On Sunday I shared some photos of Luke’s paws and toes and asked if anyone thought his toes were unusually long like my hubby and I do. Some commenters did agree they looked long, others thought they were just in proportion with his also long legs. I have been curious about it so did some research and here are some interesting things I found.
First of all, let’s look at the anatomy of a dogs paw. Below is a diagram I made showing the different parts that make up the paw. Cricket was the only one who would cooperate so I wasn’t able to get the underside of Luke’s or Sheba’s paw, but I’m sure most of you are familiar with where the dewclaw is anyway. Cricket’s dewclaws were removed by her breeder, since she was bred for rabbit hunting.
Each part of the paw serves its own purpose:
- Claws help with gripping surfaces.
- Dewclaws are for gripping and holding onto items, such as bones, and are found in the front only on most breeds. The front dewclaws contain muscle and bone. Some breeds, such as Great Pyrenees, have rear dewclaws as well, but those don’t contain much muscle or bone. There can also be double dewclaws in either the front or the back.
- The carpal pad aids with balance and to prevent sliding.
- The other pads are shock absorbers, bear the weight, and protect the bones and joints of the foot.
Dogs walk on their toes, and their anatomy has adapted over time to their environment to go along with whatever job they were bred to do.
There are three different types of paws: cat feet, webbed feet, and hare feet.
Cat feet are round and compact, and have stronger grip for endurance. They require less energy to lift so dogs can move fast for long periods of time. Some breeds with cat feet are Akita, Standard Schnauzer, and Kuvasz. Cricket has cat feet, and since beagles are bred to hunt I believe they need that endurance.
Hare feet are elongated with the two center toes being longer than the outer toes. More energy is needed to move these paws, but they increase speed. Some breeds with hare feet are greyhounds and whippets. Below you can see the paws on greyhound Bunny from the Tales and Tails blog. Those center toes really are much longer (about twice as long I’d say), and since greyhounds are racers it all makes perfect sense.
Webbed feet are for swimming. These feet help propel the dog through water and make them faster swimmers. Dogs with webbed feet include Labrador and Chesapeake Bay retrievers, as well as Newfoundlands and golden retrievers.
Water working dogs have webbed feet, but not all have long toes. So, who has the longest toes of all dog breeds? Newfoundlands, who were bred for working in the water and water rescue. The next longest toes belong to the Labrador retrievers, which explains Luke’s long toes, since he is mostly Lab. Interestingly enough, it is believed by some that Newfies and Labs are very closely related breeds, partly because of the similarities in their paws.
Our other Lab mix, Maggie, was an extremely fast swimmer. Sheba is a fine swimmer as well. Luke is still working on his technique, but I think once we get him out there he will also be very fast. I also read that Labs have the largest paws, though we don’t think Luke’s paws are overly large, we just thought he had long toes. Sheba’s toes may be just as long, but it’s difficult to see because of all the fur she has. Luke can really grab and hold onto things, like a ball, with those toes! Cricket and I can both attest to that fact when we are all trying to get the ball when playing fetch. When he gets it under one of those paws, we have a hard time prying it out from those toes!
I turned up another interesting fact about dogs who kick back, or scruff up the ground after pooping or peeing. Luke does this quite a bit, mostly after pooping. My hubby calls it “doing burnouts”. Luke kicks out mostly with his back paws, but sometimes with his front as well. We wondered why he did it, and it turns out it relates to paw anatomy. Dogs have sweat glands in their feet, which I did not know! I always thought dogs didn’t sweat at all, but they do sweat through their feet (and noses) via these glands known as eccrine glands. When they are kicking out they are marking their territory. I’ve seen the girls do it occasionally as well, but this might be something males do more than females.
I’m curious what type of paws your dog has! Take a look if you don’t know and see if you can determine it and share in the comments. Whatever type they are, make sure you take good care of those paws; I will share more about how to do so in another post.