Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws?

Updated on June 4, 2020
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."

Dewclaw in Dog's Front Leg
Dewclaw in Dog's Front Leg | Source

Dog Dewclaws

What are dog dewclaws?

The dewclaw is simply the dog's thumb which can be commonly found high up the leg and typically doesn't make contact with the ground. Dewclaws are commonly found as a protrusion on the inside of the dog's front legs but can also be present in the rear legs as well. In rare cases, you may see double dewclaws on the same paw (see picture below). In this case, the dog is known as double-dewclawed. Often, one of these extra dewclaws is poorly connected and needs to be removed surgically, but in some cases they are quite sturdy and even part of the breed standard (think Great Pyrenees).

Do all dogs have dewclaws?

Depending on the breed of dog you get, he may or may not have dewclaws.

Why remove dewclaws?

You may have seen ads of breeders selling dogs stating that the "dewclaws have been removed," or you may have heard your vet mention it. Some breeders remove them when the puppies are very young, so upon purchasing the pup, they have been already removed and you may never be aware of their past presence. Rottweiler puppies are often sold with dewclaws removed.

What is the purpose of a dewclaw?

So are dewclaws useless appendages or do they have some use? The topic of whether dogs should keep their dewclaws or if they are better off removed remains for the most part a subject of controversy. We'll see both sides of the argument.

D is for dewclaw.
D is for dewclaw. | Source

Three Reasons Why Dewclaws Are Removed

First and foremost, the decision to remove dewclaws must be done very early. If you're getting your puppy at 8 weeks it's a no-brainer since the breeder will have likely already taken care of it since dewclaw removal is done when the pup is less than 5 days old.

1. They May Embed

One of the main issues with dewclaws is the fact that in most dogs they never touch the ground. This means that, unlike the other nails on the toes that make contact with the ground, the dewclaw nails never wear down. This means the owner must trim the nail on a routine basis to keep them at a safe length. Failure to do so may result in the dewclaw growing long and curved and possibly embedding in the dog's dewclaw pad.

2. They Are Weak

Another reason why several people suggest to remove the dewclaws is because they are believed to be a weak digit that is barely attached and can easily catch on something and cause pain, and possibly infections. Dewclaws are often removed in hunting and working breeds as a precaution to prevent injuries. The belief is that the dewclaws are much easier to remove when the pup is a few days old rather than older.

3. To Adhere to Breed Standards

And finally, dewclaws may be removed because the breed standard states so. You may see breed standards calling for dewclaw removal even in dogs no longer used for work. In this case, it's more to keep a certain look and maintain a tradition.

Double dewclaws in a dog
Double dewclaws in a dog | Source

How Dewclaws Are Removed

Dewclaws are removed when the puppy is only days old, often at the same time the tails are docked. Generally, this occurs between the ages of 3 and 5 days old and is done without anesthetic. If dewclaw removal is not done at this age, it becomes more complicated to remove them as the pup grows. The next chance is perhaps when the pup goes under to be spayed or neutered months later. The procedure involves removing the digit including skin, bone and nail, with surgical scissors. The whole procedure takes about 15 to 30 minutes per pup.

Three Reasons Why Dewclaws are Kept

Interestingly, each dewclaw is attached to five tendons, which are further attached to a muscle, according to veterinarian and rehabilitation specialist of performance-related injuries Dr. Christine Zink. This seems to suggest that dewclaws much have some sort of functionality. Let's look at some reasons why dog owners have decided to keep their dog's dewclaws as nature made them.

1. Dewclaws Prevent Torque

If your dog runs in the sport of agility or if he is a working dog, you may want to give dewclaws a second thought. Dewclaws help support Rover's lower legs, and when he makes those tight turns, it's thanks to his dewclaws that torque is prevented. Indeed, when cantering or galloping and making a swift turn, those dewclaws touch the ground and prevent the leg from twisting and getting other injuries further explains Christine Zink.

2. They Aid Grasping

You won't see Rover engaging in useless thumb twiddling or sending text messages, but rest assured that those thumbs have some purposes. You may notice how your dog uses his dewclaws to aid him in grasping objects such as toys, bones and sticks as he chews on them. You may also see Rover use his dewclaws to scratch a sudden itch or remove some foreign body stuck in his teeth. Not to mention the use of such extra appendages in climbing and engaging in several sport activities.

3. Declaw Removal Is Sometimes Illegal

In some countries, removing the dewclaws is illegal. The belief is that they're painful to remove and that they are removed mostly for cosmetic reasons rather than anything else. This is a good reason why so many dogs still have their dewclaws in countries such as Australia.

Should dewclaws be removed to adhere to breed standards?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      2 months ago

      Hi Brenden,

      Your choice should be made on various factors. For example, do you have serious plans for his agility in the future? any plans to change sport in the future (like Treibball, flyball?) Do you have to do any other procedures so you can combine them with this procedure? Like a dental cleaning, spay/neuter? Your best bet is to discuss with your vet.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Hi Adrienne

      I have a BC who is doing agility. As he is still learning, he knocks into bar constantly resulting in swelling of his dewclaw. I’m contemplating to remove it to prevent injury but I’m not sure whether should I proceed as there’s conflicting views.

      Any advise is appreciated

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      4 years ago

      Hello Heldi, no need to apologize, I couldn't even tell English is not your mother language! There are some dogs who have dewclaws in such a way as making them more prone to injury. There was this dog in agility that when we were teaching him to jump an obstacle, his protruding dewclaws were touching the obstacle and causing them the bleed. The issue some countries have where this practice is banned is when they're removed for cosmetic reasons.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      When my dog was neutered vet also removed dewclaws from his rear legs. I suggested it because once when he was playing and running with other dogs, he accidentally stumbled with one of the dewclaws from rear leg on bench. It was painful so to avoid any future accidents I decided it is better to remove it. I see it like this, when dogs are running they are much more careful and know where their front legs will end up, while the rear legs just follow the body and they can really hurt those dewclaws that are sticking out. I hope you get the picture, English is not my mother tongue, so I apologize :)

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by MJennifer! I am also a big proponent of not removing healthy body parts and indeed have written many hubs against docking tails and cropping ears. The dewclaws have been fortunately been understood better these years, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • MJennifer profile image

      Marcy J. Miller 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      This was fascinating, Adrienne! When I was young, it was the conventional wisdom that dewclaws should always, unquestioningly, be removed. It was a welcome surprise to me a few years ago when my vet said that's no longer routinely done unless the claws are floppy and prone to getting snagged. I'm not a big proponent of removing healthy body parts unless there's a specific, valid reason to do so (such as spay and neuter). Interesting!

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      7 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      You are right, it is a controversial subject. Just don't like to see them hurt.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      I know it's a tough topic isn't it? There seems to be different views on this, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Whoa, a tough one to think about there. I would say it depends on whether the dewclaw is hampering or assisting him. If it hampers and causes problems, as it in some cases might, remove it.....if it doesn't and in fact helps, let it stay.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)