facts about dog paws

10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Dog Paws

Dogs are a fantastic example of how evolution has helped a species remain a strong animal, regardless of breed. One of the ways they have adapted so well is through their paws that are a complicated result of developing over the years to become as useful as possible to our canine friends. Below are 10 facts you didn’t know about dog paws. They’ll fascinate you and make you realize why investing in items such as paw wax or a paw washer are well worth the investment given how important a dog’s paws are to their health and wellbeing.

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holding dog paws

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Dog Paws are an Amalgamation of Finely Tuned Parts

There are several parts to a dog’s paws. In fact, there are five parts in each of your dog’s four paws. The parts are, the claws, the toes which are also known as the digital paws, the pad in the middle of your dog’s paw also known as the metacarpal pad, the dewclaw, and the carpal pad right at the back of a dog’s paw.

It is the digital and metacarpal pads that protect the bones within the paw as well as the joints. The act as a shock absorber for the body. The carpal pad is used by a dog to help a dog slow down. It is often referred to as the rear brake pad and comes in very useful to all canines when they are running at pace down a slope or when on a slippery surface.

Dog Paws are Weatherproof

Dogs are made for so many different types of weather. This is down to so much of their genetic makeup and physical body parts. Their paws are no different. In fact, their paws are one of the best ways that dogs are able to protect themselves against both the heat and the cold. When the temperature gauge dips, it is the pads on a dog’s feet that stop a dog from getting too cold along with its fur coat. This is because the pads have a very thick layer of fatty tissue that works as an insulator as well as a shock absorber.

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Beware Walking in the Summer Months

While dogs and their paws have evolved to make life easier for them, they have not managed to quite keep pace with the rate of advancement of some human industrial development. This means that dogs have not yet evolved yet to walk on sidewalks, tarmac, or concrete surfaces. The trouble with this is, that while their paws are good for keeping them both warm and cold in any temperatures, there is still an unfortunate chance that a dog’s paws can burn when taken out for a walk when the temperature is too hot. This is because sidewalks and tarmacs heat up to be far too hot for a dog’s paw pads. Special care should, therefore, be taken when exercising your dog in the Summer. Either go early in the morning or choose a walking route that is mainly grass or other natural surfaces.

Dogs Actually Only Walk on Their Tip Toes

One surprising fact for many an owner to learn is that dogs only walk on their toes, and not their heels. The scientific terminology for this is classifying a dog as a digitigrade animal. In comparison, humans walk on their heels. It makes the bones that make up a dog’s toes exceptionally important to them and their ability to move freely. As humans, toes are still important as they provide us with balance, but we don’t need them a great deal for movement.

Dogs Sweat Through Their Paws

One of the ways that dogs are able to keep cool in the Summer months is through their paws. Not only are they one of the rare spots on a dog that is not covered in fur, they are also one of the few places that a dog has sweat glands. Therefore, in hotter temperatures, the pads of a dog’s feet are the only place that a dog can sweat from. They, therefore, help a dog cool down when the sun is out and making it that little bit more difficult for dogs to stay at a healthy temperature. Sweat is used to cool down a body by taking perspiration to the outside layer of a dog’s skin to evaporate which has a cooling effect. Importantly, sweat also stops a dog’s paw pads from drying out. Interestingly, a dog will also sweat through its paw pads when they are nervous or stressed out.

Dog Paws Can Smell Like a Salty Snack

In humans, it is not uncommon to suffer from having feet that can smell like cheese. In dogs, their paws and paw pads can still smell but they are more likely to smell of corn chips or popcorn as opposed to blue cheese. The reason being for this is that when a dog’s paw pads smell it is due to their sweat mixing with a number of substances on their feet that they will have picked up on a dog walk. These substances can be microorganisms and it is when they mix with sweat that a salty smell is created. That salty smell is one that we as humans recognize as popcorn or chips.

Dogs Can Show Their Stress With Their Paws

If your dog is a nervous creature, you’ll probably have noticed that he or she licks themselves a lot. One of the places that dogs will lick more than any other place is their paws and this is directly correlated to the stress that they are under. All dogs find it comforting to lick or chew at their paws when they are in a situation that is making them nervous. They will also lick their lips a lot and divert their eyes, but licking their paws is a way for them to feel like they are protecting themselves against the danger they have perceived. It’s good to be aware of it for if it gets out of hand excessive licking or even chewing can actually cause more harm than good. This is due to infections that your dog’s saliva may cause in any cuts that are a result of that chewing or licking.

Dogs Have the Startings of a Thumb

While dogs do not have opposable thumbs like humans, they do at least have the startings of a thumb. Their dew claw is a form of a thumb. Most dogs or dog breeds will have dew claws located only on their front paws, however, there are some that will have dew claws on their hind paws too. But what exactly is a dewclaw? Well they are predominantly made of bone and muscle though they actually don’t have much use after that. Dogs certainly don’t need them for movement but some will use them as a means to grip onto things like food so that they can tear things apart more easily.

Some Breeds Have Webbed Paws

Even non dog lovers will know that dogs love to swim and love to find water to paddle about in. However, there are some breeds that are exceptional swimmers and that is down to the fact that they have webbed feet making them quick and strong in the water. Breeds like Newfoundlands for instance are great in the water along with Portuguese Waterdogs or even little Dachshunds. In the case of Dachshunds however, their webbed feet are thought to have originally evolved that way to make them excellent at ferreting out prey in their dens and warrens.

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Despite all This, all Dog Paws are Different

Just like a dog’s more obvious outward features, dogs’ paws do all vary from breed to breed. Whilst they will all have the same fundamental five parts mentioned above, there will be variations in every single type of dog. For example, English Sheepdogs or Akitas are thought to have feet that are very similar to a cat’s as it has a very short third digital paw so that their paws are a lot smaller than many other dogs. This has made these dogs far more energy efficient as the paw is easier to lift so they can go for longer distances more easily than other canines. In the same vein, dogs that are exceptionally quick, like Greyhounds or Bedlington Terriers all have a much longer middle digit. There feet have often been compared to a hare’s. Or, in the case of a St. Bernard, or other dogs that are from colder climates, they have far larger feet and paws which allows them to spread their weight across a larger surface making them far more adept at walking on ice, snow or slippery surfaces.


  1. Beverly Ulbrich, How to Protect Dog Paws, wikiHow
  2. Pet Tip: Cold Weather Safety, The MSPCA–Angell
  3. Dog Licking Paws Obsessively: Causes and Treatment, Best Friends Animal Society

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