What are Dogs Dew Claws for? The Surprising Benefits & Functionality

Dogs’ dew claws are small, non-functional vestigial digits found on the inside of their front legs. Dogs are fascinating creatures with various unique traits, one of which is their dew claws.

These small, inconspicuous digits can be found on the inside of their front legs, usually a few inches above their paws. Unlike their functional toes, dew claws are non-functional and often don’t come into contact with the ground while walking or running.

As these dew claws serve no practical purpose for most dog breeds, they are often removed through a surgical procedure called dewclaw removal. However, some dog breeds, like certain hunting or working dogs, may have their dew claws left intact as they can provide additional stability when navigating challenging terrains. While dew claws may not have a clear purpose nowadays, their presence adds to the rich and diverse characteristics found within the canine world.

Understanding The Purpose Of Dew Claws In Dogs

Dew claws are a unique feature found on the legs of some dog breeds. These extra digits, often seen higher up on the leg compared to the regular toes, may leave you wondering about their purpose. In this section, we will delve into the significance of dew claws in dogs, including an anatomical explanation and the difference between front and hind dew claws.

Anatomical Explanation Of Dew Claws

To comprehend the purpose of dew claws, let’s first explore their anatomical aspects. Dew claws are essentially remnants of an ancestral body part that served a practical function in the wild. Similar to the thumbs on our hands, dew claws were once essential for dogs’ survival. These extra digits are attached to the inner side of the legs and are not typically in contact with the ground when the dog is walking or running. They are most commonly found on the front feet, but some dogs also have them on their hind legs.

Difference Between Front And Hind Dew Claws

Front dew claws tend to be more functional and useful compared to hind dew claws. They are usually attached more firmly to the leg, having a bony connection to the skeletal system. Hind dew claws, on the other hand, are often loosely attached and are more susceptible to injury. Due to their location on the leg, hind dew claws can easily get caught on objects or tangled in brush, leading to pain and potential injury for the dog. Therefore, many breeders and veterinarians opt to remove the hind dew claws shortly after birth to prevent future issues.

It is important to note that while dew claws may serve a purpose in certain dog breeds, they are not found in all breeds. Some breeds, like Beagles or Doberman Pinschers, often have dew claws removed at a young age to avoid potential complications. However, in others breeds, like Great Pyrenees or St. Bernards, dew claws can serve a functional purpose. These large, working breeds often heavily rely on their dew claws for added stability while climbing or navigating rough terrain.

In conclusion, understanding the purpose of dew claws in dogs requires knowledge of their anatomical significance and the differences between front and hind dew claws. While the significance of dew claws may vary among different breeds, determining whether to keep or remove them should be considered on an individual basis to ensure the overall well-being and safety of the dog.

The Surprising Benefits Of Dew Claws In Dogs

When it comes to a dog’s anatomy, one intriguing feature that often goes unnoticed is the dew claw. Dew claws are the small, “thumb-like” nails located on the inner side of a dog’s front and sometimes rear legs. While some dog owners might assume that dew claws are unnecessary and simply a remnant of evolution, they actually serve several surprising benefits. These little appendages provide enhanced stability and grip, protection and balance in rough terrains, a climbing and agility advantage, assistance in grooming and self-care, as well as a communicative function in social interactions. Let’s explore these benefits further.

1. Enhanced Stability And Grip

Dew claws act as tiny “thumbs” for dogs, adding an extra digit to their paws. This additional digit enhances their stability and grip, particularly while navigating slippery or uneven surfaces. Think of it as having an extra handhold when you need it most. Whether your furry friend is running, turning, or leaping, those little dew claws provide extra traction, preventing slips and falls.

2. Protection And Balance In Rough Terrains

In rough terrains like rocky trails or dense brush, dogs face the challenge of maintaining balance and avoiding injury to their limbs. Dew claws come to the rescue by serving as an extra layer of protection for their legs. These small nails help shield the delicate tendons, ligaments, and other structures around the back area of the leg from potential harm. So, next time your pup confidently zig-zags through an obstacle course of fallen logs, thank those dew claws for their balance and added safeguarding.

3. Climbing And Agility Advantage

Climbing or scaling obstacles demands both strength and agility from dogs. Dew claws play a crucial role in providing an advantage in such situations. With extra leverage offered by these mini-claws, dogs can grip and latch onto surfaces like tree trunks or rocks with greater ease. This enables them to climb higher, navigate steep inclines, and demonstrate their innate agility. So, your pet’s ability to chase squirrels up a tree or conquer that rock face is partially indebted to their handy dew claws.

4. Assistance In Grooming And Self-care

Dogs are meticulous self-groomers, often using their mouths and paws to maintain their hygiene. The dew claws, when present on the rear legs, help in this grooming process. These small nails act like a miniature comb, assisting dogs in efficiently removing debris, dead fur, or any irritants that may have lodged between their rear toes. It’s their built-in tool for keeping their paws clean and comfortable.

5. Communicative Function In Social Interactions

Beyond their physical advantages, dew claws also serve a communicative function in social interactions among dogs. During play or displays of dominance, dogs often use their paws to communicate intentions or establish boundaries. Dew claws play a role in these gestures, serving as an additional touchpoint for expressing emotions and assertiveness. By flexing and extending their dew claws, dogs can convey messages to their fellow canines and even to humans who are observant enough to notice.

In conclusion, dew claws have more to offer than meets the eye. They contribute to a dog’s stability, grip, and balance. They provide advantages in various activities, from climbing to grooming. Plus, they play a role in social interactions among dogs. So, the next time you think about your furry friend’s unique features, don’t overlook their incredible dew claws. They truly are a valuable asset in the canine world.

How To Properly Care For Dew Claws

Dew claws are the small, extra toes or vestigial structures located on the inside of a dog’s leg, just above the paw. While not all dogs have dew claws, those that do require proper care and attention to keep them healthy. By regularly inspecting and cleaning your dog’s dew claws, understanding the best approach for trimming or removing them, preventing infections and injuries, and seeking advice from a veterinarian, you can ensure that your furry friend stays happy and comfortable.

Regular Inspection And Cleaning

Regularly inspecting and cleaning your dog’s dew claws is an essential part of their overall paw care. These structures are prone to collecting dirt, debris, and other foreign objects, which can lead to infections or discomfort if left unattended. To properly care for dew claws:

  1. Start by examining your dog’s dew claws during your routine grooming sessions. Look for any signs of redness, inflammation, swelling, or discharge, which may indicate an infection or injury.
  2. Use a clean, damp cloth or mild pet-safe antibacterial wipe to gently clean around the dew claws, removing any dirt or debris that may have accumulated. Pay close attention to the area between the nail and the skin.
  3. Dry the area thoroughly using a clean towel or soft cloth to prevent moisture from trapping, which can lead to bacterial or fungal growth.
  4. Apply an appropriate pet-safe antiseptic or wound care ointment recommended by your veterinarian to promote healing and prevent infections. Follow the instructions on the product label for guidance.

Trimming Vs. Removal Of Dew Claws

When it comes to dew claws, you may wonder whether it’s necessary to trim or remove them. The decision to trim or remove dew claws should be based on your dog’s specific circumstances and discussed with your veterinarian. Here are some considerations:

  • If your dog’s dew claws are long or curling, they may be prone to catching on objects, leading to pain or injury. In such cases, trimming the dew claws regularly can help prevent these issues.
  • In some breeds, dew claws may serve a functional purpose, such as providing stability during certain activities or agility sports. In these cases, removal of dew claws may not be recommended.
  • If your dog has repeatedly experienced complications, such as infections or injuries, associated with their dew claws, your veterinarian may suggest removing them surgically to prevent further problems.

Prevention Of Infections And Injuries

By taking proactive measures, you can minimize the risk of infections and injuries associated with dew claws. Here are some preventative steps to consider:

  • Keep your dog’s nails trimmed regularly, including the dew claws. Shorter nails reduce the chances of the dew claws snagging on objects or becoming ingrown, which can result in injuries.
  • Monitor your dog’s activity level and adjust as necessary, avoiding excessive jumping or rough play that could potentially strain or injure the dew claws.
  • Avoid allowing your dog to roam in rough terrain or areas with sharp objects that increase the risk of dew claw injuries.
  • Consider using protective dog boots or socks during outdoor activities to provide an extra layer of protection for the dew claws.

Consulting With A Veterinarian For Advice

When it comes to the care of your dog’s dew claws, consulting with a veterinarian is always a wise choice. A veterinarian can provide valuable guidance specific to your dog’s breed, age, and individual needs. They can advise you on the best approach for inspecting, cleaning, trimming, or removing dew claws to ensure your dog’s comfort and overall well-being.

Common Mistakes And Misconceptions About Dew Claws

The dew claw is the small, extra claw found on the inside of a dog’s leg, higher up from the rest of the paw. While some dog owners may underestimate the importance of dew claws, there are common misconceptions and mistakes surrounding these unique appendages. In this section, we will debunk these myths and shed light on the significance of dew claws in a dog’s overall health and well-being.

Myth: Dew Claws Are Useless And Should Always Be Removed

One prevalent myth surrounding dew claws is the belief that they are useless and, therefore, should be removed. However, such a claim undermines the purpose and functionality of these claws. Dew claws serve as the dog’s thumb or big toe, providing extra traction, stability, and balance, especially when navigating challenging terrains. These extra digits play a crucial role in helping dogs maintain their grip and perform certain tasks efficiently.

While dew claws may not fully touch the ground like other claws, they can still make contact when the dog’s leg is extended or when the dog moves quickly. Removing dew claws unnecessarily can result in an imbalance in the dog’s gait and affect their overall agility. It is important to remember that dew claws are functional body parts and should not be dismissed as useless.

Myth: Dew Claw Removal Is A Standard Practice

Contrary to popular belief, dew claw removal is not a standard practice and is not required for every dog. Some breed standards may call for dew claw removal for certain breeds or purposes, such as hunting or working dogs. However, it is essential to note that not all dogs have the same dew claw structure or need for removal.

It is crucial to consult with a veterinarian before considering dew claw removal. Veterinarians can assess the dog’s breed, lifestyle, and the potential risks associated with dew claws to provide appropriate guidance. Decisions regarding dew claw removal should be made on an individual basis, considering the dog’s overall health, breed characteristics, and specific circumstances.

Mistake: Neglecting Dew Claw Health

Another common mistake dog owners make is neglecting the health of their dog’s dew claws. Just like any other part of a dog’s body, dew claws require proper care and attention. Regular examination of the dew claws for signs of injury, infection, or overgrowth is crucial in maintaining their health.

Trimming the dew claws periodically can prevent them from becoming too long and curling back into the paw pad, which may lead to discomfort, ingrown nails, or even infection. If a dew claw appears injured, swollen, or causing the dog discomfort, it is essential to consult a veterinarian for appropriate care and treatment.

Mistake: Mishandling And Accidental Injury

Mishandling the dog’s dew claws and accidental injury are other common mistakes dog owners make. Dogs, especially during grooming or playtime, may experience excessive pulling, tearing, or injury to their dew claws. Such mishaps can cause pain, bleeding, and potential complications.

To prevent mishandling and accidental injury, it is important to educate oneself about proper handling techniques and to remain cautious during activities that may put the dog’s dew claws at risk. Additionally, providing suitable chew toys and keeping the dog’s nails appropriately trimmed can also help reduce the likelihood of accidental injury to the dew claws.

Understanding the common mistakes and misconceptions surrounding dew claws is crucial for dog owners. By acknowledging the importance of these unique appendages, avoiding unnecessary removal, and providing proper care and attention, we can ensure our dogs’ overall well-being and prevent potential complications. Remember, dew claws are not useless, and they play an integral role in a dog’s life.


Dogs’ dew claws serve various purposes and play a crucial role in their overall functionality. From providing extra grip and stability to allowing them to climb and navigate rough terrain, these seemingly insignificant appendages have a significant impact on a dog’s daily life.

By understanding the importance of dew claws, pet owners can better appreciate their furry friends’ unique anatomy and cater to their specific needs. So next time you see those little dew claws, remember the valuable role they play in your dog’s world.

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