My German Shepherd Has Dewclaws? Should I Have Them Removed?

Dewclaws are like thumbs in dogs. Most dogs have them on the front paws, but some also have them at the back. Dewclaws are often found high up the leg and usually don’t reach the ground. They are found more often on the inner side of dogs’ legs, but they can be present on the outer side as well.Some dogs even have double dewclaws on one leg.

Double Dewclaws. Photo by beuluhpup/Instagram

Dog dewclaws are often attached by tissue and bone. In some dogs, dewclaws help grip bones or to gain grip and stability when they run. In some dog breeds like the Basenji and the Catahoula Leopard dog, they use their dewclaws to climb trees.

Breed Standards

Some dog breeds are required to have dewclaws in order to be eligible to participate in dog shows. Some of these breeds are the Briard, the Great Pyrenees, and the Beauceron. If participating in dog shows, dewclaws in German Shepherds are allowed to be left on the forelegs, but they may also be removed. Dewclaws in the hind legs should be removed.

Most German Shepherd breeders remove the dewclaws  — or have them removed – when the pup are still very young. This means your German Shepherd’s may have been removed already before you even got him or her. However, some breeders leave them intact and let the future owners to decide whether they should have it removed or not.

Read: Taking Care Of Your German Shepherd’s Teeth

Reasons Why They Are Removed

Prevent the Nails from Embedding

Dewclaws do not reach the ground. That means dewclaw nails can grow very long and not wear down. When the dewclaw nails grow very long, they could curve and get embedded into its pads – causing injury. When dewclaws are not removed, it is highly advised to trim the nails regularly to keep them at a safe length.

Breed Standards

For show German Shepherds, dewclaws in the front legs are accepted. But the ones in the hind legs must be removed.

Avoid Potential Injuries

It is believed that dewclaws are a barely attached to the foot. This means they could be weak and could easily latch onto something – causing it get ripped off the foot or encounter other injuries. Since German Shepherds are working dog breeds, their dewclaws are often removed to prevent potential injuries.

Basic Anatomy of Dogs: German Shepherd Body Parts


Reasons Why Some Owners Do Not Have Them Removed

Some owners prefer to leave the dewclaws of their dogs alone, but for a good reason.

They are Kept to Help During Agility or Work

Some recommend to keep the dewclaws if you plan to do agility training with your German Shepherd. They help support lower legs when doing tight turns.

Some dogs also use these claws to help them hold on to things like bones, toys, and other things. They also help some dogs have that extra “latch force” while climbing a tree.

 It’s Illegal to Have Them Removed

In some countries like Australia, dewclaw removal is illegal and considered cruel. It is believed that dogs suffer unnecessary pain by having their dewclaws removed.

How are Dewclaws Removed

Most German Shepherd breeders will often have the dewclaws of the puppies removed before they go home with their owners. Dewclaw removal is done when the pup is only a few days old – between three and five days old – without anesthesia.This means that your German Shepherd’s dewclaws have probably been removed before you even got to see him and thought of getting him. Having them removed later than five days can become more complicated. However, the next chance to have it done is the time the dog gets spayed or neutered.

Dewclaw removal involves the removal of that digit – including the bone, skin, and nail. It is done using surgical scissors and lasts up to 30 minutes.

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