If you have a question that Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws? Here is the perfect answer.

The anatomical structures of dogs are as varied as their breeds, with certain characteristics serving specific purposes. Dewclaws, which are analogous to human thumbs, present an interesting example of this diversity. These vestigial digits are found on the front legs of most dogs, providing additional traction when running or changing direction quickly. While front dewclaws are fairly common, the presence of rear dewclaws varies more among different breeds. Rear dewclaws, when present, can offer extra stability during activities that require sharp maneuvers or climbing, such as in agility courses or navigating rugged landscapes.

Debate surrounds the necessity of these rear claws, and in some cases, they are removed for various reasons. However, when considering the utility of dewclaws, it is crucial to understand the roles they play in canine movement and grip. Examining breeds known to possess rear dewclaws sheds light on the evolutionary and functional aspects of this fascinating canine feature. Notably, experts like Stanley Coren, who has extensively studied canine behaviors and abilities, can provide insights into the practical uses of dewclaws in performing breed-specific tasks.

Understanding Dewclaws

Dewclaws are small digits located at the upper part of a dog’s leg, akin to thumbs in humans, connected by skin and typically found on the inner side. Though primarily seen on the front legs, some dogs may also have them on their rear legs.

Characteristics of Dewclaws:

  • Attachment: They attach to the leg by bone and ligaments.
  • Function: Act like stabilizers during high-speed running or sharp turns, primarily supporting the wrist joint.
  • Variability: Not all dewclaws are created equal; some are merely attached by skin.

Health Considerations:

  • Regular nail care is crucial to prevent common issues such as tears or infections.
  • Dewclaws are susceptible to injuries if not maintained properly.

In Compassion to Humans:

  • They are analogous to human thumbs or big toes.
  • Dewclaws may not touch the ground like the other toenails but serve a vital role in a dog’s mobility.

Location of a Dog’s Dewclaws

Dewclaws on dogs are analogous to human thumbs and are situated on their legs. These structures are more proximal on the limb compared to the other digits.

  • Front Legs:
    • Inside of the leg
    • Positioned just over the front paws
  • Hind Legs:
    • Closer to the body than front dewclaws
    • Located above the rear feet, higher on the leg

Not every canine has dewclaws, and their distribution may be exclusive to either the front or hind appendages, or present on both. Breed-specific tendencies influence their occurrence, and in certain cases, dewclaws may be surgically removed for a variety of reasons.

The Function of Canine Dewclaws

Dewclaws in dogs serve several practical functions. Situated higher on the leg, these fifth digits on a dog’s paw are more than just vestigial remnants. When subjected to the motions of swift running and abrupt turning, they come into contact with the ground, contributing to stronger grip and improved stability—especially on slippery terrain. Their contact with the earth assists in supporting the limb during sharp turns, thus providing balance and enhancing traction.

In pursuits that involve rapid motion and agility, such as competitive dog sports, the presence of front dewclaws is advantageous, helping to stabilize the dog’s wrist joint. These dewclaws are not merely for locomotion; they also prove useful in tree climbing and maintain stability when navigating across arboreal environments.

Moreover, these claws aid in holding objects firmly during certain activities. When engaging with a bone or chew toy, dogs use their dewclaws for a firmer grip, enabling them to enjoy their treats securely. The evolutionary past of dogs as social hunters has favored the retention of dewclaws, considering their utility in various aspects of canine behavior, from hunting to manipulation of objects.

Canine Breeds with Hindlimb Dewclaws

Certain breeds of dogs naturally possess rear dewclaws, with varying prevalence within each breed. The American Kennel Club recognizes the presence of functional, double hind dewclaws as a breed characteristic in Beaucerons, particularly for show purposes.

Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws
Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws

Breeds that may exhibit rear dewclaws include:

These breeds are largely composed of guardian breeds and various working dogs. It’s crucial to acknowledge that while some dogs within these breeds have rear dewclaws, it is not a universal trait for all individuals. Standards for rear dewclaws may vary among different breed registries and are not consistently applied to all breeds.

Explanation for Dual Hind Dew Claws in Dogs

Characteristics of Canine Dual Dew Claws

  • Location: Present on the hind legs.
  • Anatomy: Consists of bone, nerves, and muscles.

Commonality in Breeds

  • Breed Association: Frequent in large working dogs.
  • Usage: Often seen in breeds trained for herding sheep.

Genetic Origins

  • Genetic Factors: Result from specific genetic traits.
  • LMBR1 Gene: A key gene influencing the formation of these extra toes.


  • A condition where dogs possess more toes than usual, often manifesting as double dew claws.

Reasons for Dewclaw Removal

In some instances, veterinarians or breeders make the decision to remove a dog’s dewclaws. This is usually undertaken for specific reasons:

  • Injury Prevention: Rear dewclaws tend to be vulnerable to trauma, as they can snag on materials, leading potentially to severe injuries.
  • Medical Complications: If a dewclaw develops a condition such as cancer, or sustains a significant injury, removal can be a medical necessity.
  • Aesthetic Considerations: Breeders of show dogs often opt for removal of dewclaws to meet certain breed standards, enhancing the dog’s appearance in competitions.

It is broadly agreed that, barring the presence of a medical issue, the existence of dewclaws doesn’t inherently demand removal. Their removal is less a matter of health and more an issue of either preventative care or cosmetic preference. Careful monitoring and regular nail trimming can mitigate the risk of injury in many cases, rendering removal an option rather than an imperative.

Incidence of Dewclaw Traumas in Canines

Frequent mishaps involving a dog’s dewclaw encompass tearing, breakage, and infection. These auxiliary claws may grow too long or become ingrown if not regularly maintained, thus heightening the risk for such injuries. When a dog engages in vigorous activities—such as play or sprints—its dewclaw is susceptible to harm.

Detectable signs of trauma include favoring of the limb, edema surrounding the claw area, persistent licking of the affected region, and obvious distress when the paw is manipulated. Canines may exhibit a range of symptoms from limping to bleeding, or vocalization of pain upon contact with the injured claw.

Preventative measures, crucial in reducing the likelihood of dewclaw injury, involve routine scrutiny and timely trimming. Should a dewclaw become wounded, treatment options range from a cleansing routine to the application of antibiotics to stave off infection. In dire circumstances, involving severe injuries or complications such as tumor formation or persistent disease, surgical intervention may be necessary. A protective cone may also be utilized to prevent further aggravation of the injury during recovery. Owners should also be aware of less visible symptoms like gradual swelling which might indicate an underlying complication.

Dewclaw Removal in Dogs: Necessity and Discomfort

When addressing whether the removal of a dog’s dewclaws inflicts pain, it’s essential to understand that removing these claws is typically not advised unless medically warranted. The removal procedure should not be carried out for merely preventative reasons due to the low frequency of associated issues. Dewclaw removal, when required, is done to address severe trauma or health conditions affecting the claw that cannot be treated otherwise.

The procedure is surgical in nature and necessitates using general anesthesia to ensure the dog does not experience pain during the amputation. Post-surgery, dogs require suitable pain management, bandaging, limited movement, and often must wear a protective cone to prevent interference with the healing site.

It is noteworthy that this surgery shares similarities with other procedures like spaying or neutering, where a dog is placed under general anesthesia for their well-being and comfort.

The decision to remove a dog’s dewclaws should not be taken lightly, and it is crucial to consult a qualified veterinarian for guidance. Self-attempted removal, often seen among some breeders, can lead to complications, including infection or improper healing, emphasizing the necessity for professional medical attention during such interventions.

Reasons for Canine Hind Dewclaws

The presence of rear dewclaws in dogs is hereditary. These structures can take various shapes but often lack bony support. Typically, they’re just a small, soft protrusion positioned at the back of the leg, consisting of a claw.

  • Genetics: Inherited trait across different breeds
  • Structure: Commonly a flesh-like bump at the leg’s rear
  • Variation: From fleshly protrusions to more developed appendages
  • Breed-Specific: Not all dog breeds possess rear dewclaws

The rationale behind why certain breeds have back dewclaws and others do not remains unclear, but breed lineage plays a central role.

The Merits of Maintaining Dewclaws

Dewclaws, often considered vestigial, play a significant role for dogs, though their upkeep is a notch above the usual paw care. Here’s why they’re beneficial:

  • Prevention of Injury: Regular trimming of dewclaws is crucial to avert potential injuries, as these claws can become overgrown compared to others.

Trimming Tips for Dog Owners

  • Begin Early: Introduce claw maintenance early in a dog’s life.
  • Use Quality Tools: Invest in proper trimmers for a clean cut.
  • Be Consistent: Establish a routine for claw care to keep them at a safe length.

Guidance for Guardians Becoming proficient in claw maintenance demands patience. Dogs may need time to become accustomed to the sensation of trimming. Professional trainers, like Ali Smith who operates from Maryland, integrate kindness and positive reinforcement into training practices, ensuring that dogs can learn these routines without stress.

A dog owner’s commitment to their pet’s wellbeing is fundamental. By incorporating regular dewclaw care, a guardian ensures the comfort and safety of their canine companion.

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