Can Dogs Retract Their Nails?
When we compare our pets’ paws and claws, they initially appear to be quite similar. You may feel that these animals’ claws are flat, hard, keratin pieces that protect their paw tips, but pets’ claws offer more than protection. Dogs and cats are digitigrade four-footed mammals, which implies that they stand and walk with their toes touching the ground.
Both animals have four toes on their hind paws and five toes on their forepaws, the fifth being the dewclaw — a small, vestigial toe located towards the inside of their forelegs. However, these animals have dissimilar claw anatomy. Cats are known to use their claws more effectively than dogs; cats climb, scratch, and grab things with their claws, while most dog breeds seem not to use their claws at all.
Concerning the above, many have tried to understand the dissimilarity between both animals’ claw anatomy, why cats use their claws than dogs, and why most dog breeds’ claws seem useless.
The main reason for this dissimilarity is that cats have “retractable claws.” We’ll take a close look at topics regarding retractable claws in this article. (i) Do dogs have retractable claws? (ii) What dog breeds have retractable claws? (iii) Reasons for the retractable claw anatomy, and (iv) care for retractable claws.
Can Dogs Have Retractable Claws?
To best understand the article, let’s briefly consider its primary term, “retractable claws.” Retractable claws are claws that draw when the paws are relaxed; they’re enclosed within the skin and wrapped around the toe pads. This process aids sharp claws since the claws don’t wear from touching the ground and other rough surfaces.
One of the primary differences in cat and dog claw anatomy is that cats have retractable claws, and dogs do not. Cats’ claws are protected. They are longer and stay sharper since they are retractable. However, most dogs’ claws are protracted, which implies that active outdoor dogs will have short claws because they often get worn down.
While cats can effectively utilize their claws for several purposes, dogs’ claws are a blunt and almost ineffective appendage.
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What Dog Breeds Have Retractable Claws?
As stated, most dog breeds do not have retractable claws because they would be ineffective. However, some dog breeds have different claw anatomy. Most of these dogs are sled dogs, and they have retracted claws that help their movement in the snow.
Below are examples of dog breeds with retractable claws.
The Alaskan Malamutes are a unique sled breed. They are known for their strength and endurance to pull heavy carriages as a sled dog. These dogs have stocky and muscular legs, which are genetically modified to face harsh weather conditions. Malamute paws are like snowshoes, and their claws are like cats’.
Their movement in the snow is a significant reason for their bear-like paws and retractable claw anatomy. Their claws offer a firmer grip in the soft snow. Furthermore, they act like cats, grooming themselves regardless of regular baths.
You might mistake a Siberian Husky for an Alaskan Malamute because of their genetic and physical similarities. Siberian Huskies are medium-sized working dogs a bit smaller than the Alaskan Malamute. They are also bred to pull heavy carriages as a sled dog and are characterized by their strength and endurance.
They are physically distinguishable from Malamutes by their thickly-furred double coat, unique markings, and erect triangular ears. Like the Malamute, Siberian Huskies have the retractable claw anatomy like cats. Their retractable claws aid their movement in soft snow.
Samoyeds are physically similar to the Malamutes and Huskies but are known to be bred for different purposes — herding. They are strong and persistent dogs that can survive in icy weather conditions. Their genetic claw anatomy is similar to the Alaskan Malamute and Serbian Husky, with retractable claws.
These claws primarily help the Samoyed move in the snow but aids its hunting and defence abilities.
Reasons for the Retractable Claw Anatomy
Animals with retractable claws effectively utilize their claws. As stated, cats are known to use their claws more effectively than dogs; cats climb, scratch, and grab things with their claws. Retractable claws aren’t just claws; they’re tools. As to this effect, we’ll consider the reasons for the retractable claw anatomy.
Dog breeds (example: Alaskan Malamute) and pets (cats) with retractable claws use their claws for movement. Alaskan Malamutes are genetically modified to face harsh weather conditions, like extreme cold. The Malamute’s retractable claws aid its movement in soft snow. Similarly, cats would often get stuck to objects if they didn’t have retractable claws.
They move on carpets, tree branches, and slide down items; retractable claws are like Velcro, providing traction to animals that have them so that they don’t fall. Besides, dogs do not climb trees, unlike cats.
Ever wondered why dogs do not hunt with their claws? Well, protracted claws are almost useless when it comes to hunting. Contrastingly, retractable claws are handy for hunting, catching, and gripping prey; they are curved, sharp, and extended. Most dog breeds use their teeth instead of their claws to hunt because their claw anatomy doesn’t support hunting.
Instinctively, cats defend themselves with their claws while dogs use their teeth. That’s basically because of their claw anatomy. Retractable claws help to boost pets’ defense abilities.
What Claw is Common with Most Dog Breeds?
Dewclaws are more familiar with dogs than retractable claws. Dewclaws are not common to only dogs as birds, reptiles, and other mammals also have dewclaws. Dewclaws are small, vestigial claws located towards the inside of the forelegs in dogs and cats; they don’t touch the ground when the animal is standing.
Occasionally, a dewclaw can be found on a dog’s hind legs. However, these rear dewclaws may have little bone or muscle structures in most dog breeds. Sometimes, some dog breeds have more than one dewclaw on a single paw, genetically normal. Dogs with more than one dewclaw are referred to as “double dew clawed” dogs.
Unlike retractable claws, dewclaws cannot be extended for specific purposes. Pet owners are encouraged to trim these claws at a safe length.
While many may view dewclaws as dead appendages, it is noteworthy to know that dewclaws are ineffective.
Dewclaws are occasionally called to action; they can grip bones and other things that dogs hold with their paws. They also help dogs maintain balance in some instances.
How To Care for Retractable Claws
Like protracted claws, retractable claws require care. If your dog breed has retractable claws, its claw cleaning is one of the essential facets of its general welfare. Here are steps to ensure that your dog’s retractable claw is well cared for.
- Please make sure the dog is accustomed to you touching or holding its paws. In instances whereby the dog refuses to be convinced that you mean no harm when holding its paws, it is advised to use organic oral or injectable sedatives by the vet’s prescription.
- Firmly but tenderly place a thumb on the dog’s toe without any fur blocking the nail’s view. If a fur blocks the nail’s view, you may accidentally overcut the dog’s nails.
- Clip the nail’s tip horizontally across, repeating the action on each nail, including those on the dewclaws (claws situated at the inner side of the paw).
- There is always an urge to clip a bit deeper; avoid doing so, especially past the curve on the nail. Clipping past the nail curve may result in overcut nails or cutting into the dog’s quicks.
Please take note of the following:
Inexperienced owners may purchase nail-clippers with sensors or guards to avoid overcut nails or quicks. For those with nail-clippers without guards, your finger may act as a guard. Place the finger below, across the tip of the nail, and clip. The finger must be placed at a distance that would prevent overcutting.
It is best to cut the nails in small bits than as a whole; this action will prevent overcutting.
Forcefully restraining a dog to cut its nails may result in biting, scratching, or destructive responses. Under the influence of animalistic instinct, the dog may feel threatened and might do anything to defend itself.
If a non-sedated dog begins to show signs of irritation, it is best to stop the nail grooming session. Conducting nail grooming sessions at short intervals may be more productive and stressful than at lengthy intervals.
Retractable claws are claws that draw when the paws are relaxed; they’re enclosed within the skin and wrapped around the toe pads. This process aids sharp claws since the claws don’t wear from touching the ground and other rough surfaces. Animals with retractable claws use their claws for hunting, movement, and defense.
Cats are the most prominent pets with retractable claws; examples of dog breeds with retractable claws are Alaskan Malamute, Serbian Husky, and Samoyed — they use their claws primarily for movement in snow. If your dog has retractable claws, please ensure that you properly and regularly clean and groom its nails.