Pooch paws were made for walking, but that’s not all they do. If you’ve ever taken a closer look at your dogs feet, you’ll notice that they have lots of features that make them unique. From overall size to nail length to toe placement, your pups paws are the product of a long line of ancestors. One of the things you may not have looked for before is whether or not your dog has webbed feet. Webbed feet aren’t all that uncommon in dogs, and they’ve intentionally been bred into some pups. Here are some dog breeds that have webbed feet and the reasons they have them.
This black wooly giant of a dog was bred to help Newfoundland fishermen work in the cold waters of Canada. Nearly every one of their traits is perfectly suited to make them experts at that duty. Their thick fur is water resistant, their muscular build lets them haul in fishing nets and carts, and their size and loyalty make them perfect for lifesaving should a man fall overboard. And, of course, they have thick, webbed paws and the longest toes of any breed that let them tear through the water. They also use those paws to swim in a unique way, with a down-and-out motion, rather than an ordinary dog paddle. This lets them power through waves and surf. They’re so good at being water companions that a Newfoundland named Seaman accompanied Lewis and Clark as they explored and mapped the rivers of the American frontier.
Almost everyone knows a Wiener Dog at first sight. Their long, noodle-like bodies make them easy to spot. But that tubular bod is built for a reason: to hunt. Dachshunds were originally bred to hunt badgers and other small, burrowing animals. Their long, skinny bodies let them reach into narrow holes in the ground while having their backsides close to the entrance so they can haul themselves and their prey back outside. Being descended from scent hounds also helps them hunt. And their webbed paws also are designed for this purpose. Their feet may be small, but the webbing in their toes helps them move lots of dirt, letting them dig around for all sorts of small game. They were also used in the American West to hunt prairie dogs, which were pests for farmers.
Like the Newfoundland, the Portuguese Water Dog’s webbed feet are built for swimming, but the breed isn’t as bulky or wooly as the Newfoundland. They helped fishermen in a different way, by herding. They didn’t herd cattle like several other dog breeds. Instead they herded schools of fish into their fishermen’s nets. They also helped retrieve items that feel overboard, and they carried messages between ships. You might recognize this kind of dog hanging out with the President of the United States of America, as Bo Obama has been leaving his webbed paw prints all over the White House for years.
If there were an all-terrain vehicle of dogs, this would be it. They were bred to hunt anywhere; mountains, forests, or fields. They were very carefully mixed with other breeds to have a thick coat, a great nose, and a loyal disposition. All of these traits allowed them to accompany hunters and track game. But they are also great at retrieving game. That’s where their webbed paws come in extra handy. If the prey is waterfowl, these guys can jump in and bring it back easily. They’re meant to go anywhere, and water doesn’t slow them down. Although they make for devoted companions, they do like to roam, so make sure you satisfy their desire to go everywhere if you become buds with one.
In the 1700s, lots of dogs were imported to America for hunting. European hunting dogs worked for Europe, but in the American South the terrain was very different. There were plenty of swamps and forests, which made it easy for prey to climb trees or throw off trackers in murky water, rather than burrowing to escape. Coonhounds were bred for this new terrain. They’re fearless, able to intimidate alligators, black bears, or cougars, and relentless so they can keep raccoons in trees until a hunter arrives. They also had webbed feet, which let them doggedly pursue their prey, even through the swamps. They were built to handle America, which is why they are still mostly only found in the U.S. You may recognize them from the book Where the Red Fern Grows, which probably made you cry unless you have a heart of stone.
Does your pup have webbed paws? Do they like to swim, dig, or hunt? Let us know by tweeting @dogtimedotcom!