After every walk, we wipe our dogs’ paws. I’ve seen what kind of crap is out there in the streets (nature isn’t dirty but humans sure are!) and they sleep in bed with us, often kicking or wafting their furry tails into our faces.
Years ago we taught Blackspot the command “stand”. She has a habit of sitting down to have her front paws wiped (comfort first for her) and having this command comes in handy getting a 60lb dog on all fours.
My husband and I often exchange dog stories (it’s a major topic in our household) and he often comments on how Blackspot would extend her back legs AND her toes for him. I didn’t really think about it, until he demonstrated and sure enough, not only did she lift her back legs, she opened up her paws, giving him easy access to the areas between the toes/pads. I’ve always known Blackspot is a smart and a clean dog but she keeps on amazing me!
So I got thinking about a dog’s paws.
First – the basics. A dog has 4 paws and each has 4 digital pads (with toenails) and the metacarpal on the front paws and metatarsal on the back ones. These five pads are what you see as a dog’s paw print. Other paw parts – dew claw (purpose=?) and carpal pad (helps with skid and traction on a slope). Both my dogs have dewclaws on their front paws (the back ones are usually removed because they can really get tangled and caught up in stuff, especially if they are hunting dogs or the dewclaws are barely attached) but not all dogs have them. Some dogs use their dewclaws to grip bones and toys.
A – toenails
B – digital pads
C – metacarpal (front paws) or metatarsal (back paws)
D – dewclaw
E – carpal pad
Did you know that different breeds have different paw types, different shaped feet? Like “cat feet”, hare feet, and webbed feet?
“Cat feet” are compact paws with a shorter third digital bone. It looks like a cat’s – compact arched toes. I guess because the toes don’t flare out as much, it takes less energy to lift? It’s a way to conserve energy and prolong endurance in the field. Some breeds with “cat feet” – Newfoundland, German Short-haired Pointer, Old English Sheepdog, and Doberman Pinscher.
Hare feet, as found in the Greyhound, Samoyed, and some toy breeds, are elongated, meaning the 2 centre toes are longer. Runners? There’s also the oval or spoon shaped which is in between these two.
Webbed feet isn’t actually a different foot shape but a characteristic. Webbed feet makes swimming easier so the breeds that work in the water like the Newfoundland, Portuguese Water Dog, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever have them.
I tried to find some info on dog’s toes but didn’t make too much headway…. so I started watching my own dogs more closely. Both of them do this cute thing when they sleep. They curl up and stretch out their paws. When playing, they grip their toys, especially balls and bones, with their paws, expanding their pads to ensure complete control. It’s quite fascinating watching them play and use their toes. And how agile they are.
It’s strange to think that dogs, like cats and horses, are running around on their tippy toes. Why would I think they are less active than me, like when I’m furiously typing out my blog?
What does your dog do with his paws or pads?
Suggested books (that I haven’t read…yet)
The Dog in Action (McDowell Lyon)
Peak Performance: Coaching the Canine Athlete (M Christine Zink)
The New Dogsteps (Rachel Page Elliot)