What Dog Breeds Don’T Have Dewclaws?

Dewclaws are vestigial toes found on the front and sometimes rear limbs of dogs. They are located on the inner side of the leg, above the other toes. Dewclaws typically do not make contact with the ground when a dog is walking or running. The word “dewclaw” comes from the fact that they are situated on the upper part of a dog’s paw, akin to a human thumb.

The purpose and function of dewclaws is subject to debate. Some believe they serve an important purpose, such as providing balance and traction when a dog is running and changing direction. Others view them as largely useless appendages. There is also disagreement over whether dewclaws should be removed, especially on certain breeds.

Most dogs have dewclaws on their front legs, though some breeds like Boxers and Great Pyrenees commonly have them on their rear legs too. However, some breeds are known for having dewclaws removed, including Standard Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, and Saint Bernards. Overall, there is variation between breeds on whether rear dewclaws are expected.

Breeds without Rear Dewclaws

Many breeds of dogs are commonly born without rear dewclaws. According to the American Kennel Club breed standards, rear dewclaws are considered a fault for the following breeds:


  • Australian Shepherd
  • Beauceron
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Briard
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Komondor
  • Kuvasz
  • Norwegian Lundehund
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Pyrenean Shepherd
  • Shetland Sheepdog

In many breeds, rear dewclaws are removed shortly after birth to prevent injury as the dog matures. The rear dewclaws have a tendency to loosely hang and can easily catch on objects, risking tearing the tendons or even breaking the bones of the leg. Removing rear dewclaws prevents this risk and avoids the potential need for expensive surgery later in life.

Breeds without Front Dewclaws

There are a number of dog breeds that are commonly born without front dewclaws. Some of the most common include:

  • Australian Shepherd
  • Beauceron
  • Briard
  • Gordon Setter
  • Norwegian Lundehund
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • Poodle
  • Pyrenean Shepherd
  • Spanish Mastiff

According to https://www.extremedogfence.com/dogs-without-dewclaws/, some breed standards actually call for the removal of front dewclaws shortly after birth. This is done for both cosmetic and functional reasons.

Cosmetically, certain breeds are meant to have a very lean, streamlined look to their legs and feet. The dewclaws can detract from the desired clean lines.

Functionally, it is thought that dewclaws serve little purpose on the front legs and can potentially catch on objects and tear. Removing them prevents possible injuries.

Controversy over Dewclaw Removal

Dewclaw removal is a controversial topic among veterinarians and dog owners. There are arguments both for and against removing dewclaws in certain breeds. Some of the key points in this debate include:

Arguments for dewclaw removal:

  • Dewclaws can get snagged and torn, which is very painful and prone to infection
  • Working and sporting breeds like Labradors are at higher risk of injury
  • Removal prevents future injuries and complications
  • Aesthetically, some owners prefer the cleaner look without dewclaws
  • Removal at a young age prevents pain when older

Arguments against dewclaw removal:

  • Dewclaws have a functional purpose in grip and balance
  • Risk of injury in normal dogs is relatively low
  • Removal surgery poses risks like infection and scarring
  • Procedure can be traumatic for the puppy
  • Some breed standards require dewclaws

Overall, the decision to remove dewclaws involves assessing breed tendencies, intended purpose of the dog, and potential injury risks. It’s best to consult with a veterinarian to determine what is most appropriate for each individual dog.

Dewclaw Function and Injury Risk

Dewclaws do serve an important purpose for dogs. According to a study from the University of California, Davis, dewclaws provide stability for dogs when turning sharply and aid in grasping and holding objects (Sellon, 2018). They help distribute weight and act as a stabilizer when dogs jump or run, preventing torque on leg joints. However, there is also evidence that dewclaws can be prone to injury, especially in active dogs.

One study on agility dogs found an overall injury rate of 41.7%, with 13-24% of those being injuries to the toes or dewclaws (Sundby, 2022). High speed activities like agility, lure coursing, or field work can put stress on dewclaws and cause tears. To prevent dewclaw injuries, keep the nails trimmed to avoid catching them on surfaces. Booties provide protection for active dogs. Bandaging or taping dewclaws can help stabilize them during activities. Avoiding rough play on abrasive surfaces is also recommended.

Breed Standards on Dewclaws

Breed standards provide guidelines for features like dewclaws for purebred dogs in conformation showing and breeding. Standards dictate whether dewclaws should be present, removed, or optional for showing. Many breeds, like the Labrador Retriever, require dewclaws to be removed for the show ring. Others like the Briard, require dewclaws on both front and back legs. Over time, breed standards have changed their specifications on dewclaws.

The American Kennel Club’s (AKC) official standard for Labrador Retrievers states that dewclaws should be removed (AKC Labrador Retriever standard). Historically, this was to prevent injury when the dogs were used for hunting and field work. Today, even though most Labs are companion animals, the tradition of removing dewclaws continues for the show ring.

In contrast, the AKC standard for the Briard, a French herding breed, requires double dewclaws on the rear legs and single dewclaws on the front legs as a breed characteristic (AKC Briard standard). The Beauceron, a similar French herding breed, also calls for double rear dewclaws (AKC Beauceron standard). For these breeds, the dewclaws are considered necessary for grip and maneuvering while herding livestock.

Over time, some breed standards have relaxed on dewclaw specifications. For example, the German Shepherd Dog standard previously called for dewclaws to be removed, but now states they may be present or removed (AKC German Shepherd standard). This allows for greater flexibility for breeders and owners.

Dewclaws and Dog Sports/Work

Dewclaws can play an important role in athletic performance and injury prevention for dogs involved in sports or working roles. The dewclaw provides additional grip and traction when dogs need to turn quickly or stabilize themselves, which is essential for agility, herding, hunting, and other demanding activities, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewclaw. Veterinarian Chris Zink recommends keeping dewclaws intact for working dogs, as the dewclaw can prevent injuries when dogs need to turn themselves while running or make sharp turns.

However, the dewclaw’s exposed position also makes it vulnerable to tears, lacerations, and other traumatic injuries in active, working dogs. Dewclaw injuries may be more common in dogs that participate in field trials, sheepdog trials, hunting, and dog agility, compared to less active companion dogs. Proper conditioning and maintenance of the nails can help reduce the risk of injuries. In the event of a traumatic dewclaw injury, surgical options are available for treatment and recovery. Overall, most canine sports medicine specialists advise against preventative dewclaw removal for working and performance dogs due to their functional benefits.

Caring for Dewclaws

Dewclaws should be trimmed regularly to avoid overgrowth and potential injury. Use quality clippers and trim just enough so that your finger can slide off the nail easily. Be careful not to cut too short, which can cause pain and bleeding. Longer dewclaws are more prone to tearing and catching on things.

Check dewclaws frequently for signs of injury like swelling, redness, limping or licking. This is especially important for active dogs who are at higher risk. Minor tears can often be treated at home by gently washing, applying antibiotic ointment and bandaging. More serious injuries like fractures or partial or full removal will require veterinary attention. Prompt treatment is important to avoid potential complications.

Some sources recommend wrapping dewclaws for protection during activities where they are more prone to injury like hunting or field trials. Wrapping dewclaws keeps them against the leg which reduces risk.

According to PetMD, “Trim dewclaws that stick out from the leg so they don’t catch on anything. If neglected, they can grow and curl back into a circle shape.”

The Walkerville Veterinary Clinic advises, “If your dog is limping or chewing their dew claw, they may have torn or caught it on something and damaged the toenail, cuticle or toe. See your vet if this occurs.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions and expert answers about dog dewclaws:

Do all dogs have dewclaws?

No, not all dogs have dewclaws. Many breeds have dewclaws on their front legs, but some breeds like Great Pyrenees and Briards have them on their hind legs too. Some breeds are born without dewclaws at all, like Australian Shepherds and Beaucerons. According to the AKC, dewclaws in the hind legs are “generally considered useless” and so are often removed.

What’s the purpose of dewclaws?

Dewclaws serve an important purpose for dogs. According to PetMD, the dewclaw helps dogs grip bones and other items while chewing, provides balance for dogs as they run and turn, and helps certain breeds like retrievers when swimming. For working dogs, dewclaws provide traction and prevent injuries.

Should I have my dog’s dewclaws removed?

There is some controversy over dewclaw removal. According to the AKC, rear dewclaws are often removed for cosmetic reasons but front dewclaws should not be removed as it can cause pain in the toes or arthritis. The procedure should only be done for medical reasons. Preventive Vet notes dewclaw removal may only be needed if rear dewclaws are loose or floppy.

How can I prevent dewclaw injuries?

To prevent dewclaw injuries, keep nails trimmed to avoid tearing and catching on objects. Use dog-safe flooring and cover sharp furniture edges. Discourage excessive digging behaviors. Use a dog ramp or stairs to prevent jumping on and off furniture. Wrap dewclaws during active play. Seek prompt vet care for any dewclaw injuries.

Should I trim my dog’s dewclaws?

Yes, it’s important to trim dewclaw nails periodically, just like regular nails. Long dewclaw nails are prone to catching and tearing. Use dog-safe nail clippers and trim off small amounts at a time. Avoid cutting into the quick. Go slowly and reward your dog during trims. Seek guidance from your vet or groomer if unsure.


In summary, there are several dog breeds that commonly lack rear dewclaws, including Great Pyrenees, Briards, and Anatolian Shepherds. Front dewclaws may be missing in breeds like Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, and Beaucerons. While proponents argue that dewclaw removal reduces injury risks, others claim the procedure is unnecessary and painful when done later in life. There is still debate around dewclaw function and whether the benefits of removal outweigh potential drawbacks. Those participating in dog sports/work may opt to keep dewclaws for additional gripping ability. Breed standards provide guidance on presence and size of dewclaws for show dogs. Overall, it’s important to research your specific breed and purpose when deciding on dewclaw removal, as no universal recommendations apply to all dogs. Though small, the dewclaws still serve a purpose for most breeds. Consider your dog’s needs, risks, and quality of life when making your decision.

Scroll to Top