Dogster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

10 Fascinating Facts About Your Dog’s Paws

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on May 23, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog paw closeup

10 Fascinating Facts About Your Dog’s Paws

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

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

Learn more »

We all know that dog paws are seriously cute, but there’s a lot more to them than simple beany cuteness. The paws contribute greatly to many things your dog can do and are much tougher than they appear.

They’re also made up of several parts, with each part performing an important function to help dogs navigate a variety of terrains and survive in the wild. In this post, we’ll explore in more depth 10 fascinating facts about your dog’s incredible paws!

dogster paw divider

The 10 Fascinating Facts About Your Dog’s Paws

1. Dog Paws Have Five Parts

Those various black pads on your dog’s paws each serve different and important functions. There are the claws, a collection of digital pads, a metacarpal pad, a dewclaw, and a carpal pad.

Here’s how each part works:
  • Digital and metacarpal pads: These pads absorb shocks, thereby helping to protect the foot bones and joints.
  • Carpal pad: These function as a sort of brake, which helps dogs stay upright on slippery surfaces.
  • Dewclaw: These are a bit like a dog’s thumbs and big toes. They provide support when a dog is making turns at high speeds to help prevent them from twisting their lower legs. They are sometimes used to hold onto things and climb up on things.

Dog's paw pads
You are free to use this image but we do require you to link Dogster.com for credit

2. Dogs Use Their Toes to Walk

Dogs are digitigrades, which means that they walk on their toes with their feet lifted. The toes support the dog’s body weight, whereas, in humans, it’s the heel that takes the weight. Cats and hyenas are also digitigrades.


3. There’s a Reason Dog Paws Smell Cheesy

If your dog’s paws have a “cheesy” smell, you’re not alone! This is completely normal. Because your dog’s paws are always touching the ground, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms get attached to them. Licking adds more bacteria, as does sweating, altogether creating a recipe that’s simply bound to smell of cheese! Some people refer to it as more like a Frito smell.

All that said, if you notice that your dog’s paws start to smell really gross or you spot redness, pus, inflammation, dryness, or scaling, this is not normal, and the dog should be seen by a vet.

dog licking his paw closeup
Image Credit: Julia Serdiuk, Shutterstock

4. Dogs Sweat Through Their Paws

There are sweat merocrine sweat glands in dog paws. When the weather is hot, or a dog is nervous, for example, when they’re at the veterinary clinic, their paws may start to sweat. Dog sweat glands are few in number, so dogs rely mostly on other mechanisms, such as panting and the dilation of their vessels, to control their body temperature. 


5. Some Dogs Are Polydactyls

Some dog breeds are polydactyls, which means a dog is born with more toes than the usual number. There could be six toes or even more in some cases. Polydactyly is more common in certain breeds, including the Norwegian Lundehund, the Akita, the Rottweiler, and the Great Pyrenees.

dog paw polydactyl
Image By: cynoclub, Shutterstock

6. The Paws and the Brain Are Linked

The paws serve an important function in your dog’s sensory system and body awareness—they indicate to the brain the temperature and changes in temperature and pressure and send messages about the new and varied sensations the dog may encounter. This helps your dog make quick decisions.


7. Webbed Feet Indicate a Strong Swimmer

All dogs have some webbing between their toes, but some dogs have more prominently webbed feet, which indicates that the breed was originally developed as a water hunter. Webbed feet helped these dogs navigate water smoothly and retrieve waterfowl for their owners.

Breeds with more webbing on their feet include the Newfoundland, the American Water Spaniel, the Portuguese Water Dog, and the Labrador Retriever.

labrador retriever dog playing in the beach
Image By: DragoNika, Shutterstock

8. There Are Many Types of Paws

Dog's feet hare vs cat
You are free to use this image but we do require you link Dogster.com for credit

Paws come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some dogs have cat-like feet, which are

Paws come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some dogs have cat-like feet, which. All toes are of equal length, forming a half-circle around the central pad ( This gives the paw a similar look to a cat’s paw. Breeds with “cat paws” include Akitas and Doberman Pinschers. Their feet are designed for improved grip on uneven surfaces. 

In addition to “cat feet”, some dogs have “hare feet”, which are feet with long middle toes that make them look like a hare’s feet. Dogs that originated in cold environments, like the Saint Bernard and Newfoundland, have large and wide paws because they provided more grip and support on slippery, cold surfaces.

feet that contain a third digital bone. This gives the paw a similar look to a cat’s paw. Breeds with “cat paws” include Akitas and Doberman Pinschers.

In addition to “cat feet”, some dogs have “hare feet”, which are feet with long middle toes that make them look like a hare’s feet. Dogs that originated in cold environments, like the Saint Bernard and Newfoundland, have large and wide paws because they provided more grip and support on slippery, cold surfaces.


9. Hot Surfaces Are Very Bad for Your Dog’s Paws

Though paws are adapted to help dogs navigate rough terrain and—particularly for breeds that originated in cold environments—cold, slippery surfaces, no dog has paws built for hot surfaces. Hot sidewalks can cause a dog’s feet to blister, not to mention the risk of heat stroke caused by hot weather, so always be cautious—especially in the summer months.

feet of a labrador retriever puppy
Image By: Kingsman Asset, Shutterstock

10. Paw Fat Helps Keep Dogs’ Feet From Freezing

There’s a layer of fat inside dog paws that helps prevent the feet from freezing, which is why they can endure walking on cold surfaces like snow. That said, it’s important to be careful because dogs can still get frostbite and dried-out, chapped pads from snow and ice.  For this reason, avoid letting your dog play in the snow or out in the cold for too long.

dogster paw divider

Conclusion

It can be surprising to learn just how intricate a dog’s paws really are! A complex system of nerves, blood vessels, and a collection of pads serving various functions, all of which contribute to a dog’s agility, ability to break when running or turning at high speeds, and capability to navigate a variety of terrains. There’s much more to those cute little feet than meets the eye.

See also: 


Featured Image Credit: Tiinuska, Pixabay

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Dogster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart

Pangolia

© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.