Whilst clipping your pup’s nails or washing their feet, you may notice a thin membrane between their toes. These are webbed dog paws! Most dogs have some webbing between their toes. Some breeds, however, have more prominently webbed feet to help them to work. Dogs with webbed feet are often excellent swimmers or work well in the snow, some breeds might already be coming to mind for you!
Webbed paws in dogs are a unique trait belonging to several hard-working breeds. These include the Labrador Retriever, Poodle, Newfoundland, and the Siberian Husky. Is your furry friend one of these special dogs? Read on to find out which dog breeds have more foot webbing than others.
A Guide to Dogs with Webbed Paws
Foot webbing is a distinctive trait in several dog breeds. For breeds that work in water, webbing between the toes allows for better propulsion when swimming, allowing them to swim faster and with more power. For breeds that need to navigate difficult terrain, the webbing can increase the sturdiness and surface area of the foot, helping them to move normally. Normally, a puppy would lose their foot webbing before birth, as the membranes between the toes would die naturally in a process known as apoptosis. In some cases, though, a puppy may be born with the membranes still intact. In the past, breeders would select this trait to encourage it in the breed, giving us today’s examples as seen in Labrador Retrievers and other breeds.
14 Breeds with Webbed Paws
For some dog breeds, having webbing between the toes helps them to work more efficiently. This is especially the case for water breeds. Dogs who need to swim or wade through water to work benefit from webbing, but breeds that need to dig or walk on snow also benefit from this unusual trait. Is your pup one of these unique breeds?
1. Labrador Retrievers
The Labrador Retriever is a medium-large dog breed that specializes in fieldwork. Labradors have plenty of adaptations that allow them to excel in the water, such as webbed toes. The webbed toes of the Labrador not only help to propel them in the water but serve as “snowshoes” in colder environments to prevent snow from balling up between their toes. Their other adaptations include a water-resistant coat, a thick tail that acts as a rudder, and a powerful, muscular build to wade through water. Despite all of these working traits, the Labrador also makes an excellent family pet. It is one of the most popular dog breeds today due to its sweet temperament and trainability.
The Poodle is a water dog that specializes in retrieving waterfowl. This breed is highly active and athletic, as well as extremely intelligent, allowing it to excel at its work. All size varieties of this breed have webbed paws, but some individuals will have more webbing than others. As well as this, the breed’s distinctive lion coat clip offers insulation for the vitals while reducing drag in the hindquarters. The tufts of fur on the legs also provide better purchase in the water. Overall, the Poodle is one of the best-adapted breeds for water work. However, it now has a reputation for being a pet rather than a working dog. As such, many Poodles live as companion dogs rather than working dogs.
The Otterhound is a rare scenthound. This breed excels at hunting its quarry in water with its oily double coat, sensitive nose, long stride, and substantially webbed feet. Around 1978, water pollution led to the decline of wild otters in England. So, in a bid to protect otters from further decline, there was a ban on otter hunting. Because of this, Otterhounds soon lost their jobs, and otter hunting packs were no more. These hunting dogs would go on to retire or join mink hunting packs. Today, only 600 of these dogs remain.
Newfoundlands are large working dogs that excel at water rescue and pulling fishnets. These dogs are adept at their work thanks to their many adaptations, including a water-resistant coat, a huge lung capacity, muscular build, and massive webbed paws. The breed’s swimming stroke is also different from other breeds – unlike other dogs, the Newfoundland moves its legs down-and-out, adding extra power to every stroke. The breed’s temperament is extremely important, too. Dogs with poor temperament or aggression should never breed.
5. Portuguese Water Dogs
Portuguese Water Dogs, affectionately known as Porties, are the ultimate fisherman’s assistant. Like other water dog breeds, Portuguese Water Dogs have curly coats, robust builds, stout legs, and webbed toes. These dogs were adept at retrieving lost tackles and rescuing drowning sailors – their webbed toes giving them an extra edge at this line of work. Porties are also fun-loving and friendly dogs that make great family pets. For an active family, especially one with access to a beach or swimming pool, the Portie may be an excellent choice. They also excel at several dog sports like agility, tracking, and obedience.
The Dachshund is a hound-type of dog that may have originally been bred to scent, chase, and flush badgers. However, there is also evidence that they were used for hunting rabbits and foxes as well as locating wounded deer. Unlike the other breeds on this list, the Dachshund is not a water breed! Dachshunds have long bodies with short legs and disproportionately large feet. Their feet are also paddle-sized with webbing between the toes. But if this breed isn’t primed for swimming, why does it have webbed feet? Its paw size, shape, and webbing make it great at digging into tight burrows. Today, the Dachshund is not typically a badger hunter. Instead, it finds its place as a companion dog, a ratting dog, or a tracking dog.
7. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, or Chessie, is a large breed that historically served as a companion to fishermen, retrieving waterfowl, pulling nets, and rescuing people. This breed has a great love of water and also has keen hunting abilities. As well as having webbed toes for swimming, this breed has a powerful chest that helps to break ice apart when diving, a waterproof coat, and strong legs with good bone. The Chessie isn’t just a water dog, however. These perceptive dogs also make great therapy workers. Their good scenting abilities are also valuable for search-and-rescue and bomb detection. Their unique looks also make them interesting competitors in dog shows and a variety of dog sports.
Weimaraners are large hunting dogs. Early specimens of the breed hunted boar, bears, and deer, but as large game hunting declined, they moved on to hunting fowl, rabbits, and foxes. This breed is athletic with plenty of energy and a great desire to work, making it a great all-rounder for hunters. However, its webbed feet give it extra proficiency in the water. Today, the majority of Weimaraners find their place in homes and show rings. However, there are stalwarts of this breed who promote the working side of it and successfully compete in field trials. Weimaraners thrive on human company and are prone to problems with separation anxiety, however, so pet parents must socialize their dogs well to avoid problems.
9. German Short-Haired Pointer
The German Shorthaired Pointer is an all-purpose gun dog that excels on land and in water. This breed has powerful, strong legs for quick movements and turns, a sensitive nose, and a great working drive. Like all German pointers, the German Shorthaired Pointer has compact, webbed feet, allowing it to retrieve waterfowl from bodies of water without issue. This breed has a high prey drive and sharp instincts for anything that could be prey. They also have boundless energy and need plenty of outlets for it. However, the breed is also loving and appreciates human company, making it an excellent pet for active families.
10. American Water Spaniel
American Water Spaniels are rare hunting dogs that are rarely seen outside the USA. This breed was developed to be versatile, able to work on both land and water thanks to its webbed paws. It also needed to withstand the cold water temperatures of its birthplace, the Fox River of Wisconsin. This breed combines both Retriever and Spaniel properties, able to retrieve ducks and flush out waterfowl with equal proficiency. Because the breed is so rare, there is very little split between the show and field versions of the breed. So, many owners who show these dogs also hunt with them. Breeders are careful to breed according to the AKC breed standard to produce strong hunting dogs.
11. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are gundogs bred primarily for hunting. This is the smallest of all the retrievers, but its swimming ability is second to none. This breed sports a water-resistant double coat, sturdy legs, and webbed feet. These qualities equip the breed for its specialty – tolling. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers lure ducks into shooting range by creating a disturbance in the water, piquing the interest of nearby waterfowl. The dog then retrieves the birds.
12. Irish Water Spaniel
The Irish Water Spaniel excels in rough shooting, wildfowling, and retrieving. Like similar breeds, the Irish Water Spaniel has webbed feet, a rugged build, and a waterproof double coat. Overall, these traits allow the breed to perform well in a range of hunting activities. However, it is often not the breed of choice for hunting, as other breeds have since overtaken it in popularity. The breed is also slower to mentally mature than other breeds.
13. German Wire-Haired Pointer
German Wirehaired Pointers are large gun dogs. These dogs are well-muscled, sturdily built, and have a weather-resistant and water-repellent coat. Overall, this breed was developed to search for, locate, and point to game, retrieve waterfowl, be fearless when hunting “sharp” game like foxes, and be easily trainable. Their webbed feet give them an extra edge in attaining all of these goals!
14. Siberian Huskies
Unlike most of the breeds on this list, the Siberian Husky is not a water dog. Instead, this breed was developed as a sled dog and companion by the indigenous Chukchi people of Siberia. Huskies have slight webbing between their toes in order to help them to find purchase on snow. This webbing also helps to prevent snow from becoming trapped between the toes. However, their webbing is much less extreme compared to other breeds.
Webbed Dog Paws: FAQ
Have any more questions about webbed dog paws? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section for more information. If in doubt about your dog’s paw health, always ask your vet for advice.
If your dog has webbed feet, the membranes between its toes are still intact. Webbed feet are the result of mutations in the genes that would normally cause this tissue to die before birth, separating the digits from each other. In some cases, a dog might not undergo this process before it is born, giving rise to a dog with webbed feet. In the past, dog breeders have taken advantage of this mutation to encourage it in certain breeds. If your dog is a water breed, it’s likely that they were born with webbed feet! However, the amount of webbing varies from breed to breed, and in some, it may be barely noticeable.
Wolf paws have slight webbing between each toe. This allows them to navigate over snowy terrains with more ease. The relatively large size of their feet helps them to distribute their weight evenly. They also have bristly hairs and blunt nails to help them to grip slippery surfaces, and specialized blood vessels protect their pads from freezing.
Not all dog breeds have been developed to work. Many breeds were made solely for companionship. These include the Löwchen, the Pug, and the Maltese. Because these breeds do not need to swim or hunt, there is no reason to encourage webbed feet in them when breeding them.
Dogs with webbed feet are often breeds of choice for seasoned hunters. Dogs with foot webbing excel at swimming which makes them great for retrieving waterfowl. However, foot webbing is not the only trait to consider when choosing a working dog. The temperament, trainability, and bloodline of the dog are all very important factors to consider, too. So, if you intend to bring a furry friend to a hunt, it may be worth considering a breed with webbed feet, but take its other traits into account as well.
The main advantage of webbed feet is increasing swimming efficiency. Foot webbing increases the surface area of the foot, allowing for more swimming propulsion. This allows them to swim faster and with more power. Webbing can also increase sturdiness as it allows weight to be distributed across the foot more. This benefits many breeds that don’t work in water – the Siberian Husky, for example, uses this trait for balance and sturdiness when working in the snow.
Webbed paws in dogs are a unique trait of several breeds. If your dog has webbed paws, they’re probably at home in the water or in the snow!