Last Updated on July 22, 2021 by Marco
Believe it or not, webbed feet are not just for ducks. Did you know that certain breeds of dog have webbed feet too?
This surprising physical feature exists amongst certain breeds of dog, but not others. Whether or not a dog has webbed feet depends on what purpose they have been bred for.
So what kind of dogs have webbed feet? Keep reading to discover all about dogs with feet like a duck!
Dogs With Webbed Feet
All dogs are born with a membrane of connective tissue that connects each toe. However, as the dog grows this webbing disappears.
However, some dogs have this thin layer of skin that connects each toe right through to adulthood.
This physical attribute would have started off as an anomaly in the occasional pup in a litter. However, due to selective breeding, this trait would have been actively encouraged. Humans would have bred from dogs that had webbed feet, to continue this trait.
Why you ask? Because having webbed feet has its advantages.
One is to help a dog swim.
Another is to help the dog dig.
And one is to help spread the dog’s weight more evenly over certain surfaces.
Do All Dogs Have Webbed Feet?
No. Only dogs that have been selectively bred to have this trait have webbed feet. Of course, occasionally a dog of any breed will be born with webbed feet due to a minor birth defect. This should not cause the individual dog any health problems throughout its life, however.
What Breed Of Dogs Have Webbed Feet?
There are several breeds of dog which have webbed feet.
Dogs that have been bred as ‘gun dogs’ have webbed feet. A gun dog is one that has been bred to enter the water to retrieve dead waterfowl that have been hunted by its human master.
Back in the olden days when the wealthy nobility hunted ducks and the like for sport, they would shoot the duck which would fall dead from the sky into a lake or pond.
Obviously, these wealthy aristocrats did not wish to get their fancy clothes wet, so they bred and trained their faithful hounds to enter the water for them, to bring back their prey. These breeds were also bred to have oily coats that kept water out.
These breeds include:
The German Pointer (Wire-Haired and Smooth)
The German Pointer was bred in the 1800s in Germany (no surprises there!) for hunting purposes. Not only does this clever pooch have webbed feet that help it swim, it has an oily coat to keep water off the skin.
They are called “pointers” because when they spot a live duck, they will stand as still as a statue and ‘point’ with their noses towards the duck, to show its owner where to look.
The Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is another web-footed dog. Like the German Pointer, the Golden Retriever was bred as a gun dog, and its role was to retrieve ducks and other waterfowl that its human master has shot from ponds, lakes, etc.
If you take hold of the foot of the Golden Retriever and spread its toes apart, you will see a thin layer of skin between each toe! These help the dog to swim strongly and confidently through the water.
Other web-footed dog breeds that fall into this category – that is, dogs who were bred to swim for hunting, include the Labrador Retriever, the Portuguese Water Dog, the Poodle, the American Water Spaniel, and the Irish Water Spaniel.
Dogs With Webbed Feet That Dig
Another reason why humans selectively bred dogs to have webbed feet was so that they could dig.
Dog breeds that dig use their webbed feet to scoop out piles of dirt. The webbing between the toes enables the dog to pick up more dirt, thus making them faster and more effective diggers.
Let’s look at an example:
The diminutive Dachshund, also known affectionately as the ‘Sausage Dog’, was bred to hunt badgers, foxes, and rabbits – all animals that burrow and dig out tunnels to live in. Therefore it was helpful for this little hound to have webbed feet, to aid it in scooping out piles of dirt from burrows and nests. Think of their feet like tiny little shovels!
Why Else Would Dogs Have Webbed Feet?
As it turns out, there is yet another reason for a dog to have webbed feet. If you own a Husky and gently splay its toes, you will see a small patch of skin in the shape of a triangle between each one.
Given that Huskies were neither bred to swim or to dig, why do they have this webbing?
The answer lies in the ice and snow of the lands where they were bred, the Arctic.
As we know, Huskies were bred to pull sleds across ice and snow.
Well, the Husky was selectively bred to exhibit the webbed paw trait in order to spread their weight more evenly across the surface of the snow and ice, so that the dog did not sink into it.
Read more about: How Cold Can Huskies Tolerate?
Some Take-Away Points About Dogs With Webbed Feet:
- All dogs are born with webbed feet, but this webbing will disappear by the time the dog reaches adulthood;
- This is with the exception of certain breeds, which have been selectively bred to have webbed feet;
- There are three main reasons for this: one, is to make the dog a better swimmer, two, is to make the dog a better digger, and three, is to spread their weight more evenly over snow and ice;
- Dogs that were bred to swim include gun dogs, i.e. the German Pointer, which has been bred to retrieve dead ducks, etc. from lakes and ponds;
- Dogs that were bred to dig include the Daschund, which has been bred to scoop out dirt from burrows in order to catch animals like foxes and rabbits;
- Huskies also have webbed feet; this is so that the dog’s body weight is spread more evenly across the surfaces it was bred to run across – ice and snow.
Learn more about: Why Do Dogs Lay At Your Feet?