Do You Know How Many Toes Does A Dog Have? (The Answer Is…)

Okay, I’ve got a question for all your dog lovers: How many toes does a dog have?

What, you don’t know the answer? Haven’t you ever looked at your dog’s feet and meticulously counted their toes?

Neither have I! It seems like a silly thing to think about in retrospect, but one day, I just started wondering how many toes my dog had.

The answer is pretty simple, but there are some things that you should know about dogs and their toes.


How Many Toes Does A Dog Have?

how many toes does a dog have

Most breeds of dogs have four toes on each paw for a total of 16 toes!

Dogs can, however, have another type of toe called a dewclaw. Some dogs have 18 claws, and others have up to 22 claws!

Dewclaws are located higher up on the leg, and you can imagine it to be a bit like a thumb. Some dogs have these on their front and hind legs. Dewclaws are often removed by breeders, or they can be removed from your dog when they are spayed/neutered.

What Do You Call A Dog’s Toes?

Some people call them toes, but more often, you will see a dog’s toes referred to as a claw. Both are OK, and your vet will understand you if you use either term.

What Are Dewclaws And Why Are They Sometimes Removed?

how many toes does a dog have

Dewclaws are claws that are located a little bit higher on the front or hind legs of a dog.

Many dogs are born with two dewclaws, one on each of their front legs, for a total of 18 claws. In the past, dog breeders would remove these dewclaws when the dogs were born.

Some dog breeds are also born with dewclaws on their hind legs for a total of 20 claws. Breeds that have this many claws include:

  • Beauceron
  • Lundehund
  • Briard
  • Great Pyrenees

Why Are Dewclaws Sometimes Removed?

In the past, dewclaws were removed by breeders for show dogs because they are an eyesore in terms of showing dogs. In other cases, dewclaws have been removed because they pose a mobility problem for dogs.

Some people believe that because dewclaws are loosely attached in most breeds, they can easily tear and become a danger to the dogs. If the dewclaws rip, they could cause an infection that might hurt the dog.

It is also possible for dewclaws to become ingrown. When this happens, they need to be partially or completely removed to prevent infection. In this case, a veterinarian would know how to handle the ingrown dewclaw.

In most cases, however, dewclaws do not need to be removed. They are simply an extra toe. The nail on the dewclaw is usually trimmed to a safe length so that they don’t tear, and that is enough treatment on the dewclaw!

Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws?

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This is actually an issue that is still up for some debate!

Some scientists believe that the presence of dewclaws is evidence of reverse evolution. This means that dogs originally lost this toe, but in some breeds, it is either coming back or is still present.

Most breeds that have dewclaws were originally used for herding sheep or doing other active work. It’s possible that the extra claw was able to help them do their work more efficiently, but dogs have lost the need for dewclaws over time.

For some dogs, the dewclaws touch the ground and can help them run. In breeds like the Great Pyrenes, the dewclaws are necessary and attached to the bone and present on all four limbs.

Either way, dewclaws are still a mystery in many ways! It’s normal for dogs to have one or even two dewclaws on their limbs.

When Do Dewclaws Get Used?

The only time that dewclaws have been seen to have a purpose is when dogs are running at very high speeds.

When dogs run very fast or make sharp turns, the dewclaws on some dogs touch the ground and help retain speed and balance. Evidence of this can be seen when the nail of a dewclaw is worn down by a dog running just as much as the other nails.

Dewclaws can also be used by dogs when they are in tough situations and need to get a better grip:

As you can see in that video, the dewclaw allows the dog to grip the ice so that she can pull herself out. Dewclaws do have a purpose for some dogs!

Do Dog Toes Need Special Care?

how many toes does a dog have

The claws on a dog should regularly be trimmed if the dog is not running or walking enough for the nails to naturally be worn down.

If a dog’s nails get too long, they can easily get caught on something and tear. A tear like this can cause your dog pain and damage to their entire paw which could take a substantial amount of time to heal.

To prevent your dog from dealing with this, you should make sure that their nails (including the nails on their dewclaws) are trimmed regularly.

Check out this simple video about taking care of your dog’s nails yourself:

Now That You Know About Toes

how many toes does a dog have

And now you know that dogs usually have 16 toes, but this can actually differ without any real issues being caused for your dog!

Your dog’s toes are important for how they walk, run, and function in day to day life, but rarely do toes cause dogs any lifelong problems.

Does your dog have the normal number of toes? How many toes does a dog have? Let me know that you found out the answer in the comments, and then share this with friends who don’t know this simple answer!


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