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The Different Types of Feet That Dogs Have

Updated on May 21, 2017
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Adrienne Farricelli is a former veterinary hospital assistant and now a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of dog books.

Dogs come in a wide array of different colors, shapes and sizes, so it's not surprising that they also have different types of feet. Apparently, Mother Nature wasn't satisfied with simply giving dogs a standard set of paws. While some types of feet are desired by owners of pedigree dogs because they match the breed standard, other types are highly undesirable because they are considered major faults. Just like people are prone to debilitating conditions, such as fallen arches or plantar fasciitis, canines also have their own set of problems.

You don't have to be a dog show judge or own a pedigree breed to get to know dog feet. This brief guide will introduce you to some common and not-so-common types of paws that are seen in canines around the world.

Akitas have cat-like feet.
Akitas have cat-like feet. | Source

1. Cat Feet

I know what you might be thinking, but dogs with this type of feet don't have retractable claws! According to the American Kennel Club, a dog with a cat foot simply has a paw that is neat and round, characterized by high-arched toes that are closely held together. As the name implies, this type of foot is nicely rounded and compact and highly resembles those seen in cats. With short third digital bones, these paws help increase a dog's endurance because they require less energy to lift off the ground. They also give dogs a good grip and help prevent injuries when they walk on rough terrains. These catlike paws are, therefore, often found in working dogs that are bred to have good endurance in the field. Depending on the breed, cat feet may be a highly desirable trait or a major fault.

Breeds That Are Required to Have Cat-Like Feet in the Show Ring

Breed
Description
Doberman Pinscher
This breed is known for having a gait that is free, balanced, and vigorous. The feet are well-arched, compact, and catlike, with the paws not turning in nor out, according to breed standard.
Akita
This breed is known for having a brisk and powerful gait. According to the AKC standard, the Akita must have cat feet that are knuckled-up with thick pads.
Kuvasz
According to the AKC breed standard, the Kuvasz should have resilient black pads with feet that are tightly closed, forming cat feet.
Giant Schnauzer
This breed, blessed with a free, balanced, and vigorous gait, is expected to have well-arched feet that are compact and catlike.
Newfoundland
This breed has a smooth gait that gives the impression of effortless power. The feet are catlike, proportionate to the body, and webbed.
Greyhounds have hare-like feet.
Greyhounds have hare-like feet.

2. Hare Feet

According to the American Kennel Club, this type of paw is characterized by two centered toes that are longer than the outside and inside toes. Because the toes arch less, the dog's feet appears longer than average. As the name implies, these paw are similar in shape to the feet of hare, so they are characterized by long third digital bones that require more energy to move compared to cat feet. But, they do offer the advantage of moving faster. Therefore, many dogs with hare-like feet were selectively bred to run with high bursts of speed.

Breeds That Are Required to Have Hare Feet by Breed Standard

Breed
Description
Greyhound
This is the fastest dog breed and it is required to have feet like hare that are knuckled-up with strong claws.
Whippet
These sight hounds have front and rear feet that must be well-formed with thick pads and hare-like.
Borzoi
This breed was selectively bred for coursing of wild game. According to breed standard, the Borzoi is required to have hare-shaped feet, with well-arched knuckles, and close toes that are well-padded.
Newfoundlands have webbed feet.
Newfoundlands have webbed feet.

3. Webbed Feet

As the name implies, these feet are somewhat similar to those found on aquatic animals, such as ducks, geese, swans, and frogs. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs with webbed feet have toes connected by a skin membrane. The breeds that have this type of paw shape are those that were selectively bred to work in the water, either to retrieve downed birds, capture fishing nets, or track down otters in local streams.

Breeds That Are Required to Have Webbed Feet by Breed Standard

Breeds
Description
Newfoundland
This gentle giant has a history of helping fishermen in the icy, cold waters of Canada. This breed has webbed feet that are also shaped like a cat foot. The catlike shape offers them a good grip on slippery shoreline rocks.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
As the name implies, this breed was used in the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The breed standard calls for webbed, hare feet that are well-rounded with close toes.
Portuguese Water Dog
This breed has webbed feet and a history of retrieving nets. The standard mentions "webbing between the toes made of soft skin."
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
With a history of retrieving water fowl in the 19th century, this breed is an excellent swimmer. They are expected to have strongly webbed feet with thick pads and well-arched toes.

Feet That Are Penalized

As mentioned, sometimes feet can be problematic and may be considered a major fault in the show ring. When it comes to body parts, they must all work in synchrony to allow an efficient gait. The dog's paws and pasterns must work harmoniously so they can act as good shock absorbers as the dog flexes his legs to romp about and jump. Structural faults may compromise the whole harmony, causing gait abnormalities and ultimately damage to the dog's pasterns and feet.

Splayed Feet

According to the American Kennel Club, this type of foot is flat, with the toes spreading. Also known as open-foot or open-toed, this type of paw is mostly considered a fault. In the whippet standard, flat, splayed feet are strictly penalized, and this is also true for many other breeds. There's a good reason for this. This type of foot is not efficient because it doesn't support weight well, and it can predispose the dog to health problems down the road. The causes of splayed feet can be genetic or acquired. The American Kennel Club states that long nails can turn a good foot into a splayed one, reducing traction and injuring the tendons over an extended period of time. Other causes may be weak pasterns, keeping puppies on wire surfaces, and improper nutrition. While the English bulldog breed standard calls for well-split toes, splayed toes are penalized.

Flat Feet

Flat feet are generally considered a major fault in many breeds. For example, they're not accepted in the Dalmatian breed. Interestingly, they are considered standard for the Tibetan terrier. These dogs are known for having broad, roughly-textured flat feet with hair between the toes. This allows them to climb mountains because the shape of their paws acts like snow shoes, giving them traction. It is a wonderful attribute, considering their past as companions to monks living in mountainous monasteries.

Paper Feet

According to the American Kennel Club, this type of foot is flat with thin pads.

Ever seen a dog with six toes?
Ever seen a dog with six toes? | Source

Unique Feet Found in a Few Breeds

Finally, there are some breeds that have unique feet.

Snow-Shoe Foot: This type of foot is found in the Alaskan malamute standard. The standard calls for "feet of the snowshoe type, with well-cushioned pads."

Fox-like Foot: This type of foot is called for in the American foxhound breed standard. It's truly a gift of nature to give this dog feet that are similar in shape to the feet of the animals they hunt down!

Polydactyly Feet: For those who do not know the meaning, polydactyl means "extra toes." Yes, just like the famous Hemingway cats, there is a dog breed that has more toes than the average. The Norwegian Lundehund has six toes that are fully-formed and functional and are crafted so he can grasp rocky cliffs as he hunts down birds in their inaccessible nesting locations. Quite amazing, don't you think?

© 2015 Adrienne Janet Farricelli

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    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 21 months ago from USA

      Isn't that true? Yet, dog feet are so important!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 21 months ago from New York

      How interesting. We never really thing about our dog's feet, but, well they do have four of them.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 21 months ago from California

      I didn't realize dog paws came in so many varieties. I didn't know there is a breed with 6 toes. When my Jack Russell wakes up I am going to have to give her a close examination.

    • Rabadi profile image

      21 months ago from New York

      Cute hub, now following :)

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 21 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      I never knew there was a dog with six toes. My beagle has the cutest little feet for her 13 inch body. I think our dalmatian had web feet. Great Hub, Stella

    • KathyH profile image

      KathyH 21 months ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Another dog breed with webbed feet is one that I wrote about recently called the Leonberger. They are also used for tasks like water rescue. Nice job on this! I enjoyed reading it!!