First, what are dog dewclaws? Dog dewclaws are small, toe-like appendages with a toenail located slightly above a dog’s feet on the inside of the legs. Some breeds have them on the front legs, some on the back legs and some have dewclaws on both the front and back legs.

The “Dewclaws Have no Purpose” Argument

Many authorities say that dog dewclaws have no purpose. Dogs are thought to have evolved from a tree climbing ancestor some 30 – 40 million years ago, the miacis, a cat-like carnivore that used this fifth toe to live a somewhat arboreal life. As dogs adapted to living on the ground, they needed speed to catch their prey. They began to run on their toes and their dewclaws no longer touched the ground.

Some breeders routinely remove dog dewclaws when puppies are 2 – 3 days old. Reasons for removal include:

  • Appearance – show dogs may lose points if they have dewclaws. (But some breeds will be disqualified from shows if they don’t have dewclaws!)
  • Injury Avoidance – Dog Dewclaws can get caught in brush outdoors and carpet indoors, resulting in a lot of pain and blood.
  • Care – Dog dewclaws need to be trimmed regularly.

The “Dewclaws Have a Purpose” Argument

Other authorities claim that dog dewclaws do have a purpose. They say that dewclaws help dogs to grip bones and other toys. Dewclaws are also thought to help dogs in agility trials and racing dogs to corner more efficiently.
dog nail clippers
It’s okay if your dog doesn’t have dewclaws. He’s probably not missing them. If your dog does have dewclaws, they sometimes need regular care to maintain your dog’s health. Dog dewclaws can grow rapidly and you or your vet will need to trim them to keep them from snagging on branches or fabric. Another problem is that some dogs’ dewclaws grow in a circle and can dig into the toe pads.

It’s important that you use special clippers to trim your dog’s dewclaws or the other claws. Human clippers or fingernail scissors do not work well for this job and can cause pain. You can find more information on nail clippers or scissors for dogs here.