Last Updated on November 11, 2023 by Linda Richard
Labrador retrievers have a lot of fascinating features but do labs have webbed feet and what is the amazing reason behind your lab’s unique paws? Is this some bizarre mutation or a leftover evolutionary trait that labs don’t need anymore? Do webbed feet have something to do with their “profession” as a retriever breed? And, crucially – do their feet require any extra care? So, let’s go over your lab’s special paws below.
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Do Labs Have Webbed Feet and Why?
The short answer here is Yes, Labrador retrievers have webbed paws. In fact, they have very pronounced webbing on their feet. It can be easily noticed if you fan their finger a bit. The reason most people – and even some lab owners – don’t realize this is that the webbing isn’t easy to see when the lab is on land and keeps its paws in a normal position.
As to why the evolutionary reason is simple – to help labs swim better. Labradors were initially bred as a “water retriever breed” and swimming was a big part of their job. Labradors needed to be fast swimmers, to carry the weight of the hunter’s prey as they swim, and to be safe while doing so. Their webbed paws helped them achieve all those things.
What Do Labrador Retriever Webbed Feet Look Like?
Your dog’s paddle paws can look a bit weird the first time you look at them but there really isn’t anything that strange about them. The “webbing” between your lab’s fingers is just a relatively thick layer of skin that goes almost to their nails. It’s hairless so it’s flesh-colored. It’s also thick enough to not get easily harmed when your dog is walking around.
Do The Webbed Labrador Feet Make Labs Good Swimmers?
Labradors’ webbed paws make them pretty good swimmers, especially compared to other dogs and even wolves. This unique paw webbing is also why dogs swim in their signature “Doggy style”. They swim by just paddling their paws beneath them without needing to use their whole body or shoulders in any specific way.
Compare that to how humans swim – all our swimming styles involve sweeping and much broader arm and leg movements. Many human swimming styles even include torso and back movements to optimize the swim speed.
Dogs don’t need to do any of that – they just paddle their webbed feet and still do great in the water.
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Are There Other Dogs With Similar Paws?
Indeed they do – all dogs have webbed feet. Even dogs that were never bred for water retrieving and even dogs that don’t like water have webbed feet. There are even breeds like the American Bulldog who are physically incapable of swimming because of their skewed center of gravity – yet, they too have webbed feet.
Why is that the case? Because this is an evolutionary trait that’s been passed on to dogs from their wolf and other wild canine ancestors. That’s right, wolves have webbed feet too a do hyenas, coyotes, and all other canines. Foxes even have retractable claws like cats as well as webbed feet.
Do Labs Have Webbed Feet That Are More Pronounced Than Other Breeds?
Yes, Labrador retriever webbed feet are much better for swimming than is the case with other dogs. This is is due to a combination of natural selection and selective breeding.
While the original ancestors of the Labrador breed already had webbed paws, human breeders purposefully bred these dogs for the webbing between their fingers. Whereas other breeds that didn’t need to swim at all weren’t bred for that. So, breeds like the bulldog have very small and unnoticeable webs that might as well not exist.
What Other Features Make Labs Great Swimmers?
Labrador retriever webbed feet are far from the only thing that makes these canines great swimmers. They also have a very good double coat with the second being great at repelling water. This is a feature some other dogs have too as do some cats and many water birds such as ducks and geese.
Read more about: Do Labradors Shed A Lot and How Can You Deal With That Challenge?
Additionally, labs have a thick and fluffy tail that they use as a rudder when they want to change direction while swimming. It’s worth noting that English Labradores have a thicker and more “otter-like” tail than their American counterparts. On the other hand, however, American labs tend to have longer necks which also helps them swim better and safer.
All in all, Labrador retrievers are one of the best swimmers in the canine world. Of course, they are still dogs so they are not “excellent” at swimming compared to amphibian mammals. Nevertheless, they are just as good at swimming as they need to be.
Do Lab’s Webbed Feet Require Some Extra Care On Your Part?
Webbed feet don’t really cause labs any unexpected health issues. This can feel counterintuitive as you’d expect these flappy pieces of skin to get scratched and damaged as the lab walks, runs, and plays on the ground. And accidental knocks or scratches are possible. However, they aren’t any more detrimental than a light scratch on any other part of the paw would be.
What’s more, webbed feet help labs walk better too. They do that by giving labs better footing on slippery surfaces such as ice.
Do Labs Have Webbed Feet – A Summary
They do and that’s indeed a very nice feature to have for a dog. That’s true even if you utilize your Labrador’s water retrieving capabilities. In fact, even if you don’t live near water and you can’t give our lab lots of swimming time – the webbed feet will still give your lab better balance and stability on land.
And, if you do have the opportunity – try to get your Labrador retriever trip to a nearby lake or another water basin at least from time to time. These dogs are not just proficient but also passionate swimmers. There are few – if any – better experiences you can gift your Labrador than a weekend swim every once in a while.
Additionally, if your dog is of age and has started experiencing some joint issues such Hip dysplasia or Elbow dysplasia, swimming is a phenomenal rehabilitation method. Besides, labs can be prone to obesity. This can make exercise both essential and difficult as it can harm their joints. With swimming, however, a lab can lose weight and keep its feet healthy at the same time.