Paws are really important for animals – especially for dogs. They help protect them from the surfaces they stand on, help them balance, and navigate the world.
Dogs will have differently shaped paws depending on what they do. Dogs who were bred to do a lot of hunting or swimming will often have webbing between their toes. Meanwhile, dogs that have hare feet, which is when their two middle toes stick out longer than the rest, are often dogs that were bred for speed. Working dogs have a more rounded foot shape.1
Paws absorb shock from walking, running, and jumping. This relieves pressure on their bones and joints. They also help to regulate temperature. A dog’s arteries are close to the pads on its feet, and this can help them cool down or keep warm depending on the weather outside. For example, the blood flowing through the paw is warmed up as it travels back to the body, and the fat tissue in the paws keeps the paws from freezing. There are also sweat glands in the paws, which help them cool off.1
Moving to another canid, wolves have similar adaptations with their paws. They can keep their paws above freezing in cold temperatures, but they don’t have the same sweat glands that dogs do to cool off. However, wolves do have some webbing between their toes to help them navigate snow.2
Did you catch our blog on the Island Fox? Read it here!