Webbed paws give dogs more control in the water and other terrains. However, not all breeds have this trait. German Shepherds typically love swimming and can move around confidently in water, so it’s reasonable to wonder do German Shepherds have webbed feet?
This article will answer that question and explain how webbed paws work and the benefits they provide.
Do German Shepherds Have Webbed Feet?
German Shepherds do not have webbed feet in the strictest sense of the term. Since GSD’s were bred for herding, they were not bred with webbed feet since their work is typically done on dry land. They do, however, have some webbing between their toes and that still helps them move well in water.
What are Webbed Paws on Dogs?
Animals have webbed feet when they have toes that are connected or fused together by a membrane. You’ll often see this in aquatic birds (ex., ducks, swans, pelicans) and semi-aquatic animals (ex., otters, beaver, platypuses) because the webbing helps propel them in water. On dogs, they serve the same purpose.
All dogs will have some webbing on their feet. However, some types of dogs are actually bred to emphasize this trait.
This is often the case when the breed is expected to work in water. In that case, the webbing in their paws is more pronounced.
Benefits of Webbed Feet for Dogs
Although webbed feet provide several benefits, whether your dog needs webbed paws really depends on the work they are expected to do. Generally, dogs with webbed paws have the following advantages:
More Agility in Water
Breeds that have a history of working in water are typically those with more pronounced webbing in their feet. The tissue between their toes increases the surface area of their paws when they paddle. That makes it easier for them to propel themselves forward in the water.
There are many web-footed dogs and the work they’re expected to do in water varies greatly. While some might need to retrieve game or other items in water, others are trained to swim and perform certain functions while in the water. The webbing between their toes makes them more efficient at what they do.
More Sure-Footed in Marshy Terrain
Just like in water, dogs with webbed paws are more steady on their feet when they’re on marshy, muddy, or swampy terrain.
This is most beneficial for dogs tasked to retrieve waterfowl and other game. These dogs are also steadier on their feet when crossing streams and brooks found in forests and other hunting grounds.
More Nimble in Snow
For dogs that work in snow, webbed paws work similarly to snowshoes. The tissue between their toes increases the surface area of their feet, so they are less likely to sink in the snow. That makes it easier for them to walk or even run even on powdery snow.
More Efficient Diggers
Dog paw webbing works like shovel blades. So unlike other dogs that rely on their toes and claws to dig, they have an additional surface that enables them to dig through soil and sand more effectively. This is most useful for dogs expected to hunt and retrieve burrowing animals like hares, badgers, and gophers.
Drawbacks to Webbed Feet for Dogs
Breeds that are meant to have webbed feet are more likely to suffer from a medical condition called “syndactyly.” This is a defect where one or more of their digits are too closely fused to one another which can cause instability.
Over time, that can lead to more serious issues like severe arthritis. Generally, this can be corrected by surgery and should not have detrimental effects if corrected early.
Dogs with webbed feet are also more likely to get infections between their toes. When you have a web-footed dog, make a habit of drying off their paws when they get wet.
Pay special attention to the skin between their digits because excess moisture can make these areas ideal for bacterial growth. These areas are also excellent hiding places for ticks and mites, so check between their toes as frequently as you can.
How Much Webbing do German Shepherds have?
How much webbing a German Shepherd has between their toes is different between each individual dog. Typically, however, you’ll notice that their webbing doesn’t go past half the length of their toes. On breeds with true webbed feet, this tissue ends much closer to the tip of their toes.
Note that if you find that your GSD has longer or shorter webbing, it really doesn’t have much to do with whether or not they’re purebred or better able to work. It is simply a trait that differs between dogs.
Dog Breeds with Webbed Paws
Certain dogs are bred to have more prominent webbing around their toes to help them perform better in the work they’re bred for. In most cases, they are sporting breeds that are expected to hunt and retrieve game in all types of terrain.
Their webbing helps them move efficiently in wet environments like swamps, marshlands, and lakes. Among the most popular of these dog breeds are:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- German Wirehaired Pointer
- American Water Spaniels
- Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Hounds are also known to have webbed feet. This includes the Redbone Coonhound and the Otterhound.
Another hound that is known for its webbed feet is the Dachshund. Dachshunds, however, use their webbed feet for digging, since they were originally bred to hunt and retrieve burrowing animals like rabbits, badgers, and foxes.
There are also some breeds that need webbed paws to actually swim and not just retrieve game on wet land. Dogs like Newfoundlands and Portuguese Water Dogs assist fishermen in many tasks, including herding schools of fish towards fishing nets and retrieving items dropped into the sea.
On the other hand, other breeds like the Alaskan Malamute an the St. Bernard have large, webbed feet that allow them to move more nimbly ice and snow.
Since German Shepherds weren’t bred to work in water or wet environments, their paws don’t have much webbing. Today’s GSDs will have some webbing in their feet, but not as much as water dogs do. Nevertheless, the lack of webbed paws doesn’t affect the quality of their breed and how well they perform the work they’re generally trained to do.