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At Canine Weekly, we celebrate the attributes of every breed, whether we index dogs with blue eyes, evaluate the best big black dog breeds, or look at our favorite breeds from different countries. In this feature, we are investigating dog breeds with webbed feet!
A dog with webbed feet can definitely be a conversation piece, but why do they have them? And which breeds have webbed feet? We’re going to look into the origins of webbed feet and take a closer look at our chosen 10 dogs who have webbed feet.
Why Do Some Dogs Have Webbed Feet?
Most breeds have webbed feet to a certain degree – have you ever noticed a fragile membrane between your dog’s toes? The majority of breeds have some webbing on their feet. But there are breeds with more prominent webbing for specific purposes.
Like all species, dogs have gone through evolutionary changes over time, but for some breeds, not much has changed regarding their foot webbing.
Every part of the paw has a purpose; the pads are harder to endure rough terrain and provide grip, nails allow for digging and give extra traction, and webbing is there for additional stability and to aid swimming.
Certain breeds have more prominent webbing if they’ve never been adapted through breeding to change their specific role. Webbed dogs tend to be water dogs, who require the extra webbing to support swimming for more extended periods. However, not every dog who has webbed feet uses them for swimming!
10 Dogs With Webbed Feet
Although most dogs have a touch of webbing between their toes, the following breeds have been specifically bred to work in water, so nature has enhanced their webbed feet to be much more prominent.
1. Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese Water Dog is known in his homeland as the Cao de Agua – which translates to ‘Dog of the water.’ They descend from dogs used for centuries by fishermen as retrievers, divers, and message carriers across oceans. Portuguese Water Dogs likely share an ancestor with the German-bred Poodle, bred initially as a water retriever dog.
They have an intelligent, calm persona but can be highly energetic, making them a perfect choice for active families. They love to swim and thrive with agility training, water work, and tracking.
With a possible genetic link to the Portuguese Water Dog, the Poodle wasn’t bred with the intention of pom hair cuts and show rings. Originating from Germany, the Poodle is one of the oldest breeds around today, with illustrations being found dating back to Roman and Egyptian times. They are believed to descend from Asian herding dogs and were bred to hunt.
Their moisture-resistant, curly coat combined with their webbed feet made them a hardy dog, capable of enduring cold and wet conditions for long periods. Their high intelligence made them perfect for understanding their role and performing it perfectly, initially to hunt ducks.
Today Poodle Hybrids are increasingly common. The Labradoodle came first, but now we have almost every breed combined with a Poodle to make an intelligent, hypoallergenic family dog, including The Berdoodle, Cockapoo, Schnoodle, Jack-A-Poo, Yorkipoo, Bassetoodle and the Golden Doodle, to name but a few!
The Otterhound is an English breed with a 500-year history. Originally bred to hunt Otters, they’re a highly intelligent breed who love to work and please their owners. As the name suggests, they are fantastic swimmers with a boisterous, hyperactive personality.
An Otterhound isn’t suitable for apartment living or for a family who doesn’t want to put time into training, agility, and exercise. The Otterhound is on the go from morning till night with energy levels and stamina like no other dog.
They can be very loving and loyal, but extremely hard to come by – with only 500 of them currently living in the United States and an average of 10 new litters born here per year.
The Newfoundland is a robust and large breed used initially to pull fishermen’s nets and haul wood. They’re skillful dogs with a strong work ethic and are powerful swimmers. The Newfoundland is responsive and sweet-natured, making a wonderful companion dog who has a very protective instinct over his humans, especially children.
Newfoundlands can be susceptible to some health problems but make for an amiable family dog. They tend to have calm natures and are happy just to be, but exercise is crucial as they can grow to become pretty lazy and relatively overweight.
5. German Wirehaired Pointer
The German Wirehaired Pointer was bred to track down and retrieve different types of waterfowl. With his sleek construction and webbed feet, this breed is one of the finest swimmers to date. This breed requires plenty of mental and physical exercise, but they are more than just hunting dogs and making excellent family pets.
German Wirehaired Pointers can be aloof with strangers but loyal and affectionate to their families. They are a high-energy breed and will retain their hyperactive level well into their senior years. If used as a working dog, they’d need a specific diet to support their agility.
6. American Water Spaniel
American Water Spaniels were developed in Wisconsin during the 19th century and bred to endure the marshy banks and icy waters of the Great Lakes region. Their purpose was to hunt down waterfowl, and with their sporty and upbeat personality, they had the stamina to do this all day long.
They are described as ‘eager, happy and charming’ by the American Kennel Club and need a large amount of physical and mental activity to prevent destructive behavior. They can be very protective of their families and are a highly trainable breed.
7. Irish Water Spaniel
The tallest of the Spaniels – and the most headstrong – the Irish Water Spaniel was bred to retrieve waterfowl off the coasts of Ireland. Although the breeder never did reveal the parentage, speculation, and theory link the Poodle as an ancestor.
The Irish Water Spaniel can dive, swim, and retrieve until he decides he has had enough. They’re a notoriously stubborn breed, not suitable for novice owners. When they’re given the proper training, nutrition, and stimulation, they can be very loving to their family members but often very aloof with strangers and other animals.
The Dachshund isn’t a long-distance swimmer, but they can gain incredible power in the water from their webbed feet. Originally bred in Germany to hunt badgers, their paddle paws helped to dig and grip, and their fiery personality enabled them to get the job done.
Dachshunds make for good watchdogs and can be very loving. However, they’re not always easily trainable. They are relatively low maintenance as long as they’re adequately stimulated, mentally and physically, and they can make wonderful family dogs.
9. Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky has slightly webbed feet to support them walking through ice and snow. They’re increasingly common as household pets but require a high level of coat care, mental stimulation, and many exercises to keep them happy, healthy, and non-destructive.
They’re generally good-natured and affectionate with people and other dogs and thrive in a multi-dog household. They are a breed that loves to cuddle and are particularly fond of children, making them a perfect family dog. You will get out of a Siberian Husky what you put in, and if you’re prepared to make a considerable effort, you will be significantly rewarded.
10. Labrador Retriever
And, of course, the nation’s favorite breed – The Labrador Retriever. Playful, loyal, and intelligent they’re ideal for a friendly, and with their warm temperament, they’re a perfect pet for a multitude of people. Labrador Retrievers are easy-going and highly-rewarding pets, with a compassionate intelligence that makes them suitable as service and assistance dogs.
Their dense, double coat and webbed feet supported their first jobs as working gun/retriever dogs. The Labrador was bred in the UK from imported Canadian fishing dogs and has a global reputation for being a perfect family dog.
Things to Consider When Getting a Webbed Foot Breed
Pretty much every dog with webbed feet is now or once was a working dog. This should be taken into consideration before deciding if one is suitable for your family and your home. Working dogs are strong, intelligent, high-energy, and have great stamina. Bred to assist, they can excel at jobs and be a valuable asset. But, they require a lot of time and patience.
You should assess if your home is equipped for such a breed and if you can provide sufficient stimulation. Even if you don’t have much yard space, products like Doggy Obstacle Courses can provide vital exercise alongside regular walks. Mentally Challenging Toys are equally essential to reduce the risk of unwanted behaviors.
Wrapping up – Is a Dog With Webbed Feet Right For You?
If you’re an active family, then any breed in this guide can make the perfect addition, and all have something unique to add to your unit. Whether it’s the never-ending love of a Labrador, the fierce loyalty of the German Wirehaired Pointer, the cuddles from the Siberian Husky, or the built-in babysitter you’d get with the Newfoundland.