Dogs with Webbed Feet – Why Do They Have Them?

Dogs with Webbed Feet

There are plenty of dog breeds that have webbed feet, but have you ever asked yourself why? If you have never noticed this feature before, take a close look at your dog’s toes. If you notice that the toes are connected by a thin and flexible piece of skin, your pooch has webbed feet!

If you want to know why dogs have webbed feet, you’re in the right place. Not only will we explain why certain breeds and mixes have webbed toes, but we will also go over some of the most popular breeds of dogs with webbed feet.

So, Why Do Dogs Have Webbed Feet?

While it might sound surprising, the webbing you find on your dog’s paws serves the same purpose as the webbing you find on the feet of other animals. Ducks, geese, beavers, and other animals that spend time on land and in the water use webbing to help propel them through the water.

This connective tissue between the toes acts almost like an oar and helps the animal navigate aquatic environments. Some dog breeds have more pronounced webbed paws than others because they were specifically bred to swim.

While the webbing found between the toes of a dog’s feet might be more subtle than that of amphibious animals, it really does help them swim.

Why Do Certain Dog Breeds Have More Webbed Feet and Others Don’t?

Why some breeds have more pronounced webbed feet is fairly simple – it is a physical trait that was deemed desirable for certain types of dogs. Through selective breeding, dog breeders carefully created certain breeds that were better swimmers than others.

Pronounced webbing between the toes certainly gives a dog more maneuverability in the water, so it only makes sense that someone who desired a dog that would be good at swimming would create a dog breed with webbed feet.

Do All Dogs Have Webbing On Their Feet? 

While we often think of more pronounced webbing as a unique trait that only some working dog breeds and mixes possess, all dogs have partial webbing between their toes. This skin connects the toes and is part of the structure of the dog’s paw. It keeps their toes from spreading too far apart, helps them dig, and provides extra stability for walking, especially when on outdoor adventures. Webbed feet are great for trudging through moist soil when duck hunting or hunting big game.

With that said, this webbing is more pronounced on some breeds, especially those bred to be good swimmers, because it helps with the down and out motion in the water. While they have different physical characteristics and temperaments, these webbed feet breeds all have one thing in common. They are great swimmers and usually enjoy the water.

To help you understand the difference between a breed with webbed feet and those that just have slight webbing between their toes, we are going to highlight some of the most popular webbed feet breeds below!

7 Popular Dog Breeds with Webbed Feet

As you will learn, some of the most popular dog breeds have webbed feet. If you have one of these breeds or are interested in welcoming one into your home, you will quickly learn how much your pooch enjoys swimming!

1. Labrador Retrievers

Not only is the Labrador Retriever the most popular breed with webbed feet, but Labs are also the most popular type of dog in the United States! There are plenty of good reasons for this breed’s popularity. Their friendly and affectionate personalities make them excellent family dogs, especially for first-time dog owners.

They are energetic and athletic, so they enjoy running, playing games, and, you guessed it, swimming! Their wide webbed feet help them paddle through the water, and the short, water repellent coat helps them dry quickly, which is especially important in icy-cold waters. Labs aren’t just great at swimming–they truly love the water!

If you are interested in welcoming a Labrador Retriever into your home, there are a few things you should keep in mind. For starters, like many dog breeds, these dogs are extremely food-motivated. While this helps during training, it does put Labs at a heightened risk of obesity and various weight-related health issues. If you choose a Lab, make sure you feed your pooch a healthy diet and take them for plenty of walks!

Labs can also be very lively. While this makes the breed a really fun and family-friendly canine companion, it can be too much to handle for seniors and those that prefer a more relaxed lifestyle.

2. Portuguese Water Dogs

As the name suggests, this breed of dog with webbed feet loves the water! They have a thick coat filled with tight curls, which helps repel water, but it is their large, webbed paws that make them great swimmers. They even have a thick rudder-like tail to help them move gracefully through the water.

Not only does their curly double-coat help them dry quickly, but it also helps lock in heat so they can swim in icy-cold waters without experiencing shock.

Portuguese Water Dogs were bred to help fishermen gather fishing nets, poles, and other fishing equipment. They would also act as couriers to run messages from ships to shore. Given Portugal’s long history as a fishing nation, it is no wonder that one of the country’s most popular breeds is a water-loving breed with webbed feet!

If you are interested in owning a Portuguese Water Dog, you will be happy to learn that they are extremely energetic, intelligent, and loyal. While they are far less popular than Labrador Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs can make excellent companions. They are very easy to train, but their athletic and active nature means you will have to take your pooch for plenty of walks.

3. Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniels have a truly unique appearance that many people love. Their tight curly coat and distinctive skinny tail almost always turn heads. As the name suggests, these dogs love splashing around in the water, which is why they have very prominent webbed feet. The tight curls of their unique coat also help keep them warm in cold water, and it dries much faster than other types of fur.

Another one of the unique physical traits of Irish Water Spaniels is the crown of loose curls on top of their heads. Some people find this gives their face an almost human-like appearance, which can be really cute. While they usually weigh just over 50 lbs, they are surprisingly tall, so they are a better option for families that have a larger home and plenty of outdoor space where the dog can run around.

In terms of temperament, the Irish Water Spaniel is a very affectionate and friendly breed, which is why they are popular with families with young children and other dogs. They can be very playful, and just like other Spaniels, they are fairly active and require regular exercise. 

For those that are interested in these dogs, make sure you are prepared to take your pooch on regular walks. You also need to provide your Irish Water Spaniel with a healthy diet, as they are susceptible to a few health issues that can be worsened with a poor diet, including several food-related allergies. Hip and elbow dysplasia are also concerns, so regular checkups with a veterinarian are also a good idea!

4. Newfoundland

Newfoundlands, or Newfies, are the largest breed on our list of popular dog breeds with webbed feet. This gentle giant is known for its friendly demeanor, love of the outdoors, and massive stature.

Given that they were bred as working dogs for the harsh conditions of Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador regions, it makes sense that these big dogs have a thick coat, powerful muscles, and large, webbed feet. 

Not only were they bred to help loggers and farmers, but they also served as lifeguards for anyone that fell into the icy waters of the region. This explains why they have such prominent webbing between their toes; a thick, double coat to keep them warm; and a powerful tail that acts as a rudder while they swim. There is even a story that Napoleon Bonaparte was rescued by a fisherman’s Newfoundland when he fell into the rough waters of the Mediterranean!

Newfies can grow as large as 150 lbs, but they almost always have really sweet personalities. The Newfoundland breed seems to have a particularly strong attachment to children, which is why they are a popular breed for young families. They are susceptible to the usual joint issues you find with larger breeds, as well as certain cardiovascular issues as they age, so a healthy diet and a proper exercise routine should help your Newfie live a happy, healthy life! 

5. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

As the name suggests, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers originate from the Chesapeake Bay estuary in New England. The breed combines the webbed feet of a Newfoundland with the tireless energy of a retriever. This ensures they are excellent swimmers and active, energetic dogs.

Their distinct waterproof coat helps keep them warm and insulated when they are in the water, and their webbed toes help propel them quickly as they swim, even if they are swimming against a current. Many people train Chesapeake Bay Retrievers as hunting dogs, but they also make excellent family pets for those that enjoy spending time exploring the great outdoors.

While they can be somewhat stubborn during training sessions, a well-trained Chessie can become an incredibly affectionate and gentle dog. Many people find that their Chesapeake Bay Retriever is very protective, which is why some people will also use them as watchdogs.

While they are a stunning breed, there are a few health issues you will need to look out for, including several eye-related issues and elbow dysplasia. The best thing you can do to help protect your Chessie’s short- and long-term health is to make sure they get plenty of exercise and have a healthy diet that is packed with protein.

While their distinct wavy coat is very short, it needs to be groomed regularly, as the breed can suffer from hot spots. Overall, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a wonderful breed that is sure to stand out!

6. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is another breed that originates from the East Coast of Canada. These dogs were originally bred as hunting dogs, as they are excellent at chasing out waterfowl and retrieving any downed birds.

Their webbed paws are quite large relative to the rest of their body, which helps them navigate the water at speed. Their beautiful double coat is also water-repellant, which helps them stay warm as they plunge into icy-cold water.

In terms of appearance, many people mistake Duck Tollers for young Golden Retrievers, as they look fairly similar but don’t typically grow as large. These dogs are very energetic, which is often the case with many breeds meant to assist hunters, but they are also very playful and fun. While they are better suited to active families, they are usually quite gentle, especially with proper socialization and obedience training.

They are an incredibly intelligent breed and usually very affectionate towards their families. Just make sure that you are prepared for an extremely energetic dog. Annual cardiac exams and a hip evaluation after the dog reaches its adult years are also important. Overall, it is a unique breed that is rightfully adored by many!

7. Otterhound

Otterhounds are one of the lesser-known breeds of dogs with webbed feet on our list. This unique breed is known for its webbed feet, wiry and waterproof coat, and large black nose. Their fur usually has a black, brown, and beige coloration, which looks nice.

They were bred in England for otter hunting, which is now illegal in most of the world. While they no longer serve their original purpose, they still retain the swimming skills and love of water that the original breeders were looking for.

They have an incredible sense of smell and large webbed paws. Their broad chest and powerful muscles help them run and swim at incredible speeds.

They can grow very large, so you should only look into getting an Otterhound if you have plenty of space. Unfortunately, the breed is susceptible to epilepsy and hip dysplasia, so regular visits with a veterinarian are important. Familiarize yourself with signs of bloat, as Otterhounds are also susceptible to this life-threatening condition.

In terms of temperament, Otterhounds are somewhat stubborn, so they are usually a better option for experienced dog owners. However, if trained and socialized properly, an Otterhound can make an excellent pet and wonderful companion.

An Otterhound is a really unique and somewhat rare breed. If you are looking for a dog that will be unlike anything else at the local dog park, you should seriously consider getting yourself an Otterhound. Just make sure you take your Otterhound swimming, as the breed truly loves the water!

Final Words

There are plenty of dogs with webbed feet to choose from! If you enjoy spending time on the water or have property near a body of water, getting a dog with webbed feet and a thick coat that enjoys splashing around and swimming is an excellent choice.

If you are interested in a breed that has webbed feet, just make sure you do your homework and know what you are getting yourself into. Many webbed feet breeds are highly energetic and need plenty of exercise to stay happy and healthy. With the right care, a dog with webbed feet can quickly become a valued member of your family!

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