Dogs are amazing animals with many cool and fascinating features. Dewclaws are just one of the many interesting facets of a canines physical repertoire. Some dogs have double and some have them on their rear legs. But do all dogs have them? Do German Shepherds have dewclaws?
Yes, like all dog breeds, German Shepherds do have dewclaws. They are used as an extra digit, essentially a thumb, for stability and traction when climbing or running. They also help them grab and hold onto objects better. Normally, they only have them in the front although occasionally they will have them on their back legs.
These quintessential fifth digits may be small but they play a big role in a German Shepherd’s balance, mobility, and movement. This article will answer every important question about their big toes including if you should have them removed.
What Are German Shepherd Dewclaws?
German Shepherd dewclaws are sometimes compared to the thumb on a human hand or the big toe on a human foot. They have the 4 main toes on their front paw and an extra special fifth digit higher up on their ankle than the other toes.
That fifth digit, or vestigial, with a nail is their dewclaw. It is a non-weight bearing toe that at first glance may seem pointless. However, it serves a pretty important purpose when it comes to certain movements.
What Is The Purpose Of Their Dewclaws?
There are several reasons for a German Shepherd’s extra nails. They all have to do with mobility and give the dog some extra help in certain situations. Here are some of the most common reasons for the extra digit!
- Climbing: Dewclaws will help them climb trees because the claws are spread out more over a wider area when making contact with the surface of the tree. This helps them dig in better. They can also be a life saver when a dog falls through the ice of a frozen pond and has to claw his way out.
- Gripping Objects: Dogs will use them to grip and hold onto objects better especially when they are chewing on their favorite toy.
- Running Fast: When a dog runs, the front feet will often bend so much that the dewclaw makes contact with the ground. This gives them some extra traction in the dirt or on a slippery floor especially when they are turning a corner.
- Stabilization: Because the dewclaw is connected to their foot via bone, it works to stabilize their wrist joint when they are moving quickly.
Think of it this way. Imagine not having your thumbs or big toes. It would be much harder to grab or pick things up with your hands and you would be much less stable when standing or running on your feet.
Do German Shepherds Have Rear Dewclaws?
Typically, German Shepherds do not have them in the rear paws. But it does happen occasionally. However, the rear dewclaws normally aren’t attached by bone and therefore flimsier.
It is also possible for a dog to have double dewclaws. A lot of times, one of the two won’t be securely attached and may be removed.
Certain dog breeds have standards that require double rear dewclaws. The Briard, Great Pyrenees, and Spanish Mastiff are all born with the double vestigial on their back feet.
Should Dewclaws Be Removed From German Shepherds?
Because rear dewclaws aren’t attached by bone and therefore aren’t functional, they are normally removed by the breeder within the first few days of puppyhood.
However, the extra nails in the front as we discussed earlier play a very important role in a GSDs functionality. Therefore, they should not be removed most of the time.
There are certain circumstances that may require their removal such as cancer or a severe injury but those are few and far between.
When this happens, a dog must go under general anesthesia and have the required surgery for removing the cancerous or injured claw.
How To Trim Your German Shepherd’s Dewclaws?
The best and easiest way to trim your German Shepherd’s dewclaws is by getting it done on a regular visit to the vet. It can be done during a grooming session. This will make things easier on you and your dog.
You should try to trim them at least twice a year. Since they are higher up on their front paws, they don’t get the natural wear from playing or walking on the hard ground.
However, if you decide to do it yourself, make sure that you know the proper steps so you don’t injure their paws or nails.
Step One: Get some good trimmers
First and foremost, you will need a good pair of quality nail trimmers that are nice and sharp to do the job properly. There are two types of trimmers, guillotine and scissor style.
You want to go with the scissor style for a German Shepherd. They work better on a large dog breed. The guillotine style are more suited for a smaller dog breed.
Step Two: Hold your dog
Now that you have a nice sharp pair of trimmers, you will want to hold your dog or get someone else to hold your dog for you.
Some German Shepherds may not be too fond of getting their nails trimmed. If you can, put your GSD up on a table. This will give you easier access to the paws.
Next, lean over your dog covering him or her so they can’t move. Use your dominant arm and hand to grab the front paw. Use your non-dominant arm to hold the neck from coming up. This should give you good leverage to cut the claw.
Step Three: Trim the dewclaw
Grab your nail trimmers and hold your GSDs paw between your fingers and your thumb. Now before you start to cut the nail, you will need to locate the “quick” to make sure that you don’t cut into it.
The quick is the part of the nail that is connected to the paw via blood vessels. It will bleed if you cut into it. To avoid cutting into it, look at your dog’s dewclaw underneath a light or with a flashlight. You should be able to locate the quick. It is a darker area on the nail.
It is easier to see on a light clear nail but harder to see if the nail is already dark. Now take your nail trimmers and clip the dewclaw at least 2-3mm away from the quick. If you accidentally cut into the quick, don’t panic.
Wrap the dewclaw with some gauze to stop the bleeding and contact your vet. They can help you from there and recommend further treatment to avoid infection.
If you succeeded and didn’t have any issues with cutting them too short, you should be good to go. Repeat this process around every six months to avoid them growing too long.
How To Care For Your German Shepherd’s Dewclaws?
You should definitely manage and keep an eye on your those extra digits throughout the year. As we stated earlier, they don’t get the natural wear from walking or running that the other nails get from their contact with the ground.
Here are some good tips to keep the claws clean and healthy:
- Trim them at least twice a year by yourself or at the vet.
- Clean them by washing and rinsing out any dirt that has collected around the claw.
- Have your vet remove a loose or extra claw so it doesn’t get caught on an object.
German Shepherd dewclaws are an interesting feature and one of the many spectacular attributes of the GSD. Just make sure that you keep up with them cleaning and trimming them regularly. Also make sure that if you trim them yourself, you stay away from the quick of the nail. Besides that, you shouldn’t have any trouble cutting them back twice a year.
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
Do you own a German Shepherd? If so, have you ever cut their dewclaws and can you add any extra tips for first timers? Let us know! We would love to hear your personal experience!