why some dogs twirl in a certain direction and others go the opposite way. Of course once you think you have figured it out along comes a dog that spins in both directions, sort of ambigdogerous, which in baseball, means a switch hitter.
This handedness thing can also be true of other animals such as cats and birds. I used to have a pair of birds who would do back flips off of their perch to the bottom of the cage. One faced to the rear and the other faced to the front but side by side. They would both back flip off the perch at the same time in opposite directions. It was fun to watch and sometimes when on for 10 minutes or so. I never did figure out what got them so excited.
Next time your dog twirls, note the direction of the spin and see if that jogs your memory of any other things you have seen your dog do that would indicate their handedness. There are some dead giveaways, such as; how they hold a bone while chewing, which paw do they use to scratch with, when your dog lays down in his or her little doggy bed which side do they lay on? Which paw gets offered to shake hands with? Try to think of any other character traits your dog has exhibited that would indicate a right-pawed dog or a left-pawed one. Of course, the definitive test is; wait till they calm down, hand them a pen and see how they sign their name. That will tell you for sure!