Claws help animals perform different tasks like hunting, digging, killing, climbing, etc. It is one of the best tools animals have to survive in the wild. Domesticated animals also have claws to perform different tasks.
However, most dogs do not have retractable claws, except for some breeds. The majority have claws used mainly for digging or to get a better balance while standing.
Dogs cannot use their claws as effectively as cats. In fact, most dogs do not use their claws at all. Studies have tried explaining why dogs do not use their claws for hunting and eating, and the answer is that dogs do not have retractable claws like other mammals.
What Are Dewclaws?
If you look at a dog’s anatomy, you will notice that the dog has blunt claws. One might wonder why a dog’s claws are dull and not sharp as cats or other mammals. Look closer, and you will find that the front legs have five claws, whereas the hind legs have only four.
The extra nail or claw on each front leg is called a dewclaw. Some breeds may have an extra dewclaw on their hind legs, but this is very unlikely. The purpose of these dewclaws is not essential, but they sometimes help dogs hold bones and balance themselves while on their paws.
Unlike other animals, the dewclaws do not help them catch prey, climb, scratch, etc.
What Are Retractable Claws?
You might have noticed sharp claws coming out from a cat’s front paws whenever they stretch after a nap or are on a defensive mode from other dangers. This is because cats have retractable claws. Their sharp claws are usually hidden beneath their sheath whenever they are resting.
When animals, especially cats, have their claws in a resting position, they can be known to be sheathed – this is when the muscles and tendons are relaxed. When they tighten, the claws will come out, also called unsheathing.
Retractable claws help these animals hunt prey primarily. They use these claws to catch their prey and hold them tight by piercing the flesh. The animals also use them to climb trees and defend themselves whenever they are in danger.
Which Dog Breeds Have Retractable Claws?
A couple of dog breeds possess the ability to retract their claws. These claws help them to perform different tasks. They are different from other dog breeds as they have been modified through time by the demands of their environments.
The majority of these dogs live in harsh, cold conditions and are mainly used for pulling sleds through the thick snow. Their bodies have adapted to the snowy conditions by using their retractable claws to control their movement when they pull sleds.
Some of these breeds with retractable claws are the Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Siberian Huskey, etc.
The Samoyed is a herding dog that was a loyal companion of the Samoyede people in Siberia. They were also bred for hunting purposes and pulling sleds.
The Samoyed dog breed is one of the few breeds globally, with retractable claws in its front legs. Their bodies developed this ability as they were bred to help humans in herding reindeer and hunt for centuries in the icy cold conditions.
Their retractable claws meant that they could have more grip as they moved through the blankets of ice and snow.
- Alaskan Malamute
The Alaskan Malamute is one of the most substantial dog breeds known for its durability. This dog breed lives in cold, icy regions where they are mainly bred for pulling sleds with heavy cargo. They have really hard-working dogs with strong legs.
Alaskan Malamutes also have retractable claws like cats. They help in having grip as they walk through the ice. They also have paws with thick padding, which allows them to travel around the cold regions in winter, delivering goods.
They use their claws for other purposes, like scratching parts of their body that might feel irritated. In this way, they are similar to cats, and they also clean themselves regularly.
- Siberian Huskies
Siberian huskies are among the most popular dog breeds worldwide, but not many would know that they also have retractable claws like other mammals. They are used to pull sleds with cargo and people just like their distant cousins, the Malamute.
The Siberian husky is smaller in size but works the same as the Malamute. It is one of the best sled dogs around. Their retractable claws help them maneuver their steps on the snowy grounds and give them a better grip.
The Siberian Husky can travel hundreds of miles in the snow, carrying loads of supplies. Their retractable claws definitely help keep their balance on the thick snow-covered grounds.
How Do Dogs Benefit From Retractable Claws?
The purpose of using retractable claws in other animals and dogs differs in some ways. While other animals like cats may use claws to climb trees, scratch, etc., dogs use them for other purposes.
Only a few dog breeds have retractable claws that use them to traverse snowy regions. Their bodies have evolved with time and adapted to harsh weather conditions. These dogs use these sharp claws to their benefit, and here are some of them listed below.
- Helps maintain balance
Snowy and icy terrains are the hardest to ply through during winters, and even modern vehicles find it difficult to gain access to such regions. This is because the land is covered with snow, and sometimes they are intense.
However, dogs like huskies, Samoyeds, malamutes, etc., use their retractable claws to help them maintain their balance while walking on snow. Their claws protract when their body needs support while carrying goods and people around these regions.
These claws add more grip to their paws as the ground would be slippery without such abilities. The same would happen to cats if they did not have retractable claws. They would find it hard to balance their bodies and would not be able to climb trees, scratch posts, etc.
- Is helpful for self-defense
Dogs cannot use their claws as efficiently as cats, but the need arises sometimes. These claws help fend off other dangerous animals or violent humans who attack them.
However, their retractable claws are used mainly for movement and body balancing. The ability to use them for defending themselves is an added bonus.
- Can be used for hunting
Although Huskies, Malamutes, and Samoyeds use their teeth for hunting, they can also make minor use of their retractable claws. Once they have caught their prey, they can use their retractable claws to grab it tightly so that it will not slip away.
How to Look After Your Dog’s Retractable Claws?
It is essential to clean your dog’s retractable claws and clip them timely so that they remain in good health. You should think of their retractable claws as another crucial part of their anatomy.
If you are an owner of huskies, Malamutes, or Samoyeds, you can try following these simple steps to keep your dog’s claws in good shape.
- Some dogs are not used to strangers trying to hold their paws and cutting their nails. It is essential to take it upon yourself to play that part.
- The dog should be comfortably seated as some dogs are filled with anxiety. Make it feel comfortable and safe before you start cutting its claws.
- Use a cutter meant for animals as their claws are strong. Using weak cutters will only take more time, causing more discomfort to the dog.
- If the dog is showing signs of anxiety, play with it for some time or offer treats every time you trim a claw.
- Make sure you only trim the edges and not a big chunk. It might invite an adverse reaction from the dog and cause you harm.
- In case of a situation where you overcut the claws and it starts bleeding, we suggest you not panic but wipe the blood off with a clean cloth till the bleeding stops.
If you do not know how to take care of a dog, you should call for professional help. You can also take the dog to the vet, where they will take care of its retractable claws without hardship.
You should trim your dog’s retractable claws at least once a week so that the dog will get used to the routine and not make any fuss in the future.
Conclusion on Do Dogs Have Retractable Claws
Dogs, unlike cats, do not have retractable claws in their anatomy. They only have dewclaws in their front legs, which are not helpful except for minor things like holding their food with their paws.
However, certain dog breeds like the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, etc., have retractable claws developed in their anatomy. This is because they have been living in cold, snowy regions for centuries. They use their retractable claws to maintain balance and better grip the snowy grounds.
It is also essential to know how to take care of these dog breeds as their retractable claws also need caring for, just like the other parts of their bodies.
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