When you think about animals with webbed feet, dogs aren’t likely the first species to come to mind. Believe it or not, though, all dogs have some webbing in between their toes. This thin skin is similar to the skin between our fingers. Depending on the breed, some dogs actually have a little more. Not every dog breed possesses truly webbed feet like a duck, but some do! Read on to learn if your dog might have actual webbed feet, and why.
Why Dogs Have Webbed Feet
All dogs are born with webbed feet, but some breeds grow out of this trait before adulthood. Breeds that were developed near water or for water-related tasks are more likely to retain their webbed feet than traditionally landlocked doggos. This is because the webbing in between their toes helps them swim. It connects their digital pads similar to how a swimmer cups their hands as they pull a stroke.
However, there are some exceptions to the norm. For example, the Dachshund was strategically bred to have webbed feet because they were tasked with hunting badgers, which required a lot of digging.
Breeds that were developed to highlight their strength or agility are the least likely to have this feature. The webbing can actually impair their ability to run on land, which is one reason why you won’t find it in some of the fastest breeds such as the Greyhound or Whippet.
Dogs that were historically used to pull sleds, such as Huskies and Malamutes, retain some webbing, but not as much as water dogs. Other breeds that weren’t developed for manual labor, such as the Maltese, don’t have webbed feet.
The 8 Breeds With Webbed Feet
Curious to see if your dog makes the cut? Here’s a list of popular breeds with webbed feet. It’s not an exhaustive list but highlights some breeds you’re likely to encounter next time you go to the dog park.
Bred for hunting ducks, the standard Poodle always has webbed feet. Although their smaller counterparts may not share their sporting interests, they will still have webbed feet. Poodle hybrids may also have webbed feet depending on which parent the puppy takes after. For example, a Goldendoodle may or may not possess this interesting feature since the Golden has separated toes. If you have a Labradoodle, you’re in luck since both parent breeds share this amazing trait.
2. Labrador Retriever
Hailed as America’s most popular dog for over 30 consecutive years, the Labrador Retriever has been championed as the choice companion for active families and sportsmen alike. They love the water and will rarely turn down a swim. Labrador hybrids may or may not carry this trait depending on the other parent breed and which genes are passed to the offspring.
3. Irish Water Spaniel
This breed looks like a Poodle but has longer ears and a distinctive rat-tail. Unlike the Poodle, Irish Water Spaniels always have brown hair. Interestingly, they are the tallest spaniel recognized by the AKC and are also suspected to be the oldest.
4. Portuguese Water Dog
Not surprisingly, this stellar swimmer mentions water in its name. Portuguese Water dogs have been the fishermen’s best friend for hundreds of years. Their tight curls and webbed feet suit them for their job.
Raised to be the fisherman’s lifeguard and companion, the Newfoundland is a giant breed that is actually strong enough to save an adult from drowning. Their webbed feet give them extra power to glide through the water with grace. They have a gentle temperament despite their large size and are an ideal family dog.
The badger hound’s connected toes help them dig deeper into the ground. Historically, this characteristic enabled them to hunt with ease. In modern times, though, it might pose a threat to your lawn. Although they might not gravitate towards water like the Labrador, some Dachshunds might like to swim. They probably won’t be able to swim laps very quickly, however, since their short legs impair their ability to make large strokes.
7. German Short-Haired Pointer
German Short-Haired Pointers excel on land and water given their excellent swimming and tracking skills. Bred to hunt birds, they’re equipped with speed, agility, and athletic ability that makes them a modern-day master of dog sports.
8. Redbone Coonhound
Although they recently joined the AKC in 2009, the Redbone Coonhound descends from a long line of southern hunting dogs that have been nosing around the swamps since the 1700s. Their webbed feet allow them to tread on soggy ground without sinking, which is helpful for hunting waterfowl.
All dogs have webbed feet, but most breeds lose some of the connective tissue before reaching adulthood. Breeds that have been traditionally developed around water or for water-related tasks, such as the Newfoundland, are more likely to possess the trait. Sledding dogs are a group that retains more webbing than non-sporting companion breeds such as the Havanese, but not as much as breeds that thrive in the water.
Featured Image Credit: JakubD, Shutterstock