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Do All Golden Retrievers Have Webbed Feet? Breed Facts & History

Written by: Chelsea Mortensen

Last Updated on April 4, 2024 by Dogster Team

a golden retriever dog licking its paw inside the house

Do All Golden Retrievers Have Webbed Feet? Breed Facts & History


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Golden Retrievers were bred for swimming. When hunters shot down a waterfowl, these beautiful dogs would go and fetch it, no matter what the terrain was like in the middle. Today, these dogs have a famous adaptation for their time in the water—webbed feet. Their partial webs help them move through the water more easily.

divider-dog paw

Why Do Golden Retrievers Have Webbed Feet?

Every dog breed has its own history, and the specific things that a dog was used for in the past influenced the breed’s appearance and personality traits. Dogs from running breeds have lean, muscular bodies and long legs, while guard dogs and fighting dogs will be strong and stocky. Some dog breeds were developed with a specific appearance in mind. The desired traits make every breed unique!

Golden Retrievers were bred as hunting retrievers. They needed to be great at moving through all kinds of terrain, especially wet terrain. Dogs that were better at moving through the water made better Golden Retrievers. So if a dog happened to be born with small webs on its feet, that would be a big advantage! Over time, this trait spread throughout the breed.

golden retriever swimming
Image By: paulbr75, Pixabay

Advantages of Having Webbed Feet

The biggest advantage to having webbed feet is swimming. Ducks, geese, and other waterfowl are famous for their big, paddle-shaped feet that help them glide through the water. Webbed feet act like oars or paddles in the water. Each movement of your dog’s paws will push it farther and more smoothly. That makes a big difference in swimming!

There are other reasons that webbed feet can give advantages. If your Golden Retriever is a champion hole digger, the webs might be the reason. Just like they can move water quickly and easily, webbed feet can also help your dog move dirt. Their paws act more like shovels than rakes, helping them dig faster and harder.

Many owners of Golden Retrievers also report that their dogs can use webbed feet to travel through rough terrain easily. They say that the webbed feet help them grip uneven rocks with their paws so that they don’t slip and can navigate without trouble.

Are There Drawbacks to Webbed Feet?

Although webbed feet are great, they do have a few drawbacks. The biggest drawback is that the webs can become cut or infected. If your dog steps on something sharp, there’s more tender skin there to get injured. The webbing between feet causes more folds and space for dirt and moisture to get trapped. This results in an increased tendency to develop fungal or bacterial infections, as the warm, moist microenvironment in the webbing can encourage the growth of these organisms. The folds also provide a hiding place for parasites such as ticks.  Regularly cleaning and drying the folds between their webbed feet helps to prevent infections.

Tick removed from dog's webbed feet
Image Credit: PKK Studios, Shutterstock

How to Tell if Your Dog Has Webs

If you have a Golden Retriever or another dog breed that can have webbed feet, you can easily tell if your dog has its own webs. Gently pull apart two of your dogs’ toes. On most dogs, there will just be a small flap of skin connecting the two toes at the base—like the flap of skin between your thumb and index finger. That’s not a sign of webbed feet.

Many Golden Retrievers will have a larger flap of skin that extends past the joint of the toes. Some dogs may even have webs that connect their toes all the way up to the toenail! When checking for webbed feet, make sure to check every toe. Some dogs only have webs on a few toes per foot, and some only have webs on the front or back paws.

PK_Webbed feet in dogs
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Last Thoughts

Webbed feet offer a great swimming advantage to Golden Retrievers. Although many Golden Retrievers these days are not duck hunters, they still appreciate a good romp in the water. If your dog has webbed feet, know that they’re displaying a unique part of this breed’s heritage.

Featured Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

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