Do Golden Retrievers Have Dewclaws? Your Dog’s Mysterious Body Part

Taking care of your dog includes more than just brushing their hair and clipping their nails. If you have found yourself gripping your dog’s legs and wondering what are those nails that don’t really look like nails, you are not alone.

So, you go online and start asking; what are they? Someone mentions that these are dewclaws, and that most dogs have them. Then you get into a whole discussion of whether they indeed are that.

So, let’s answer this once and for all;

Do golden retrievers have dewclaws? Yes, Golden retrievers have dewclaws on their front paws only and don’t have them on their back paws. Dewclaws are important for your dog as it gives them more grip while running, climbing a tree, hunting, or attacking. Dew Claws need to be trimmed regularly similar to their nails.

Dew Claws are actually quite fascinating in Golden Retrievers, and there is a lot more to be discussed here about them. So, let’s take a minute to learn about this part of your dog’s body that most people don’t even know is there!

What are Dew Claws?

Picture of dog dew claws to illustrate why do golden retrievers have dewclaws
Dog dew claws marked by the red circles

Dewclaws are these short claws or nails on the side of the dog’s feet. The dewclaws don’t touch the ground. For most dog breeds, dewclaws exist only on the front paws and it’s rare to find them on the back paws of dogs.

For golden retrievers, they have them only on the front paws and they don’t have dew claws on the rear paws. For other dogs, they can be found in all paws. In some rare cases, such as with the Great Pyrenees, they can have a double dewclaw – which is the result of an inherited trait called polydactyly.

For some reason, a lot of people think that dewclaws are dead appendages that should be removed. They believe that they are nonfunctional and therefore serve no purpose but be a target for accidents and pain for the dog.

This is not actually true, and dewclaws can be quite important. Let’s discuss why is that and why you should definitely think twice before doing anything to them.

Why Do Golden Retrievers Have Dew Claws?

Golden Retrievers, as all dog breeds, have dew claws as a result of evolution. Dewclaws evolved millions of years ago to help their ancestors climb trees. Today, Dewclaws are useful to dogs when running or walking to get a better grip and when attacking for a better grip on their prey.

The best theory we have now is that dewclaws were developed around 40-million years ago. They appeared on the miacis, which is a tree-climbing, cat-like animal that’s an early ancestor of our dogs.

For climbing a tree, you need a lot of fingers. This is why monkeys, chimps, and us, humans, have four fingers as well.

What evolution did to dogs

As time went on and dogs evolved, they turned into social hunters and stopped climbing trees. Today, dogs are a cursorial species, meaning they are swift runners which could make their living hunting smaller prey instead of gathering fruits from trees.

From an evolution standpoint, for animals like humans, chimps, and bears, we have evolved to stand tall on our feet only. This is a slow process but it gave us great balance and stability. What is the dewclaw in the dog has basically evolved to become our thumbs.

For other animals like dogs, what evolution did instead was to rock their legs forward so that their heel no longer touches the ground, which is why their dewclaw doesn’t touch the ground anymore.

This has given dogs greater speeds than us. However, having the dewclaws no longer touching the ground, and since dogs don’t use their paws to manipulate items the ways humans do, the dewclaws seem to have become useless over time.

By the way, dewclaws have nothing to do with your dog’s ability to swim. Animals like goldens and labradors have other things that make them great swimmers such as their coats and webbed feet. Find out what makes labs and goldens such great swimmers here.

Are Dewclaws Really useless on dogs?

No, dewclaws on your golden – or any dog – are not completely useless. Dogs still use dewclaws to help them get a ground when running, especially when they’re running on tough terrain, and to grip on their prey if they’re attacking another animal, especially if the animal stands taller than them.

Dewclaws are used by dogs when running for easy maneuvers. They are excellent for giving them extra grip when taking a tight turn while running, although this can sometimes be dangerous.

They are also very useful for dogs when attacking taller prey. When attacking a taller prey – such as a human – the first thing that the dog can get on the prey with considerable force is actually their dewclaws.

The dewclaws can exert stronger force than the paws because of their position. They can also exert considerable force to help bring the prey down.

Dogs also use the dewclaw to hold onto some items and objects, such as bones, toys, balls, etc. Think of them in this regard as a much less useful thumb for your dog, but still has some value.

Should Golden Retrievers Have Their Dewclaws Removed?

No, golden retrievers shouldn’t have their dewclaws removed. The dewclaws of your dog are still useful to them and removing them can strip the dog from these functions completely.

Removing your dog’s dewclaws is not a good idea for many reasons, but I like to keep it simple; don’t remove something from an animal’s body unless it’s absolutely necessary.

It’s the same main concept why I always say that you shouldn’t shave or cut your golden retriever’s coat short ever unless it’s the doctor’s orders.

Why do some people remove their dog’s dewclaws?

Many people prefer to remove their dog’s dewclaws when they’re puppies – often just two or three days old – to avoid the dewclaws getting ripped off or seriously injured later in the dog’s life if it got caught in something while they’re running.

While this is a valid point, and in some cases it does make some sense, but in general it’s not recommended to do so.

The dewclaw is attached to the dog with muscle and bone, and it’s not as easily torn as some people think. Most accidents actually happen to dogs whose dewclaws had the nails too long as the owners failed to trim down the nails regularly.

Why you shouldn’t remove your dog’s dewclaws

You shouldn’t remove your golden retriever’s dewclaws because not only does it deprive the dog of its useful functionality, it also puts them in much higher risk for arthritis in their carpal joints.

A recent study has shown that arthritis in the carpal joints happened exclusively in dogs whose dewclaws had been removed.

In Europe, it is not even allowed to remove the dog’s dewclaws.

Why are They called Dewclaws?

There are many theories as to why they are called dewclaws, but the most popular one is that when working dogs do their early morning fieldwork, the dew would drip off these claws as the dogs’ dewclaws are high enough to avoid the ground while still touching the grass & getting the dew from there.

Related Questions

Do Golden Retrievers have Front Dew Claws?

Yes, golden retrievers do have front dewclaws. The dewclaws on your golden retrievers’ front legs exist just to the side and behind their nails. Their dewclaws should be trimmed regularly to avoid injuries, but they should not be removed unless they have been hurt or seriously injured.

Do Golden Retrievers Have Rear Dew Claws?

No, Golden Retrievers don’t have rear dewclaws and only have dewclaws on their front legs. If your dog is missing their front dewclaws, it’s almost certainly because the breeder decided to remove them for the puppy when they’re young.

Do Goldendoodles have dewclaws?

Yes, Goldendoodles have dewclaws on their front paws but they don’t have dewclaws on their rear paws, similar to Golden retrievers. Dewclaws are still useful to your Goldendoodle as it helps them with maneuverability (such as when running) and grip on items and prey.


Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws?


Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting and being part of our vibrant community.

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