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10 Dogs With Webbed Feet (And Why Not All Canines Have Them)

Key Takeaways

  • We normally associate webbed feet with ducks, but more dog breeds have webbed feet than some may realize.
  • In fact, dogs with webbed feet were bred specifically to have them, to aid in the everyday duties that they needed to fulfill.
  • Nowadays, dog breeds with webbed feet are incredibly popular around the world for their skill in swimming and traversing difficult terrain, all owed to their special physiology.

If you take a close look, you may notice a thin membrane between each of your dog’s toes. While it may look odd at first, dogs with webbed feet — or more accurately, webbed paws — are actually petty common. Many dog breeds have this type of webbing between their toes, just like many other mammals — even humans. All dogs are born with webbed feet, but many grow out of this as they mature. Those that retain this feature are likely breeds that are great swimmers, but there are also other functions for this.

Some dog breeds tend to display more prominent webbing than others, and it’s actually for a practical reason. It makes them awesome swimmers. Dogs with webbed feet were bred to hunt or retrieve things in the water, and hence needed to be at home in it. I’ve personally met a few lifeguard trainers who said they preferred these dog breeds precisely because of this fact.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular dog breeds with webbed feet. If you own one of these breeds, you might not have noticed their webbed paws — I know I didn’t before I found out they were supposed to have them!

Most Popular Dog Breeds That Have Webbed Feet

If you’re someone that loves to swim, you will appreciate having a dog that can swim along with you. But even if you don’t, it’s still good to know that your dog can save your life in a pinch if you find yourself struggling in deep waters. Here are a few of the most common dog breeds that have webbed feet.

Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retriever. | The Pampered Pup

One of the most well-known and widespread dog breeds in the country, the Labrador retriever actually has the most registrations in the AKC. This breed loves being in the water and will end up playing in whatever water source it can find. Originally bred near water in Newfoundland and descended from a dog breed of the same name, the Labrador retriever was traditionally used as a hunting and, true to its name, a retrieving dog.

Their Newfoundland ancestors mixing with other water dogs such as Portuguese water dogs has given Labradors powerful, fully webbed feet and an insulated waterproof coat to withstand the frigid temperatures of Newfoundland waters. This breed was originally used for retrieving fish, as well as tracking and retrieving shot ducks and similar quarry. These days, the Coast Guard uses Labrador Retrievers in search and rescue missions in the ocean. Over the years, the Labrador Retriever has developed a coat that can keep out the cold so it can navigate through cold water. 

The tail on a Labrador Retriever is also able to acct like a boat rudder and guide it through the water as it swims. The biggest benefit of a dog having webbed feet is its ability to tread water in any type of water. 

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever. | The Pampered Pup

Originally bred in Scotland, the Golden Retriever is thought to have come from the line of Labrador Retrievers as well as a range of water spaniels. This dog breed loves treading in the water thanks to their webbed feet.  

Known for retrieving games like geese, ducks, and game birds, Golden Retrievers will also use their webbed feet when a human needs to be rescued. These dogs often make the news for jumping into the water without a second thought to save someone that is drowning, even if that someone is a baby deer! Cynics would say that this is due to decades of conditioning, and while that may be partially true, we all know that Goldies do it primarily because their pure hearts wouldn’t have it any other way.


Newfoundland. | The Pampered Pup

Affectionately called the Newfie, Newfoundlands are the ancestors or at least somewhat related to a whole slew of water dog breeds, from the widespread Labrador and Golden Retriever to Curly-Coated Retriever and Irish water spaniel.

While Newfoundland is well-known for performing dangerous rescues in the water, particularly in the freezing water of Canada, the Newfoundland actually has just partially webbed paws. The Labrador Retriever was bred precisely to have a Newfoundland that had better webbed feet that made them more effective swimmers. Due to its large size, the Newfoundland needs to have proportionally sized webbed paws.

Typically seen on a fishing boat, this breed is capable of performing rescues due to their ability to swim well, love for humans, large size, and warm coat that can keep out frigid temperatures.

Due to its huge size, Newfoundland is well-known for having the ability to haul heavy fishing nets onto the slippery surface of a boat. It’s also a popular dog all over the world due to its swimming ability. 

Shorthaired German Pointer

Shorthaired German Pointer. | The Pampered Pup

Among all dogs with webbed feet, the Shorthaired German Pointer is perhaps the most versatile. Aside from being a waterdog, this breed is also a pointer and a retriever for waterfowl, and are master bird hunters.

The webbed feet on a Shorthaired German Pointer are connected to its powerful legs that won’t tire very easily when they are in the water. This webbing also aids the Shorthaired German Pointer to quickly run across muddy terrain to reach their quarry. Without its webbed feet, this breed would be bogged down in mud and possibly even injure themselves if they tried to run.


Dachshund. | The Pampered Pup

Affectionally referred to as the weiner dog, a Dachshund is another breed with webbed feet. Most people consider these dogs household pets, but these small dogs have always loved to swim. With their webbed feet, the Dachshund can do more than swim. Thanks to the way their feet are built, they can dig very quickly too. They were originally bred as hunting dogs that specialized in tracking down and killing badgers even after they’ve retreated into their holes. To do this, a Dachshund needed to be able to dig down to the den of a badger faster than the badger could burrow away. 


Weimaraner. | The Pampered Pup

Often called a grey ghost, the Weimaraner has been used for many different hunting purposes all over the world. Most recently they have been used as bird and waterfowl dogs, but historically they hunted bears and mountain lions. 

With their athletic and sleek bodies, Weimaraner used their strong webbed feet to just glide through the water. Their webbed feet are useful in the dense brush and marshy terrain to fetch birds and are commonly paired with a Lab as hunting dogs. 


Otterhound. | The Pampered Pup

One of the rarer breeds of dogs with webbed feet, the Otterhound is a very valuable breed due to how few are left in the world. The Otterhound loves the water diving in with pure excitement. Featuring a waterproof coat, this breed will even stick its head under the water for a quick moment, just for fun.

With sensitive noses, this breed is used to hunt both mink and otters. With its love of water and webbed feet trait, the Otterhound is very useful when a hunter needs to track down a pack of otters. 

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever. | The Pampered Pup

Originating in the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Bay retriever was originally bred in Maryland and Virginia where the bay is very shallow and has a pretty low water temperature, particularly in the winter. To create this breed, hunters crossed various hounds with Newfoundlands resulting in a breed that will carry the trait of webbed feet. 

During the winter, Chesapeake Bay is often below freezing making the Chesapeake Bay Retriever a very sought-after breed by wealthy duck hunters in the 1800s for the breed’s ability to withstand frigid waters. This bay is also right in the path of a large migratory path of geese and ducks. Comfortable in the water, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever has become a fixture of the Chesapeake Bay area thanks to its webbed feet. 

Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog. | The Pampered Pup

Hailing from Portugal, the Portuguese Water Dog was traditionally used by fishermen who needed a dog that could tread cold water, worked hard, and had a muscular and athletic build. This breed features big, webbed feet and a waterproof coat that allows them to swim in harsh conditions.

Originally bred as a sailor’s dog, the Portuguese water dog is adept at many aquatic tasks. Seafaring fishermen needed Portuguese Water Dogs to retrieve tackle, herd fish, and take messages back and forth from the shore to the ships. Thanks to their strong muscles, this working dog is a very seaworthy and hardworking breed. These jobs have since become obsolete, but this breed is still needed for rescues in the cold seawater.

Redbone Coon Hound

Redbone Coon Hound. | The Pampered Pup

Originally bred in England, the Redbone Coon hound’s line was further developed in the Southern states of the US. This breed allows hunters to kill or tree raccoons to sell their highly sought-after hides. Capable of navigating the swampy areas of Georgia and Florida, the Coon Hound could also easily traverse the river bottoms of Mississippi and Alabama.

The traits of this breed have been passed on over the years allowing these dogs to track smart and fast raccoons at night through the river bottoms. A raccoon will take a coon hound through muddy terrain before jumping in the river in an attempt to getaway. the webbing on the Coon Hounds feet helps this versatile breed to stick with raccoon until it is treed. 

As the Coon Hound runs after a raccoon, it can’t risk sinking into the mud or slip on the shores while they are running. Plus, these dogs need to be very powerful swimmers in the event that the current of the river is super fast. 

Webbed versus Non-Webbed Dog Feet

Webbed feet are actually just one of a few main types of dog paws:

Cat’s Feet

Holding dog | The Pampered Pup's paw.

While this type of paw is called cat’s feet, it’s still a dog’s paw. Cat’s feet refer to the shape or type of paw on a dog meaning it’s round and small. Cat’s feet paws are ideal for endurance and stability. A breed that was typically used as a working dog will have been bred to have a cat’s feet type of paw. 

Hare Feet

Sleeker and longer-looking, hare feet-shaped paws include two longer middle toes, which make them ideal for jumping into action and able to reach high speeds. A whippet or greyhound will have this type of paw. 

Webbed Feet

Any dog that has webbed paws will typically have been bred to have this trait emphasized. If you notice a dog breed that has extra webbing between their toes, that means that they were traditionally used for retrieving and hunting that often involved swimming. This webbing gave the dog the ability to swim more confidently. 

What Exactly is Webbing, and What Does it Do? 

Basically, dog paw webbing is a membrane that connects a dog’s toes. Webbing is typically associated with a duck’s foot, which works similarly to boat paddles or flippers. The webbing will create a wide and flat foot that covers a larger surface area and aids a bird to faster and more efficiently since it can move with more force.

Even on land, animals with webbed feet can move and navigate over tricky and rough terrain. The larger surface area allows animals to walk on top of muddy areas without sinking or falling through. An evolutionary feature, webbing enables birds and animals to flourish and adapt.

Did you know that webbed feet are also very useful for dogs when they run on muddy terrain? Unlike with normal feet, the webbed feature keeps dogs from sinking and slipping on surfaces that are slick.

Why Do Only Some Dogs Born With Webbed Feet?

Every land animal possesses webbed feet in the embryo, but the membrane will disappear during the cycle of development. Typically, dogs that have more webbing than what you normally see were bred to retain this feature.

Through selective breeding and evolutionary change, certain dog breeds can swim faster and have excellent control in the water in comparison to other breeds of dogs. The paws of a dog have evolved so that every part of it has a specific function. On the bottom of the paw are pads that protect their feet and give them a good grip as they walk. The nails on their toes give them traction and allow them to easily dig. Finally, the webbing provides stability as they walk and allows them to swim better. 

While the webbing effect isn’t as prominent on a dog as it is in birds and aquatic animals, it does give dogs an advantage of being a really strong swimmer as well as able to roam on land easily. with webbed feet, dogs can glide on the water’s surface allowing them to retrieve their prey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What breeds of dogs have webbed feet?

Dogs with webbed feet tend to spend a lot of time in the water. Certain breeds that were developed for hunting and swimming have a more pronounced webbing. Breeds like Dachshunds, Labradors, Retrievers, Greyhounds, and Weimerans all were considered traditional working and hunting dogs that retrieved prey from watery terrain. 

What does it mean when a dog has webbed feet?

It means that this particular breed was probably used for hunting and retrieving games and the webbing between their toys allowed them to navigate the water and diverse terrain better. The webbing will also help dogs to swim more efficiently when in different types of water.

Similar to when a human wears flippers while swimming, a dog’s webbed feet will help the dog glide through the water to retrieve the game. Webbed feet on a dog also helps them run on a muddy area, paddle farther distances, and not slip on slick areas. It also gives them better footing and less of a chance of getting stuck in a boggy area. 

How can you tell if your dog has webbed paws?

When we think of webbing, we automatically think of a duck’s feet. In comparison, a dog’s webbed feet is only referring to extra skin that is found in between a dog’s toes. 

To determine if your dog has webbed feet, pick up your dog’s paw and spread out his toes. if he has excessive skin between his toes, similar to a duck’s foot, then he has a webbed paw. But, unlike duck’s feet, dogs with webbed feet usually only have partial webbing, with the extra skin connecting the toes together. 

Do pit bulls have webbed paws?

The majority of pit bulls do not have webbed feet. However, there is the occasional pit bull that will have webbed feet, but often only in mixes and very rarely in purebreds. They may be born with webbed feet if descended from a dog with webbed feet, or if one of their ancestors is mixed and gave them a recessive webbed feet gene.

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