How Many Toes Do Dogs Have? Understanding Dog Paws

Dogs are fascinating creatures that have been our loyal companions for centuries. One of the most interesting aspects of dogs is their toes and toe count. Have you ever wondered how many toes do dogs have? In this post, we will explore the world of dog toes and provide answers to some of the most common questions about them.

Dogs have a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each front paw and four toes on each back paw. The number of toes a dog has is determined by its breed and genetics, with some breeds having an extra toe or two on their hind legs. For example, Great Pyrenees, Briards, and Beaucerons all have double dewclaws on their hind legs.

The importance of a dog’s toes cannot be overstated as they play a crucial role in their balance, stability, and movement. Dogs use their toes to grip the ground while running or jumping which enables them to move with ease. Moreover, the arrangement of their toes allows them to distribute weight evenly across their paws which helps in maintaining balance.

Furthermore, dogs’ toe count can also indicate certain health issues such as polydactyly (extra digits) or syndactyly (fused digits). These conditions can cause discomfort or difficulty in movement for dogs.

Types of Toes on a Dog’s Foot

Dogs are known for their adorable paws, which are not only cute but also functional. A dog’s paw is made up of several parts, including the toes. Dogs have four toes on each paw, but some breeds may have an additional fifth toe, known as a dewclaw.

The toes on a dog’s foot are made up of bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles that work together to support the dog’s weight and provide balance and stability. The shape and size of a dog’s toes can vary depending on their breed and function. For example, hunting dogs may have longer toes to help them grip the ground while running.

Let us dive deeper into the types of toes that dogs have:

1. Dewclaws

As mentioned earlier, some dogs may have an additional toe called dewclaws. These are located higher up on the leg than the other four toes and do not touch the ground when walking or standing. Some breeds like Great Pyrenees or St Bernard often have double dewclaws.

2. Front Toes

A dog’s front paw has four toes; however, they differ from human fingers in that they do not move independently from one another. Instead, they remain close together to form a tight grip when needed.

3. Hind Toes

Similar to front paws, hind paws also consist of four toes with claws attached to them.

4. Webbed Toes

Some breeds like Labrador Retrievers or Portuguese Water Dogs possess webbed feet that allow them to swim efficiently.

5. Toe Nails

Just like humans’ nails grow continuously throughout their lives until trimmed or filed down regularly; similarly, dogs’ nails also grow continuously throughout their lives unless trimmed regularly by their owners.

Now let us answer some frequently asked questions about dog toes:

  1. Can You Trim Your Dog’s Toenails?

Yes, it is essential to trim your dog’s toenails regularly. Long nails can cause discomfort and pain while walking or running. Additionally, long nails can also grow into the paw pad, causing infections and other severe problems.

2.How Often Should You Trim Your Dog’s Toenails?

The frequency of trimming your dog’s toenails depends on their lifestyle and activity level. Dogs that walk frequently on hard surfaces like concrete may need less frequent trimming than dogs that walk mostly on grass or carpeted floors.

3. How Do You Trim Your Dog’s Toenails?

It is best to use a specialized nail clipper designed for dogs to avoid hurting them accidentally. Hold the paw firmly but gently and cut the nail at a slight angle, being careful not to cut too close to the quick (the pink part of the nail that contains blood vessels).

  • What Happens If You Cut Your Dog’s Nails Too Short?

If you accidentally cut your dog’s nails too short, it can cause bleeding and pain. However, this is not usually serious and can be treated with styptic powder or cornstarch applied directly to the nail.

  • What Should You Do If Your Dog Injures Their Toes or Nails?

If your dog injures their toes or nails, it is essential to seek veterinary care immediately. Injuries such as broken toes or torn nails can be painful and require proper treatment to heal correctly.

Factors Affecting the Number of Dog Toes

The number of toes a dog has can vary depending on their breed, with some having more or fewer toes than others. For example, most dogs have four toes on their front paws and four or five toes on their hind paws. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Some breeds, like the Great Pyrenees and Maine Coon cats, are known for having extra toes due to a genetic mutation called polydactylism.

Polydactylism is relatively rare in dogs but occurs more frequently in certain breeds. It is caused by a dominant gene that results in the formation of additional digits on the paw. While extra toes may seem like an advantage, they can cause problems for dogs in some cases.

Dogs with extra weight may have difficulty walking or running, which can lead to joint problems and even amputations of toes or limbs. This is because carrying excess weight puts additional stress on a dog’s joints and bones, making them more prone to injury and disease.

Injuries to a dog’s toes can also affect the number of toes they have. Damaged or infected toes may need to be removed to prevent further complications. In severe cases, amputation of an entire limb may be necessary.

Some dogs may be born with missing toes due to congenital abnormalities or developmental issues during pregnancy. These abnormalities can occur when the fetus is developing in the womb and result in missing digits at birth.

Certain medical conditions like cancer or autoimmune diseases can also affect the number of toes a dog has. Treatment for these conditions may require amputation of affected digits as part of a larger treatment plan.

It’s important for pet owners to monitor their dog’s feet regularly for any signs of injury or infection that could lead to toe amputations. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and proper nutrition can help prevent joint problems that could lead to amputations down the line.

Polydactyly, or having extra toes, is a genetic trait that can occur in dogs of any breed or mix. While some people may think that extra toes are cute or unique, they can actually cause health problems for dogs. In this section, we will discuss the health problems related to extra toes and show breeds.

Difficulty Walking or Running

Extra toes can make it difficult for dogs to walk or run normally. This is especially true if the extra toe is not fully formed or if it is positioned awkwardly on the paw. Dogs with extra toes may have an uneven gait and may be more prone to tripping or stumbling. Over time, this can lead to joint pain and other orthopedic issues.

Ingrown Nails

Dogs with extra toes are also more likely to develop ingrown nails. This is because the nail on the extra toe may grow at an odd angle or curve inward towards the paw pad. Ingrown nails can be painful for dogs and can even become infected if left untreated.

Increased Risk of Injury

Extra toes can also increase a dog’s risk of injury. If the extra toe is not fully formed or positioned correctly, it may be more prone to getting caught on objects such as furniture, carpeting, or grass. This can cause a dog to trip and fall, potentially leading to broken bones or other injuries.

Breeds Known for Extra Toes

Certain breeds are known for having extra toes as part of their breed standard. For example, Great Pyrenees are known for having double dewclaws on their hind legs while Norwegian Lundehunds have six toes on each foot! While these traits may be desirable in show breeds, they can also cause health problems.

credit:VetMedics Why Do Dogs Have Dew Claws? | Answered by a Vet Tech

Prioritizing Health over Appearance

While some breeders may prioritize physical appearance over health when breeding show dogs with extra toes, it’s important to remember that a dog’s well-being should always come first. Breeders should strive to produce dogs that are healthy and free from genetic defects, even if it means sacrificing certain physical traits.

According to a study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice, dogs with extra toes were more likely to develop musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis and hip dysplasia. The study also found that certain breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees and the Norwegian Lundehund, were more prone to these issues due to their extra toes.

One example of a breed with health problems related to extra toes is the Norwegian Lundehund. This breed was originally developed for hunting puffins on steep cliffs and has six toes on each foot to help with balance and grip. However, this trait can also cause health problems such as lameness and arthritis later in life.

Another example is the Great Pyrenees, which is known for having double dewclaws on their hind legs. While these dewclaws may be useful for gripping slippery surfaces or climbing over rough terrain, they can also become injured or infected if not properly cared for.

The Significance of Toes for a Dog’s Mobility and Health

Dogs rely heavily on their toes for mobility and overall health. Toes are critical in maintaining balance, stability, and grip, especially when running or walking on uneven surfaces. A dog’s toes also play a crucial role in their ability to hold onto objects such as toys or bones.

Regular nail trimming is essential for a dog’s foot health. Overgrown nails can cause discomfort and even injury to the dog. When nails become too long, they can curl under the paw pad and grow into the skin, causing pain and infection. Long nails also make it difficult for dogs to walk properly, leading to joint problems and arthritis.

The paw pads of a dog’s feet contain numerous sensory receptors that allow them to feel and respond to different textures and surfaces. These receptors help dogs navigate their environment by providing feedback about what they are stepping on or touching with their paws.

Injuries or issues with a dog’s toes, foot, or leg can significantly impact their mobility and overall health, affecting their quality of life. It is crucial to pay attention to your dog’s body language as it provides clues about the health of their toes and legs. Limping or favoring one leg over the other could indicate an issue with a toe or leg.

Dogs have four toes on each hind leg; however, some breeds may have dewclaws (an extra toe) located higher up on the leg that does not touch the ground. The number of toes does not determine a dog’s agility; instead, it is how well they use them that matters.

A dog’s ability to grip objects is vital for playtime activities such as fetch or tug-of-war. The strength of their grip depends on how well they can flex their toes around an object while using their jaw muscles simultaneously. This coordination requires healthy toes that function correctly without any pain or discomfort.

Touch is another critical sense associated with a dog’s paws. Dogs use touch to explore their environment, communicate with other dogs, and sense danger. When a dog’s toes are healthy and functioning correctly, they can use touch to navigate their surroundings safely.

Dewclaw Removal: Healing Time, Trimming, and Cruelty Concerns

Healing Time for Dewclaw Removal

Dewclaws are the extra toes on a dog’s front and sometimes back legs. Some breeds of dogs have them, while others do not. These claws can be removed through a surgical procedure called dewclaw removal, which is usually done when the dog is still a puppy. The healing time for this procedure can take up to two weeks.

During this time, it is essential to keep the wound clean and dry to prevent any infections from occurring. This means that the dog must be kept away from water and mud during this period. To ensure that the wound stays clean, it may be necessary to bandage or wrap the affected paw.

Trimming Remaining Claws

After dewclaw removal, it is important to trim the remaining claws regularly. This will prevent them from growing too long and causing discomfort or injury to your furry friend. Long nails can also cause problems with walking and running, which can lead to other health issues.

It is recommended that you trim your dog’s nails every three weeks or so. If you are unsure how to do this yourself, you can always ask your veterinarian or groomer for assistance.

Cruelty Concerns

Some animal welfare organizations consider dewclaw removal to be unnecessary and cruel as it involves removing a part of the dog’s body without any medical reason. They argue that dewclaws serve an important purpose in helping dogs grip things such as bones or toys.

However, there are some instances where dewclaw removal may be necessary for medical reasons such as if they become injured or infected repeatedly.

It is important to discuss all options with your veterinarian before deciding whether or not to remove your dog’s dewclaws.

Examples of Dewclaw Removal

Many breeders choose to have their puppies’ dewclaws removed at an early age because they believe it will make them more aesthetically pleasing in shows. However, this is not a medical reason and is purely cosmetic.

On the other hand, some dogs may have dewclaws that are prone to injury or infection. In these cases, dewclaw removal may be necessary to prevent further complications.

Statistics on Dewclaw Removal

According to a survey conducted by the American Kennel Club (AKC), 32% of breeders choose to remove their puppies’ dewclaws. However, there is no conclusive evidence that this procedure has any significant impact on a dog’s health or well-being.

Which Dog Breeds Have the Most Toes and Rear Dewclaws?

Most dog breeds have front dewclaws, but not all of them have rear dewclaws. Rear dewclaws are the extra claws that some dogs have on their hind legs, above the paw. These claws are often seen as useless and sometimes even removed by breeders or veterinarians. However, some dog breeds that commonly have rear dewclaws include Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernard, and Briard. In this section, we will discuss which dog breeds have the most toes and rear dewclaws.

Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees is a large breed of dog that originated in France. They are known for their thick white fur and gentle temperament. Great Pyrenees has double dewclaws on their hind legs. The double dewclaw is a unique feature of this breed that serves a purpose for certain tasks such as providing extra traction when climbing or helping with stability during turns.

Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard is another large breed of dog that originated in Switzerland. They are known for their rescue skills in snowy mountains and their friendly disposition with children. Saint Bernards also have double dewclaws on their hind legs like Great Pyrenees. The extra claw provides additional support when they walk on snow or ice.


Briard is a medium-sized breed of dog that originated in France as a herding dog. They are known for their long hair and loyalty to their owners. Briards also have double dewclaws on their hind legs like Great Pyrenees and Saint Bernards.

Other Dog Breeds with Rear Dewclaws

Besides Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernard, and Briard; other breeds may also have rear dewclaws such as Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Beauceron, Belgian Sheepdog, Estrela Mountain Dog, Icelandic Sheepdog, Norwegian Lundehund, Spanish Mastiff and many more.

The Function of Rear Dew Claws

Rear dewclaws can serve a purpose for certain dog breeds, such as providing extra traction when climbing or helping with stability during turns. For example, Great Pyrenees and Saint Bernard are mountain dogs that need to climb steep slopes and walk on slippery surfaces. The rear dewclaws help them to grip the ground better and provide additional support.

However, not all dog breeds need rear dewclaws. Some breeds have them removed at an early age because they are prone to injury or may get caught in things like carpets or furniture. Removing the dewclaws is a simple procedure that can be done by a veterinarian.

Front Dew Claws

Most dogs have front dew claws which are located on their front paws. These claws serve a purpose for some breeds such as hunting dogs who use them to grasp prey. However, some breeders also remove front dew claws from puppies at an early age because they believe it reduces the risk of injury.

The Number of Toes in Dogs

Dogs usually have four toes on their hind legs and five toes on their front legs. However, some dog breeds may have more than five toes due to genetic variations or mutations. For example, the Norwegian Lundehund has six toes on each paw which helps them climb rocky terrain and fit into narrow crevices.

Extra Toes on Back Feet: Genetic Malformation in Certain Dog Breeds

Polydactyly, or the presence of extra toes, is a genetic malformation that can occur in certain dog breeds. While most dogs have five toes on their front feet and four on their back feet, some breeds may have an additional toe or more. In this section, we will discuss the occurrence of extra toes on the back feet of certain dog breeds, its relation to other skeletal abnormalities, and how it affects dogs.

Extra Toes on Back Feet: A Common Occurrence in Certain Breeds

The Great Pyrenees is one breed known for having extra toes on their back legs. The extra toe is usually found in the fifth position but can also appear in other positions. Other breeds with a higher likelihood of having extra toes include the Norwegian Lundehund, American Staffordshire Terrier, Beauceron, Briard, and Catalburun.

While some breed standards allow for extra toes as part of the breed’s unique characteristics, others consider it a fault and disqualify dogs from shows or breeding. For example, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard for Great Pyrenees, “the hindquarters are muscular with hocks well let down; stifles moderately bent; hocks turning neither in nor out; feet large and round with well-arched toes.” The standard does not mention anything about extra toes.

The presence of an extra toe may be related to other skeletal abnormalities such as an additional caudal vertebrae or tail in some breeds. According to a study published by BMC Veterinary Research in 2013 on Norwegian Lundehunds’ polydactyly and other skeletal abnormalities,”…polydactyly was significantly associated with supernumerary caudal vertebrae and tail kinks.” However, the presence of extra toes does not affect a dog’s ability to interact with humans or other animals.

Veterinarian Recommendations: Removal of Extra Toes

In some cases, veterinarians may recommend removing the extra toe if it causes discomfort or pain for the dog, or if it interferes with their ability to walk or run. The procedure is usually done under general anesthesia and involves removing the entire digit, including the bone and nail. After surgery, dogs are typically monitored closely for any signs of infection or complications.

Extra Toes on Back Feet: How It Affects Dogs

While having an extra toe may seem like a novelty, it can have implications for a dog’s health and well-being. For example, extra toes can cause problems with nail growth and maintenance since they do not wear down naturally like other toes. In addition, they may interfere with a dog’s gait and balance if they are not positioned correctly.


In conclusion, understanding the number of toes on your dog’s feet is essential for their overall health and mobility. While most dogs have four toes on their front feet and four on their back, some breeds may have extra toes or dewclaws that require special attention.

Factors such as genetics, breed standards, and even geographic location can affect the number of toes a dog has. Extra toes or dewclaws can also lead to health problems if not properly maintained or removed.

It is important to regularly check your dog’s paws and nails for any signs of injury or infection. Trimming your dog’s nails and removing any excess hair around their paw pads can also help prevent issues with mobility or discomfort.

If you are considering dewclaw removal for your dog, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian first to ensure proper healing time and avoid unnecessary pain or cruelty concerns.


Why does my dog have a 5th toe?

Dogs often have a 5th toe, called a dewclaw, on their front legs. This extra toe is a vestigial structure, meaning it doesn’t serve a significant purpose in most breeds. However, some dogs use their dewclaws for better grip or stability.

Do dogs have 18 or 20 toes?

Most dogs have 18 toes – four on each hind paw and five on each front paw, including the dewclaw. However, some breeds may have more or fewer toes due to genetic variations or breeding.

Which dogs have 6 toes?

Some dogs, like the Norwegian Lundehund, have six toes on each paw. This unique feature helps them navigate steep, rocky terrain while hunting puffins. These extra toes are an adaptation that provides improved grip and mobility in their native environment.

Why do dogs have 5 toes in the front and 4 in the back?

Dogs typically have five toes on their front paws and four on their back paws. The extra toe in the front called the dewclaw, is a vestigial structure that doesn’t serve much purpose for most breeds. Some believe it might have helped their ancestors with gripping or climbing.

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