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How Many Toes Do Dogs Have? The Answer May Surprise You!

Last Updated on January 15, 2024 by Dogs Vets


When it comes to our furry friends, there are many fascinating aspects of their anatomy that pique our curiosity. One such question that often comes to mind is, “How many toes do dogs have?” While it may seem like a simple question, the answer may surprise you. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of a dog’s paw and uncover the truth behind their toe count.

The Anatomy of a Dog’s Paw:

A dog’s paw is a remarkable structure designed for various purposes, including walking, running, and digging. To understand the number of toes a dog has, we must first examine the anatomy of their paw. Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not have toes in the same way humans do. Instead, their toes are often referred to as “digits.”

A typical dog’s paw consists of five primary digits, commonly known as the “toes.” These digits are analogous to our fingers and thumbs. However, dogs have an additional structure called the “dewclaw,” which is located higher up on the leg and does not touch the ground. The presence of the dewclaw can vary among different breeds and individuals.

The Toe Count:

So, how many toes do dogs have? The answer is…it depends! Most dogs have a total of 16 toes, with four toes on each front paw and four toes on each hind paw. However, some dog breeds have an extra toe or two, known as “polydactyly.” This genetic variation can result in dogs having up to 22 toes!

Polydactyly is more common in certain breeds, such as the Norwegian Lundehund and the American Water Spaniel. These extra toes can be fully formed and functional or may be smaller and non-functional. While polydactyl dogs are relatively rare, they certainly add to the diversity and charm of the canine world.

The Function of Dog Toes:

Each toe on a dog’s paw serves a specific purpose. The front toes provide stability and support during walking and running. They also aid in gripping objects and help with balance. The hind toes play a crucial role in propulsion and provide the necessary power for jumping and climbing. Together, these toes enable dogs to navigate their environment with agility and grace.

FAQs about Dog Toes:

1. Do all dogs have dewclaws?

Not all dogs have dewclaws. The presence of dewclaws can vary among different breeds and even among individuals within a breed.

2. Can dogs walk without their dewclaws?

Yes, dogs can walk and function perfectly fine without their dewclaws. In some cases, dewclaws may be removed for various reasons, such as preventing injuries or adhering to breed standards.

3. Are extra toes common in dogs?

No, extra toes, or polydactyly, are relatively rare in dogs. Only certain breeds are more prone to having this genetic variation.

4. Can dogs with extra toes perform better?

Having extra toes does not necessarily make a dog perform better. The functionality of the extra toes depends on their size, structure, and position.

5. Are there any health issues associated with extra toes?

In most cases, extra toes do not cause any health issues. However, if the extra toes are malformed or cause discomfort, they may need to be surgically removed.

6. Are there any advantages to having dewclaws?

Dewclaws can provide some advantages, such as added grip and stability during certain activities like climbing or gripping objects.

7. Can dogs with extra toes participate in dog shows?

Whether a dog with extra toes can participate in dog shows depends on the breed standards set by the specific kennel club. Some breeds allow for certain variations, including polydactyly.


So, the next time you find yourself wondering about the number of toes dogs have, remember that it’s not as straightforward as it seems. While most dogs have 16 toes, some breeds can boast a few extra digits. Regardless of the toe count, a dog’s paws are a marvel of nature, enabling them to explore the world around them with unmatched grace and agility.

Now that you have a better understanding of a dog’s paw anatomy and toe count, you can appreciate the unique features that make our canine companions so fascinating.




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