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What Different Types of Feet Dogs Have!

Updated on January 29, 2016
Different types of dog feet
Different types of dog feet

Let's talk about dog feet, shall we? As dogs come in a kaleidoscope of different colors, shapes and sizes, it's not surprising for them to be be blessed with different types of dog feet. Yes, when it comes to dogs, variety is indeed the spice of life! Apparently, Mother Nature wasn't happy to have gifted dogs with a standard pair of feet coming fresh from a cookie-cutting tool. Instead, we see a vast array of feet types in dogs, and they each even have their own distinct names! While some types of feet are desired by owners of pedigree dogs because they match the breed standard, some of them are highly undesirable as they are considered major faults. Just like people are prone to debilitating conditions such as fallen arches or plantar fasciitis, dogs also have their own set of feet problems.

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

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

Cat Feet

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 foot that is neat and round, characterized by high-arched toes which are closely held together. As the name implies, this type of foot is nicely rounded and compact and highly resembles the feet seen in cats. These feet, blessed with short third digital bones, help increase a dog's endurance as they require less energy to lift off the ground. Cat feet also allow a good grip and help prevent injuries when walking on rough terrains. They are therefore often found in working dog breeds bred to have good endurance in the field. Depending on the dog breed, cat feet may be a highly desirable trait or a major fault. Following is a list of dog breeds who are required to have cat-like feet in the show ring:

Doberman pinscher: this breed is known for having a gait that is free, balanced and vigorous. The feet present as 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, this breed must have cat feet that are well knuckled up with thick pads.

Kuvasz: according to the AKC breed standard, this breed 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 proportionate to the body, webbed, and "cat foot" in shape.

Greyhounds have hare-like feet.
Greyhounds have hare-like feet.

Hare Feet

According to the American Kennel Club, this type of foot is characterized by two centered toes which are longer than the outside and inside toes. Because the toes arch less, the dog's foot appears longer than average. As the name implies, these feet are similar in shape to the feet of hare. Such feet with long third digital bones require more energy to move compared to cat-feet. However, they offer the advantage of moving faster. Many dogs with hare-like feet therefore were selectively bred for using high bursts of speed. Following are some breeds of dogs who are required to have hare feet by breed standard.

Greyhound: this fastest dog breed is required to have feet that are rather more hare than cat feet, that are well knuckled up and with strong claws.

Whippet: these sight hounds have front and rear feet that must be well formed with thick pads. Feet are preferable to be more hare than cat.

Borzoi: this breed was selectively bred for coursing of wild game. According to breed standard, this breed 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.

Webbed feet

As the name implies, webbed feet in dogs are somewhat similar to the feet found in 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.This type of foot is often found in breeds that were selectively bred to work in the water either to retrieve downed birds, capture fishing nets or trace down otters in local streams. The American Kennel Club lists only a few dogs as to having webbed feet mentioned in their standard. Here are a few dog breeds known for having webbed feet:

Newfoundland: this gentle black giant has a history of helping fishermen in the icy, cold waters of Canada. This breed has webbed feet which are also cat-foot in shape. The catlike shape in this case offers also the advantage of allowing a good grip on slippery rocks found on shores.

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 which have well rounded, close toes.

Portuguese Water Dog: this dog 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 ought to be a good swimmer. This breed is 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 foot is mostly considered a fault. In the whippet standard, flat, splayed feet are strictly penalized and so it is in many other breeds. There's a good reason for this. This type of foot is not efficient for the dog, as it doesn't support weight well and it can predispose the dog to later problems. 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, it's not accepted in the Dalmatian breed. Interestingly, there's a dog breed where flat feet are mentioned in the standard. The Tibetan terrier is known for having broad, roughly-textured flat feet with hair between the toes. These feet allow him to climb mountains and act as snow shoes giving him traction, a wonderful attribute considering his past as a companion to the 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?


Unique Feet Found in a Few Breeds

Finally, there are some breeds who have unique feet. Here are some of them:

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 must be 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, as the famous Hemingway cats, there's a dog who has more toes than average. The prize as the dog with the most unique feet therefore goes to the.... drumroll please..The Norwegian Lundehund...This breed has six toes that are fully formed and functional and are crafted so he can grasp rocky cliffs as he hunted down birds in their inaccessible nesting locations. Quite amazing huh?

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Hey, what's that smell? Why do some dogs' feet smell like Fritos?


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    • KathyH profile image

      KathyH 17 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!!

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 17 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

    • Rabadi profile image

      17 months ago from New York

      Cute hub, now following :)

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 17 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.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 17 months ago from New York

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

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 17 months ago from USA

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

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