The topic of dog dew claws represents a source of ongoing controversy and argument in the world of canine breeders, owners, and welfare advocates.
Some people believe that dewclaws should always be removed for the dog’s safety as well as for adherence to the breed standard for purebred dog breeds.
Other people believe the dewclaws should always be allowed to remain because it is not in the dog’s best interests to remove them (even if the breed standard disallows them).
Part of the controversy arises because not all dewclaws are created equally. In other words, there are two different kinds of dewclaws.
In this article, we tackle the tough topic of Poodle dewclaws. Where are they located? What are they for? Should they be left in place or removed?
Do Poodles Have Dew Claws?
Most Poodles do have dewclaws. The majority of standard Poodles typically have four toes and one dewclaw on the front paws only. Some Poodles do have dewclaws on all four paws, however. In most cases, miniature and toy Poodles also have dewclaws on the front paws only.
Watch a Dew Claw Removal on a Toy Poodle Puppy
This short video shows you what the procedure is like to remove the dewclaws on a toy Poodle puppy.
You will notice the breeder also elects to dock (cut off) the tail during the procedure. This is traditional in the sense that it complies with the appearance guidelines outlined in the Poodle official purebred dog breed standard.
However, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes tail docking and strongly recommends against it. In some states, the procedure is regulated or outlawed.
No states have imposed any regulations regarding canine dewclaw removal at the time of publication.
What Are Dew Claws?
As PetMD explains, dew claws are smaller toes located higher up on the dog’s paw – more at the level of the hock or ankle.
By the way, if you see “dewclaw” spelled “dewclaw,” this is the same part of the dog’s anatomy being referred to.
Not all dog breeds have dewclaws. Some dog breeds, such as Poodles, typically only have dewclaws on their front paws. Some breeds only have dewclaws on their back paws. Some dog breeds have one dewclaw on each paw.
And some dog breeds even have double dewclaws (the Great Pyrenees is a great example of a dog that has this rare trait).
The reason why there is no uniformity when it comes to the number of dewclaws a dog breed may have (or even if there are dewclaws present at all) boils down to the reason that dog was bred and which dog breeds were used to develop the breed.
What Are Poodle Dew Claws Used For?
As canine expert Stanley Coren, Ph.D., points out in Psychology Today, the reason dew claws even exist on modern domestic dogs is that way back in the evolutionary lineage, dogs descended from cats!
Or, rather, the modern dog can be traced back to an ancient, now-instinct, feline-like animal called miacis that loved to climb trees and had a fifth digit – not unlike the human thumb – that helped in grasping the tree while climbing it.
This digit survived in most dog breeds and is now called the dewclaw.
This essentially means that the dewclaw is like a dog thumb (or a big toe on the human foot). So why would anyone want to cut off a dog’s thumbs? We will talk about that divisive topic in the next section here.
But first, it helps to know how dogs use their thumbs and big toes.
As Walkerville Veterinary Clinic explains, dogs use their dew claws in three main ways.
While it is quite hard to see this from a bystander’s perspective, dogs actually use their dew claws while running, particularly at higher speeds.
When an athletic dog breeds like the Poodle really gets going and starts to run at higher speeds, the hock will bend to the point where the dewclaw touches the ground. This helps with stability as well as traction.
If you have ever watched a Poodle gripping a favorite toy or treat, you may have noticed how the paw curved around it slightly.
The Poodle uses the front dewclaw to hold and grip things, whether it be a toy, a treat, a prey, or something else.
Some dog breeds still retain the ability (or at least the inclination) to climb. Trees, fences, any structure with a squirrel in it….all are fair game to be climbed.
Dogs that climb will use their dew claws to grip in a way that is likely not dissimilar to how their ancient miacis ancestor used theirs!
What Are the Two Types of Dew Claws?
In order to understand why dewclaws are often removed on young Poodle puppies, it helps to first understand that there are two basic kinds of dewclaws.
The first type of dew claw is the kind that Poodles generally have – the bone-attached dewclaws.
In general, when a dewclaw is present on the front paws, it will most likely be the bone-attached type of dewclaw.
This type of dewclaw is still considered to be a functional digit. It has the same basic internal structure as the dog’s other four toes, with an exterior nail and an interior set of bones linking it back to the dog’s paw, hock, and leg bones.
There is a second kind of dewclaw that is less common and typically only shows up in dogs that have rear dewclaws (or double rear dewclaws).
This type of dewclaw no longer has the internal structure that connects it back to the bones of the paw, hock, and leg bones.
Instead, this type of dewclaw is simply a flap of skin attached to the skin of the leg.
Why Are Poodle Dew Claws Sometimes Removed?
Dewclaw removal is done for a variety of reasons. As we mentioned here earlier, sometimes breeders remove the dewclaws to conform to an appearance standard.
More commonly today, breeders or owners choose to remove dewclaws out of a fear that they will cause the dog to become injured. This is more likely to happen if the dewclaw is the second type that is only attached to the leg by a skin flap.
These dewclaws are widely considered less functional and useful to the dog and could conceivably get caught on something and torn off, which might cause pain and infection.
Because dewclaw removal is not yet illegal in the United States, it often boils down to personal choice whether the procedure is done, which is a big responsibility for the human being making that choice.
Since Poodles that have dewclaws generally have the first type of dewclaw – the type that is a viable digit connected by bone to the paw itself – the general consensus among many people now is to leave the dewclaw in place.
Should Poodle Dew Claws Be Removed?
This is the toughest and most controversial aspect of the commercial dog breeding and showing the world to deal with today.
It is important to remember that any type of invasive (incision-based) medical procedure always comes with some amount of risk.
No procedure should ever be done without sterile conditions and anesthesia as well as post-procedure pain medication.
And if there is no medical need (such as an injury or infection) that requires the dewclaws to be removed, increasingly many veterinarians are advocating that they are allowed to remain on the dog’s paws.
If a Poodle Does Not Have Dew Claws Will They Be Okay?
Sometimes you may get your Poodle puppy from a breeder and that breeder will have already chosen to remove the dewclaws in the first few days of life (usually when the tail is docked).
After reading through this article you may wonder if your Poodle will be at a disadvantage because they are growing up without dewclaws.
Your Poodle will be just fine without their dew claws (and truthfully won’t realize they are missing).
Dogs can adapt to life without dewclaws quite well since most dogs do not have job descriptions that require them to run flat out at top speed for long distances or climb trees.
Understanding the evolutionary history and present-day purpose of canine dewclaws can really help you gain a better understanding of what it is like to stand in your Poodle’s paws. It can also help you make the decision about whether to leave or remove dewclaws.