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Huskies are some pretty strange dogs. From frequent vocalizations to generally dramatic behavior, this breed has plenty of quirks that aren’t found in other dogs. So when I heard the fun fact that certain breeds have webbed toes while others do not, a question immediately jumped to mind– do huskies have webbed feet?
Although their feet aren’t quite as webbed as breeds meant to swim, huskies and other arctic breeds have webbed feet. This originates from their history as sled dogs, as webbed feet act like snow-shoes to keep huskies from sinking into the snow or slipping.
To better understand the relationship between huskies and webbed feet, we’ll go over the definition of webbed feet, breeds that commonly have webbed feet, and the details as to why huskies have them.
What Exactly Are Webbed Feet?
A variety of animals have webbed feet, from ducks, to otters, to camels and geckos.
While many aquatic birds have syndactyly (fused toes), most mammals with webbed toes instead have interdigital webbing, which refers to a noticeable membrane of connective tissue between their toes. This includes several dog breeds, of course!
The majority of animals with webbed feet use them for aquatic propulsion. Much like a paddle or flippers, the broad surface area of webbed feet not only enable animals to push against water, but also allow for quick steering.
Aside from swimming, there are a few other potential purposes for webbed feet. In shrews, moles, and even some dogs, webbed feet are used like a shovel for efficient digging. In other animals, such as camels, caribou and the unusually adapted Namib sand gecko, having webbed feet can help distribute weight across a wide area and avoid sinking into shifty terrain such as sand or snow.
Which Dogs Have Webbed Feet?
As with their wild counterparts, most dogs have slightly webbed feet. This slight interdigital webbing assists wolves in a variety of daily activities, from digging, to traversing snow, to swimming and more.
Most domestic dogs retain this webbing and benefit from it in day-to-day life. Some breeds, however, have even more extensive interdigital webbing than wolves. Several breeds have webbed paws specifically adapted to excel at their given task, such as swimming or digging. Before we take a look specifically at huskies, let’s compare the husky to some other dog breeds with webbed feet.
Some of the earliest breeds to feature heavily webbed feet are water dogs such as poodles, barbets and Portuguese water dogs.
They are highly intelligent dogs which historically served as overall utility animals for fisherman and boaters. Their tasks included flushing aquatic game, retrieving items that fell overboard, and even passing messages between boats. All of these tasks were made much easier with webbed paws!
These breeds are also characterized by their tight coats that continually grow. This almost water-proof fur is able to be trimmed to a variety of shapes for each dog’s specific job.
As their name would suggest, the retrieving group of dogs is explicitly bred for retrieving game. These breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and Labrador retrievers, have webbed paws, rudder-like tails, and water-resistant fur to help them swim after and retrieve downed game. Additional traits such as a soft mouth and generally patient demeanor allow these dogs to excel at their job.
Rather than simply retrieving hunted game, many dogs are bred to do the dirty work themselves. Dogs such as coonhounds and otterhounds are bred to chase animals across wet land and water. Having webbed paws aids water hunting dogs in both of these circumstances, as webbed feet can help keep a dog’s paws from sinking into mud as they chase after game.
Like the above breeds, water rescue dogs such as Newfoundlands are equipped with webbed feet to swim. These gentle giants differ significantly from the previously mentioned breeds in that they are made to be able to withstand cold waters and carry human weight. As a result, they are very large and have thick fur for insulation not u
Not every dog has webbed paws for swimming— one famous breed uses them to dig! Wiener dogs are a strange looking breed, but their appearance has a purpose! Dachshunds, with their long, slender bodies and webbed feet, are able to shovel away dirt and dive head-first into the dens of badgers and other burrowing animals.
Alongside the above breeds, one major dog group to have webbed paws are Arctic breeds, including huskies, malamutes, and Chinook. These breeds have webbed paws to help them effectively pull carts through snow. We’ll discuss the reason webbed paws are useful for sled dogs below, as well as husky-specific traits.
Do Huskies Have Webbed Feet?
Although huskies and other arctic breeds don’t have quite as extreme of webbing as those meant for swimming, they still have webbed feet. A sled dog’s webbed feet act as snowshoes for it to efficiently run across the snow without sinking into it or slipping, which comes in handy for pulling sleds long distances without getting tired.
Aside from being webbed, there are a few other traits that characterize a husky’s feet. According to the American Kennel Club husky breed standard, a husky’s feet are “…oval in shape but not long… medium in size, compact and well furred between the toes and pads. The pads [are] tough and thickly cushioned.” The additional fur between a husky’s paws helps keep them warm, and their tough paw pads allow them to run across ice without getting injured.
Do Webbed Feet Help A Husky Swim?
Although swimming isn’t exactly a natural thing for this tundra traversing breed, their physical traits can actually allow them to be excellent swimmers and love water!
Like retrievers, the long, feathery tail of a husky can act as an excellent rudder for steering in the water, and huskies have plenty of endurance and energy to spare. Additionally, they have a water-resistant double coat and of course, webbed paws!
That said, this talent is often hidden behind a husky’s natural reservation toward water, so you can’t toss a husky into the pool and expect it to take off, especially without a life jacket.
How To Care For Your Husky’s Webbed Feet
With their thick, webbed paws with plenty of fur, your husky’s forefathers ran through snow and ice with ease. That said, you can’t expect your household husky to have invincible paws. As with any other breed, a husky’s paws need to be looked after, especially in harsh conditions.
Be Cautious With Extreme Temperatures
Unless they are acclimated to it, even huskies can experience discomfort and even damage to their paws in extreme temperatures.
The tough, thick paw pads that allow huskies to be so weather-resistant must build up over time, and even then some conditions are simply too harsh. Scorching asphalt during walks on hot days can burn your husky’s paws in less than a minute
Care should be taken to gradually expose your husky’s paws to warmer concrete, but it on hotter days it must be avoided altogether.
Similarly, the structure of a husky’s paws are built to withstand cold temperatures, and a working dog can easily spend time in the snow without any issues. Your pet husky, meanwhile, needs to work their way up to be safe and comfortable in the cold.
Check Between Those Husky Toes
For all of the utility webbed paws provide, there is a major downside. It’s easy for rubble and debris to get caught between your husky’s toes, which can be annoying or even harmful to your pup. Compact snow can even form dense balls of ice in the webbing of a husky’s paws, and rock-salt is especially known to cause irritation and injury.
Seeing how dogs will hide their pain as much as they can, it’s your responsibility to clear any rocks or ice before your husky starts limping. It’s a good idea to examine your husky’s paws after a walk, but many cautious owners will do a paw check every time their dogs come back indoors.
Of course, many huskies won’t be happy that you’re messing with their toes (and they’ll let you know about it). So take the time to focus on positive reinforcement to help your husky become more comfortable with toe touches and don’t ever punish your husky for not letting you wipe their toe beans!
Clean With Wipes
It’s only natural for a husky’s paws to get dirty at times, especially after it rains. Normal mud and dirt are messy enough, but stepping in poop or trash can transmit parasites and parvovirus to your husky through their paws. Paw cleaners and foot baths do the trick for really messy situations, but it can be time-consuming and difficult to use these for day-to-day grime. The AKC recommends the use of moist dog wipes to clean your dog’s paws in most circumstances and upgrading to a bath or wet rag when necessary.
Use Booties As Needed
It’s all well and good to take the above precautions, but sometimes they simply aren’t enough. They can take a bit of time for your husky to get used to, but booties can help your husky avoid the risk posed by extreme temperatures and rough environments. Not to mention how easy it is to remove and clean your dog’s booties rather than their paws.
And if your husky feels a little ridiculous, just remind them that booties are now considered standard for mushing huskies and even Iditarod racers!
While they may not share the natural ability to swim like retrievers or water dogs, huskies still have webbed paws.
A husky’s uniquely adapted paws are specialized to run through snow and ice with ease. Despite their convenience in cold weather, a husky’s webbed paws require extra attention, but this additional effort is well worth it for this playful and affectionate breed to be able to run (and even swim) with ease.