Last Updated on February 4, 2022 by Marco C.
Dog dew claws are one of those things that look like an evolutionary leftover. So, let’s go over the dew claws on labs – 6 important facts.
Do they serve a function? Should you remove them? How should you maintain them? Are dewclaws on labs different from other dogs? We’ll cover everything below.
1. What Are The Dew Claws On Labs?
Dew claws on labs are essentially the dogs’ thumbs. They are located just above the paw, similar to how our own thumbs sit lower on the hand and closer to the wrist. Naturally, dew claws are not as useful as human thumbs but it’s a mistake to think that they are useless. We’ll cover all the uses of dew claws below as well as some of their potential drawbacks.
2. Are The Dew Claws On Labs Different From Golden Retriever Dew Claws?
Not really. While Golden Retrievers are often mistakenly viewed as “Long-haired Labrador Retrievers”, they do share a largely similar physique with their lab cousins. The dew claws are one such similarity as both breeds have pretty standard dew claws on their front paws.
Learn more about: Do Golden Retrievers Shed More Than Labs Or Vice Versa?
3. Do Labs Have Rear Dew Claws?
Most labs won’t have dew claws on their rear feet but some will. This is largely a matter of chance but it’s also not that big of a deal. Rear dew claws on labs don’t serve as much of a function as the front dew claws. This would make them a bigger candidate for removal but it’s also not all that necessary as dew claws don’t really affect dogs that much. Let’s go over the pros and cons of removing and keeping dew claws below.
4. Why Remove Dew Claws On Labs?
Many people advocate for the removal of dew claws on most breeds. This is partly based on the (wrong) idea that dew claws are useless and partly on the few potential drawbacks they do have. Here are some of the arguments given for the removal of dew claws:
- Working dogs can sometimes accidentally tear their dew claws. This is more likely to happen on the rear legs as dew claws there aren’t as sturdy. A tear of the claw can be understandably painful and can lead to other complications such as infections, ligament/muscle damage, and more.
- Dew claws can grow too long. The main four claws on dogs’ paws tend to remain shorter as they constantly get “filed” while the dog is running around. Dew claws rarely touch the ground, however, so they need to be clipped or filed manually. If not, they can overgrow, and become both longer and sharper.
- Ingrown dew claws can also happen. This is understandably problematic which is why some people opt to just remove the dew claw and not have to deal with such issues.
5. Why Keep The Dew Claws On Labs Intact?
There are quite a few more reasons to keep your dog’s dew claws intact than there are to remove them. As we said, dew claws are not just an evolutionary leftover and they do serve their purpose. Admittedly, some breeds find more uses for their claws than others. The Norwegian Lundehounds, for example, really need their dew claws for climbing Norway’s steep cliffs. Dew claws on labs aren’t that needed but they still have their uses. Here are some of the more significant ones:
- Useful for running. Dew claws on labs won’t always touch the ground but they do just that when the dog is making sharp turns while running. In those cases, the dew claw offers the crucial cohesion to keep the dog stable on the ground.
- Great for climbing out of water. Labrador Retrievers are water retrieving dogs, after all. So, if you still use your dog for hunting or you like going for a swim in the nearby lake, the dew claw is great for helping the dog climb out of the water.
- They help to hold objects. Of course, dew claws aren’t nearly as useful as thumbs but they still help dogs hold on to sticks or toys. This does improve the dog’s quality of life as it’s a big part of their playtime.
- Additionally, the removal of the dew claws isn’t 100% safe either. While leaving them on can lead to ingrown or overgrown claws, removing them can lead to muscle and joint issues as the claws are connected to your dog’s legs’ tendons.
6. How To Care For Dew Claws On Labs?
If you decide not to remove your dog’s dew claws, as most dog owners do, the thing to do is to maintain their length and health. Many dog owners don’t clip their labs’ claws before they can get filed down naturally with enough outdoor playtime.
However, dew claws rarely hit the ground so you might want to clip them from time to time. Besides, if you don’t give your dog enough outdoor time, chances are that its other four claws would also need to be clipped or trimmed. This will keep your dog’s nails short and dull, it will prevent accidental scratches, ingrown or overgrown claws, and even joint issues that often come from the change of your dog’s walk due to overgrown claws. It will also allow your dog to keep using its dew claws for their intended purposes too such as holding stuff, running more smoothly, etc.
In Conclusion – Dew Claws On Labs and What Do You Need To Do About Them?
Dew claws may seem useless at first glance but they are anything but that. Great for running, climbing, and playing, they are quite underrated. They do need maintenance, however, a bit more so than your dog’s other claws. Clipping or trimming them every once in a while will help keep them short and healthy.
The alternative would be cutting them. Some people opt for that after one or two accidental scratches but even then the better choice is to just trim and dull the claw instead. Removing it entirely may lead to some health problems and it also deprives the dog of the functionality of the claw.