Often, we don’t pay the paws of our dog much attention unless there is something wrong with them, but dog paws are actually pretty interesting when you get down to it! Most pet owners simply take their dog’s paws for granted, but did you know that different types of dogs have different styles of paws, and that dogs can sweat through their paws, for instance?
In this article, we will introduce you to thirteen interesting facts about dog paws that you might not be aware of!
- The pads of the paws provide protection and cushioning to your dog when walking on hard surfaces or across rough terrain. Dogs that spend lots of time outside or walking over rough or hard surfaces develop thicker pads that have roughened skin to protect them. Dogs that spend most of their lives on grass or carpet will have softer, thinner pads.
- The pads of the paws are insulated with a layer of fatty tissue, which helps to provide padding and also protects against the cold. When the paw hits the cold ground, the arteries within the paws and legs pump the cooled blood back through the body, where it is warmed up before beginning the cycle again.
- Paws consist of five parts: The claws, the digital pads (the “toes”) the metacarpal pad (the big pad in the middle) the carpal pad (the pad a little higher up) and the dewclaw.
- The digital pads and the metacarpal pads work to protect the delicate bones and joints of the foot, by acting as shock absorbers. The carpal pad helps the dog to deal with inclines and slippery surfaces, acting as a kind of rear brake!
- Dogs can sweat through their paws, just as we can through our hands and feet. The dog’s sweat glands are located on the paw’s inner layer of skin, which carries sweat to the outer layer to cool the dog down and prevent the pads from drying out.
- While we as humans take most of our weight on our heels when walking, dogs carry most of their weight on their toes. This is known as digitigrade walking or balance, and also means that the delicate bones of the toes are very important!
- The dewclaws are thought to be the canine equivalent to our thumbs, and the vast majority of dogs have dewclaws on their front legs. Some dogs will also have them on their hind legs too. The dewclaws of the front legs are composed of surface muscle and bone, while the rear dewclaws, if present, tend not to have much of either. Rear dewclaws are sometimes removed, to prevent them catching on the opposite leg or other obstructions.
- While dewclaws are not considered to be essential to the domestic dog in most situations, dogs do sometimes use their dewclaws as part of their daily lives. You may well see your dog using their dewclaws to provide a firmer grip on something that they are chewing, or to provide better grip when digging a hole.
- Some breeds of dog do still use their dewclaws to its full potential; The Great Pyrenees, a giant dog breed that originates from mountainous terrain, will sometimes display a double dewclaw on the hind legs. This can be useful to help to provide grip and traction on rough surfaces.Some other breeds may also display a double rear dewclaw too, including the Spanish Mastiff and the Briard.
- Dog breeds that are native to some of the coldest countries of the world where there is often lots of snow and ice on the ground will generally display much larger, wider pads than other dogs of an equivalent size and build. This is no accident; it helps them to grip and walk safely on ice, and makes it easier for them to walk on snow.
- Some dog breeds have webbed feet, notably breeds that are renowned for their swimming ability! The Newfoundland is one of these, and a few others are the Portuguese Water Dog, Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the Field Spaniel.
- Different breeds of dog have different styles of feet! One type of foot shape is known as “cat feet,” and refers to a dog with a shortened bone in the third digit of the toes, leading to a round and compact paw. This shape of paw uses less energy to lift, and so increases the endurance of the dog. The Bull Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Doberman Pinscher and Akita all have “cat feet.”
- Some breeds of dog have what is known as “hare feet!” Hare feet are longer than the norm, with the middle toes of the four noticeably longer than the outer toes. This causes the paws to be slender and fine in appearance, and enables fast running. Hare feet can be found on breeds including the Greyhound, Samoyed and Bedlington Terrier.