What Are Double Dewclaws In Dogs

What Are Double Dewclaws In Dogs?

Last Updated: August 18, 2023
correct answerThe Short Answer is:

The majority of dogs have a dewclaw on the front legs, but those with dewclaws on the hind legs are rare. Double dewclaws refer to the extra digits on the hind legs. The digits aren’t exactly digits, they’re more like a genetic anomaly in most cases. Dewclaws on the forelegs are fully developed toes.

In this article you will know the answer to the query “What Are Double Dewclaws In Dogs?“.

Especially those who have just gotten their first dog are often surprised to discover that their new pet has a strange thing on their hind legs that look like a claw.

What Are Double Dewclaws In Dogs

What does this mean?

How does it serve its purpose?

Is it necessary to remove it?

Its perfectly normal to ask these questions since there are not very many dogs with double dewclaws. 

The purpose of this article is to examine the pros and cons of having an extra digit removed along with what dewclaws and double dewclaws are.

What is a dewclaw?

The front paws of your dog have four toes that sit together at the front and a fifth toe that is located higher up the leg.

Four of the five sections make up the main part of the foot of a dog but what is the purpose of the fifth?

This fifth leg which is called a dewclaw functions primarily to stabilize the wrist.

Due to its somewhat opposite nature the dewclaw is often compared with a human thumb.

Dewclaws do not have the same degrees of functionality as a thumb but that does not mean they are entirely wrong as we’ll explain below. 

Take a look at this video showing dogs running on icy terrain and ice fishing if you want to learn more about what dewclaws do.

What is a double dewclaw?

The majority of dogs have a dewclaw on the front legs but those with dewclaws on the hind legs are rare.

Double dewclaws refer to the extra digits on the hind legs.

The digits are not exactly digits they’re more like a genetic anomaly in most cases. Dewclaws on the forelegs are fully developed toes.

A dogs legs have a bone structure as well as muscles and nerves that connect them. Alternatively the double dewclaws on the hind legs are often just a flap of skin with a claw sticking out.

Since they do not possess connective muscle tissue they are completely useless. However only a few breeds have fully-formed and functional double dewclaws.

Their condition is no longer considered a genetic anomaly.

It is actually a breed standard to have an extra toe on the hind leg. 

What is the meaning of dewclaws?

It would be natural to assume that the modern domestic dog inherited its dewclaws from its ancestor the wolf. However this is not the case.

Dewclaws are not present on the hind or front legs of wolves.

There is no doubt that dogs evolved dewclaws after humans introduced them to them.

Its not hard to see whats going on when you look at the dewclaws on the forelegs.

There is a purpose for those but it is limited.

A dogs dewclaw helps her get a better grip on objects dig and climb and navigate rough terrain.

You can see how your dog uses his dewclaws to grasp his favorite chew toy or struggles with a giant juicy bone when he plays with them.

Dewclaws have been found on some wolves but experts believe that this only proves that at some point in their ancestry wolves and domestic dogs mated. 

What dog breeds have double dewclaws? Double Dew Claws Breeds:

It is technically possible for any dog to be born with double dewclaws but in such cases we are discussing an anomaly a genetic throwback. 

There are however a few large breeds in which double dewclaws are both normal and a must by AKC standards.

Large working dog breeds which have worked alongside their owners for many centuries herding sheep have double dewclaws.

The dewclaw on their hind legs looks like a fully-formed toe complete with a bone structure and connected to the leg by nerves and muscles.

Their extra digit helped them stay balanced on rough terrain particularly in mountainous areas.

Breeds that possess functional double dewclaws include

  • Pyrenees Grandes
  • Sheep of Anatolia
  • Briard
  • Sheepdog from Catalonia
  • Bernard the Saint
  • Lundehund (Norwegian)
  • Beauceron

There is a theory that these dogs were selectively bred to have this extra digit on the hind legs in order to make them better workers.

Toes that once gave dogs an edge are now viewed by dog owners as useless appendages and they wonder what to do about them.

Should you remove double dewclaws?

In addition to serving a practical purpose dewclaws on the forelegs enable dogs to play with their toys and keep their bearing while running so theres no reason to remove them. 

The case of double dewclaws is different. 

Owners of dogs may remove the double dewclaws purely for aesthetic reasons or to prevent injuries.

It might make the dogs legs look better if the dewclaws on the hind legs are removed if you plan to enter dog shows.

Double dewclaws are considered breed standard for breeds like Great Pyrenees Beauceron and Briard and you will not be allowed to enter a doggie beauty show if you have one. 

Therefore we are left with the possibility of a dewclaw injury. Would such a risk justify such a procedure?

It is thought that the dewclaws on the hind legs could easily get caught in something and cause injury and infection to the dog.

Even so the risks are low regardless of what your vet or other dog owners may tell you.

Surgery to remove double declaws is often scheduled at the same time as spaying or neutering the puppy.

Why not get rid of the useless piece of equipment since the dog will receive anesthesia anyway?

On the one hand that sounds like a valid argument but on the other hand why put the dog through an unnecessary medical procedure?

When the puppy is less than five days old some breeders elect to remove the double dewclaws.

There are those who say that small puppies would not feel any pain after such surgery but only a veterinarian should perform it using a local anesthetic. Really?

Is double dewclaw removal major surgery?

I doubt it if you understand what a double dewclaw is. It is major surgery however if the dog has an extra toe on the hind leg which is fully formed.

Suppose you have a dog like a Great Pyrenees. There is a bone structure muscles and nerves in the rear dewclaws. Dewclaw removal implies cutting of bones and severing of nervous connections.

Even though the surgery is performed at a young age the puppy is bound to recover quickly but it is not known how the surgery will affect its development in the future.

Dogs of large breeds grow up more slowly than dogs of small breeds. At 18-24 months of age the Great Pyrenees or Anatolian shepherd will reach maturity.

By removing a toe that was meant to provide support you might end up with balance problems in the future. 

Accidents involving the extra digit in the rear are rare in dogs with functional double dewclaws. A dogs toe is an integral part of the leg and it learns how to deal with it from an early age. 

How to take care of dewclaws?

Dewclaws do not need to be treated differently than the rest of the claws because they’re positioned a bit further away.

At the same time you should trim them paying attention to the degree to which they appear worn.

Dewclaws that do not hit the ground with the rest of the toes will have longer nails so maybe you’ll need to trim them more frequently. Theres an increased risk of rear dewclaws curling and growing into the leg which is very painful. 

This can be corrected with a weekly trim and it also gives you a chance to check for torn or split nails.

How to treat dewclaw injuries?

Dewclaw accidents are not as common as some belief but they do happen occasionally.

Getting snagged on something might cause the dewclaw to tears. It isnot a serious injury but there may be a lot of blood enough for you and your dog to panic.

Warm water should be used to clean the wound as much as possible. A trip to the vet is necessary if the claw seems torn and needs to be surgically removed.

For minor injuries you can apply antiseptic ointment and disinfect it with Betadine (not alcohol).

Keep an eye on the injury for a few days. The dog should be taken to the vet if you see any signs of infection such as redness swelling or pus.


It is unusual for a dog to have double dewclaws but this is not a problem.

Many large breeds of dogs are born with double dewclaws and their absence is considered to be a flaw.

Upon birth these dogs have extra toes on their hind legs which aid in their balance. In other dogs the rear legs are only covered with a bit of skin and a claw.

Despite the fact that it serves no purpose its removal is not warranted.

Your pet has a very small chance of getting injured but it is what makes him unique.

Whats the point of bothering yourself if the dog does not mind it?

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Amanda Dogs Trainer

Amanda (Author)

With over a decade of experience, Amanda is a distinguished dog trainer. Her expertise in canine behavior has transformed countless lives, fostering harmonious human-canine connections. Through compassionate and personalized approaches, she empowers owners to understand and connect with their furry companions, creating a legacy of joyful tails and transformed lives.

Osvaldo Maciel Dogs Trainer

Osvaldo Maciel (Content Reviewer)

Osvaldo Maciel, a stalwart in the field with 14 years of experience, is a revered dog trainer. His journey is defined by a profound understanding of canine behavior, shaping unbreakable human-canine bonds. Osvaldo guides owners to connect with their beloved pets, leaving an indelible mark of happiness and transformation. His legacy shines through the countless lives he has touched.

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