Dogs with Webbed Feet, (what & why)

Last Updated: June 25, 2023

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Webbed feet are something you'd expect to see on creatures that spend a lot of time in the water. The first animals that come to mind for most people are typically ducks and frogs. Their webbed feet allow them to swim at a rapid pace and make their way through the water with ease.

While this trait is a common occurrence among water dwellers, it's also present in land animals. This includes your canine companion.

It may come as a surprise, but all dogs have webbed feet of some kind. Take a look at your dog's paw. Separate the toes and you'll notice some connecting skin.

dogs with webbed feet

Despite being cursorial animals with limbs built for running, some dog breeds have a significant amount of webbing between their toes. This gives them greater agility in the water.

What is Webbing?

Essentially, webbing is just a membrane that connects the toes. While ducks are known for their distinct triangular feet, they still have phalanges like other birds. The membrane helps animals paddle through the water with efficiency.

It's similar to the way that boat paddles and flippers work. The membrane creates a wide and flat foot that covers more surface area.

The increased surface area is able to move more water at a faster pace. Instead of simply tearing through the water, they can move it with a lot of force. Even when they do make it on land, the webbing helps animals get over tricky terrain. 

With more surface area, these animals are able to walk over mud and slick surfaces without sinking or falling. It's an evolutionary trait that has helped animals adapt and thrive.

Why Do Some Dogs Have Webbed Feet?

Interestingly enough, all land animals have webbed feet in the embryo. However, during the development cycle, the membrane goes away. Dogs with more webbing than normal have been bred to retain this trait.

There are many dog breeds that have worked throughout history to retrieve game or heard animals in the water. Selective breeding and evolutionary change have made it possible for these dogs to be masters of the water.They can swim faster and have more control than other dogs.

With that being said, the webbing effect isn't as prominent as other water creatures. These breeds have the advantages of being built for roaming the land while being strong swimmers.

10 Dog Breeds with Webbed Feet

1. Newfoundland

Newfoundland dog in sea water

One of the most popular web-footed dog breeds, Newfoundlands have a variety of traits that make them perfect for the water. Their evolutionary traits were even noted by the likes of Charles Darwin.

They have long toes that allow them to tear through the water. Their coats are also thick and waterproof. This makes it easy for them to stay in the water without issues.

They were used throughout history to help men haul fish. The breed has also been known to save fishermen that go overboard. One unique thing about Newfoundlands is that they swim differently than other dogs. Instead of a traditional doggy paddle, their paws go down and out.

2. Portuguese Water Dog

 Portuguese Water Dog jumps into water

Portuguese Water Dogs have thick furry coats and webbed feet that allow them to navigate through the water with ease. These dogs were also bred to work in the water. However, they weren't used for hauling fish.

They're smaller than Newfoundlands, so they weren't able to carry heavy loads. Instead, they were used for herding.

They'd herd schools of fish toward fishing nets. Furthermore, the breed was known to retrieve small items and deliver messages from boat to boat. They're also fiercely loyal.

3. American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel walking on ice

The American Water Spaniel originated in the United States. They were bred from a variety of different types of dogs in the 19th century.

These dogs were created to help hunters. When a hunter shot a bird, these dogs would retrieve it no matter where it landed.

Due to the wet and murky habitat of the birds, this often meant that they would land in the water or on muddy land. The paws of an American Water Spaniel have toes that are close together rather than spread apart like other breeds.

4. German Wirehaired Pointer

German Wirehaired Pointer retrieves game from muddy water

Like the American Water Terrier, German Wirehaired Pointer was selectively bred to assist hunters on their journey. Over time, this breeding resulted in a thick coat, a strong sense of smell, and webbed feet. 

These dogs are truly made for any type of terrain. Whether they're in dry mountains or a muddy swamp, they'd have no problem retrieving game.

Their webbed feet come in handy when finding waterfowl. They can speed through water just like they can speed through dry land.

5. Dachshund

Dachshund showing his webbed paw

Dachshunds are lovingly referred to as "Weiner dogs" because of their short and slender bodies. While the modern Dachshund is typically nothing more than a canine companion, they were originally bred for hunting.

Their bodies are perfect for getting into tight spots. They can easily hunt small animals like badgers.

Their webbed feet aren't really used for swimming. However, they are used for digging. The extra membrane between their toes act like a shovel to move dirt out of the way quickly and efficiently.

6. Weirmaraner

Weirmaraner running through water with east

Weimaraners have a history that goes all the way back to the 18th century. Originally, these large and agile dogs were bred for hunting big game like boar and deer.

They were typically used by royalty. They have webbed feet and arched toes to help them get through any terrain as they retrieve a game animal.

The webbing is perfect for getting through moist soil and water. With their slender and muscular bodies, Weimaraners can also chase down animals in or out of the water.

7. Otterhound

Otterhound walking on wet beach

Otterhounds are a relatively rare breed that's native to the United Kingdom. They were bred in the 19th century to assist hunters.

As the name implies, their prime target was otters. Otterhounds have a strong sense of smell, making it easy for them to find otters and their homes.

Hunters used them to trace otters that were depleting local fishing streams of their fish supply. They have thick pads and arched toes. When they walk through mud or wade through water, the webbing helps to spread the foot for greater control.

8. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever plays with kid at a lake

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has an ambiguous history. Two puppies were found on a ship in Maryland in 1807. Eventually, the breed calculated in numbers. They were then bred to assist hunters.

They have a relatively thick coat despite the short length. They can withstand the cold temperatures of the Chesapeake Bay to retrieve ducks.

They have significant webbing between their toes to help them swim quickly through the cold waters. They also have rounded toes that are large and firm for support.

9. Redbone Coonhound

Redbone Coonhound using his webbed feet

Redbone Coonhounds were one of the many breeds that were shipped from Europe to America. They were selectively bred to deal with the new swampy terrain.

These dogs are known for their courageous demeanor. They will fearlessly go into a swamp, scare off dangerous animals, and keep raccoons trapped in a tree until the hunter can go in for the kill.

Their webbed feet allow them to navigate swampy areas in the southern United States.

10. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

These dogs were bred back in the 19th century. They have thick coats to keep them protected from the low temperatures of Nova Scotia.

As the name would suggest, they are particularly talented at taking care of ducks. They have significant webbing in their paws compared to other breeds.

This helps them run and swim into the water quickly to help hunters collect their game. They've also been known to lure waterfowl. They can get the animal close to the shooting range, hence the name "Toller."

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.