Have you ever noticed a thin membrane between your dog’s toes? Most dogs have some webbing on their feet. For instance, my dog Ralph, a pit bull mix, has lovely, soft, pink skin between her white toes. But some dog breeds have prominently webbed feet for practical reasons. Dogs with webbed feet are often great swimmers, as you might imagine…
Read on to learn which dogs have webbed feet, and how those feet help them do what they were originally bred for.
We tend to think of webbed feet as a trait unique to certain breeds, but actually, most dogs have webbing between their toes. It’s part of how paws are composed, just like your fingers have a bit of skin between them.
Dog paws have evolved so there’s a purpose to every part. The pads on the bottom of their feet protect them and provide grip as they walk. Their toenails provide traction and help them dig. And the webbing is there to provide stability for walking and extra help for swimming.
Although most dogs have webbing between their toes, specific breeds have “webbed feet” that help them do specific things common to their breed. In general, these breeds are water dogs, and webbing helps them swim. But not every dog with webbed feet uses them for swimming!
Some of the most popular dog breeds in America have webbed feet, including Labrador retrievers. But rare dog breeds have webbed feet, too. Here’s a list of many of the dog breeds with webbed feet.
A giant, sweet-tempered working dog, the Newfoundland started out as working dogs on Canadian fishing vessels, where they specialized in water rescues. They’re great swimmers in part thanks to their big, webbed feet that help them propel in water. They’re also super-strong, so back in the day, they could haul grown men to safety in the ocean. Nowadays, Newfies are primarily known for being excellent family dogs.
Their primary talent is right there in the name: these water dogs are built to swim. They originated on the coast or Portugal, where they were bred to help fishermen. Their curly, waterproof coat and athletic endurance mean they can stay in the water for a long time. And of course, their wide, webbed feet make them excellent doggy paddlers!
Otterhounds were originally bred to hunt otter in medieval England at a time when otters were rampant. These days, otter hunting is outlawed, but Otterhounds remain beloved family pets. Their big, webbed feet help them swim, and their rough, water-resistant coat helps moderate their temperature.
Otterhounds are rather rare in the U.S., so if you meet one, be sure to get a webbed paw-shake!
Another web-footed hunting dog! GSP’s are bird dogs, bred to track, point, and retrieve fowl for hunters. According to AKC breed standard for German Shorthaired Pointers, their feet are “compact, close-knit and round to spoon-shaped.” They also have webbed toes, which helps them swim in rivers and ponds where they may hunt. Even non-hunting GSPs tend to love the water!
The most popular dog breed in America is a web-footed wonder. Labs are so well-known, they hardly need introducing, and most Lab lovers are well-aware that their beloved breed is one of the best-known dogs with webbed feet. Popular for their friendly, athletic nature, Labs also make great swimmers. Their wide, webbed feet help them dog paddle, and their thick coat is easy to shake off after a swim.
Believe it or not, wiener dogs have webbed feet for a reason! You may not think of dachshunds when you think of dogs with webbed feet, but these low-slung cuties were originally bred for hunting badgers. That meant chasing, digging, and diving into holes. Their paddle paws help them dig and grip.
Doxies aren’t long-distance swimmers, but the ones who do like water gain power from their webbed toes.
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“Chessies,” as fans call them, originated on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, an estuary surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. They descended from other web-footed breeds, including Newfoundlands, and are tireless retrievers. Chessies are powerful swimmers, with a thick double coat that’s waterproof and insulating, and strong muscles to keep them moving. Plus, their big webbed feet help them swim against the cold current.
With “water” in their name, you know this breed has to be a great swimmer! According to the AKC, Irish Water Spaniels are one of the oldest spaniel breeds, possibly originating as early as the 7th century. They’re excellent retrievers and hunters, and their webbed feet make them strong swimmers. But even if you’re not on the hunt, Irish Water Spaniels’ loving, boisterous personalities make them fun family pets.