Paw preferences in domestic dogs were studied using three different behavioural tests, recording frequency, duration and latency of paw use. No overall population tendency to right- or left-paw preference was seen on any of the tests, nor could a sub-population of handed dogs be detected. This failure to replicate previous reports that male dogs tend to use their left paws while females use their right was counterbalanced by a significant tendency for male dogs to use their left paw when initially presented with one test, and for the latency of left paw use to be significantly shorter than that for right paw use on these initial presentations. This significant effect disappeared with repeated presentation of the test, and was not present in females. We conclude that behavioural lateralisation appears to be a labile category in dogs, and may be related to brain hemispheric effects in responding to novel stimuli. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.