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Dog webbed feet on beach

The essentials

  • All dogs have some degree of webbed feet — Certain breeds, like Labradors and Newfoundlands, have more webbing than others.
  • Webbed feet trace back to a breed’s origins — Dogs with webbed feet were working dogs that assisted fishermen or hunters.
  • Webbed feet do more than improve swimming — Breeds with webbed feet can navigate tougher terrain and dig more easily.

Dog snouts and ears get a ton of fanfare, but paws are easily the most underrated part of any pooch. Between insulation and traction and even communication, these four-fingered wonders offer a ton of practical benefits to our pups. But where does webbing come into play? Does the dog you brought home have some distant duck ancestors?

Before you bust out the DNA kit to investigate your best friend’s aquatic origins, you should know that all dogs have webbed feet — to an extent. Some breeds, like Labradors and Portuguese water dogs, have more pronounced webbed feet than others. Let’s look at why and how this trait can come in handy.

Why all dogs have webbed feet

Dog paws are surprisingly complex, and each part serves a unique purpose. Claws help canines to dig and run. Paw pads ease tension on the joints, give our furry friends balance, and provide cushioning for the underside of their feet. And, webbing helps them swim and navigate tougher terrain like snow or mud.

Puppies tend to be born with a good amount of webbing between their toes. This skin often shrinks as they age, and their paws expand to the point that it’s barely visible in their adult years. On the other hand, some breeds retain this thin layer of skin their entire lives.

Why some dogs have more webbing

You need to go back to their origins to understand why certain dogs have more pronounced webbing than others. Dogs bred near water to assist fishermen or deliver messages between ships typically have webbed feet that serve as miniature paddles for swimming. Think of how you cup your hands while swimming, and it makes sense how this feature could assist water dogs.

This trait is also often seen in sled dogs that need to navigate wintry landscapes. Dogs developed to hunt burrow-dwelling animals like badgers or rabbits may have webbed feet for digging tunnels to their prey.

Dog webbed feet comparison

Less webbing vs. More webbing (Credit: Reddit u/RedwoodHermit)

8 dogs with webbed feet

So, which dogs have these particularly webbed-out paws? Believe it or not, this trait exists in some of the most popular breeds in the country. Here are 8 dogs with webbed feet:

1. Newfoundland

Newfoundland dog walking in a meadow.

Named after the Canadian province they were bred in, Newfoundlands date back to the late 19th century, where they worked alongside fishing crews hauling their nets. To this day, they serve as water rescue dogs on beaches worldwide. Their large webbed paws and massive strength allow them to transport people from the ocean to the shore safely.

2. Dachshunds


If you have a dachshund, you know they like to dig. Dachshunds were bred to burrow through small tunnels hunting badgers. In fact, their name translates to “badger dog” in their home country of Germany. Their webbed feet are like tiny shovels, rapidly scooping dirt out of their way. And while they’re not necessarily water dogs, many of them are excellent swimmers because of this appendage.

3. Portuguese water dog

Portuguese water dog walking on a pier

Webbed feet aren’t the only thing that Portuguese water dogs have going for them when they take a dip. Their water-repelling fur and rudder-like tails make these playful pups excellent swimmers. Toss a ball in a lake and you can marvel at their retrieval skills, which is exactly what they were bred to do.

In the 13th century, Porties fetched lost tackle and relayed messages between boats. Today, they’re popular household pets because they’re hypoallergenic and great with kids.

4. German shorthaired pointer

German shorthaired pointer puppy

With their rounded paws and muscular build, the German shorthaired pointer is a bird dog skilled in tracking and retrieving fowl from land as well as rivers and ponds. Because of this, they also excel in dog sports like agility and dock diving. They’re extremely intelligent and love being put to work, making them easy to train in hunting, athletics, and obedience.

5. Poodle

Poodle at the park

Poodles are known for their posh hairdos, but did you know they’re excellent swimmers? Thanks largely to their webbed feet and curly moisture-resistant fur, the breed does well in the water. In fact, they were developed in medieval Germany to hunt webbed-footed ducks. They were even chosen to sled race in the 1988 Iditarod (though they didn’t do so well).

6. Labrador retriever

Labrador retriever swimming

That’s right, the second most popular dog breed (congrats, French bulldogs) has webbed feet. Bred to retrieve fish in Canada, the double-coated and thick-tailed Labrador retriever can brave the iciest of waters. The webbing between their toes helps them swim fast and for long periods — and these water lovers will do so happily!

7. Chesapeake Bay retriever

Chesapeake Bay retriever in the water

Another cold water champion is the Chesapeake Bay retriever, affectionately known as a Chessie. A mix of Newfoundlands, Irish water spaniels, and other retrievers, they’re Maryland’s official state dog and are often used to fetch hunted ducks from the water. Their muscular arms and webbed feet help them brave strong currents to get to their prey.

8. Irish water spaniel

Irish water spaniel in a field

As the name suggests, the Irish water spaniel hails from Ireland. And, as a water-loving breed, they’ll gladly hop into any body of water to retrieve fish or fowl. Their sturdy legs and webbed feet keep them chugging along as they swim for long periods. They also have hairless tails that work like rudders.

So if you notice your canine companion has a bit of extra skin between their little toes, fear not — it’s actually a common trait in many dog breeds. And next time you take them to a lake or pond, you just may see them put their webbed feet to good use!

Frequently asked questions

What kind of dog breed has webbed feet?

All dogs have a bit of webbing between their toes, but it’s more pronounced for some. Dogs with webbed feet include Labrador retrievers, poodles, Portuguese water dogs, and Newfoundlands.

What kind of dog swims with webbed feet?

Not all dogs with webbed feet are considered water dogs, though they may still like to swim. Dogs with webbed feet that love the water include Portuguese water dogs, Irish water spaniels, and Chesapeake Bay retrievers.

What are the three types of dog feet?

The three types of dog paws are 1) webbed, which presents as skin between their toes; 2) cat-like, which presents as compounded and rounded paws; and 3) hare, which presents as two middle toes that are longer than their outer ones.

What does it mean when a dog has webbed feet?

Dogs with webbed feet were bred as working dogs. These dogs performed certain tasks, like swimming in water to fetch game or digging holes to hunt burrowing animals.

What sports do dogs with webbed feet participate in?

Webbed feet can enhance a dog’s performance when competing in water-based activities, agility, or hunting.