Dew Claws

Where are the Dew Claws Located and What are They For?

Some dogs have what is known as dew claws or dog’s thumb nails. These extra nails are found in a thumb-like position on the inside of the leg anywhere between 1-4 inches from the paw.

Dew Claw

Dew claw closely situated to the paw

Dew claws may be present on any one or all of your dog’s legs, front or back. In some cases there are double dew claws on one or more legs.

The use of these extra nails is limited. However, front dew claws may be used as an aid to grip things between the paws and those on the back leg utilized for traction.

Why Do Dew Claws Need Special Attention?

On some dogs the dew claws gets a certain amount of wear from ground contact, but often the dew claws are situated too high up on the leg to get any wear and consequently need extra attention when trimming.

Untrimmed dew claws have a tendency to grow round and thereby risk growing into the paw causing pain and possible infection.

On long-haired dogs, dew claws are not always that easy to find. However, it is essential that you are aware if your dog has dew claws, and if so, that you ensure that they get trimmed.

Should Dew Claws be Removed?

Depending on the breed, the absence or presence of dew claws may disqualify a dog in dog shows.

The breed standard for Briards and Beaucerons, for instance, requires that they have double dew claws on each of their hind legs, while the standard for Border Collies makes their removal obligatory. For other breeds such as the Shih Tzu their presence may be optional. For information about the breed standard of your dog consult the American Kennel Club’s pages on different breeds.

While the dew claws can be attached to the bone structure by a phalanx bone, it is not unusual that they are held in place by nothing more than a piece of skin. Dew claws that are poorly attached can easily be torn or otherwise damaged, and owners often opt to have them removed by the vet.

For working dogs such as guard dogs or hunting dogs the increased risk of injury to the dew claw can be an issue. However, many dogs that are very active outdoors keep their extra nails without any problems.

If Your Dog has Dew Claws
  • Check them frequently for any damage.
  • When trimming your dogs’ nails make sure to trim the dew claws too. Pliers style clippers
    are the best trimmers to use if a dew claw is growing inwards.
  • If a dew claw has grown round try to trim it down to a half circle. Be just as careful as with the other nails not to injure the quick.
  • If someone else, such as a professional groomer, is trimming your dog’s nails, make a point of checking each time that no dew claws have been forgotten.


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Mari C

Product researcher with a business degree and a MA in English Literature. Firm believer in learning by doing. Over the years, we've had many different dogs in our family, mainly working dogs like scent hounds, gun dogs, and cattle dogs. Presently, we have a determined little Shih Tzu/Tibetan Spaniel girl whose only job is to delight us with her merry company.

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