While most dogs have some form of webbing on their paws, other breeds have a much more developed type of this feature. Webbing refers to the thin pieces of skin membrane that stretch between a dog’s toes. Every part of a dog’s paw has a purpose. The thick skin on the bottom forms a tough layer to allow the dog to walk on rocky or hot surfaces. The nails give traction and also aid in digging. Webbing in all breeds helps to stabilize the dog’s gait. Pronounced webbing helps to produce a powerful canine swimmer.
Not surprisingly, breeds with highly developed paw webbing are primarily dogs with a history of water rescue, hunting, and fishing. Dogs that need strong swimming skills use the webbing to push them through the water quickly and efficiently. For example, the Newfoundland’s webbed paws helped them perform water rescues for Canadian fishing vessels. Once the dog reached his victim, the Newfie’s powerful muscles and large size helped to tow the person to safety.
Portuguese Water Dog
These dogs were bred to help Portuguese fishermen. Truly a dog built to swim, their webbed feet push them through the water with ease. They can work in the water for long periods of time, thanks to their endurance and waterproof coats.
German Shorthaired Pointer
These water-loving bird dogs can track, point, and quickly retrieve fowl from the water. Their specially-shaped feet, strongly webbed toes, and short, water-shedding coats make them excellent river and lake swimmers.
Now rather rare in the United States, Otterhounds were once used to help hunt otters in medieval England. Strong swimmers with huge webbed feet, Otterhounds also have water-resistant coats that help them regulate their body temperature even in very cold waters.
The most popular dog in America is also a strong, athletic swimmer with big webbed feet and a thick coat that easily sheds water.
While not strong swimmers, these dogs were bred to hunt and flush badgers and rabbits out of their underground dens. Their webbed feet and thick claws work like a shovel to make them fast, efficient diggers.