Why do Labs have webbed feet?
Labrador Retrievers have a membrane between each toe to connect them, giving them webbed paws.
If you look carefully, all dogs have this! But it’s more prominent on some breeds than others.
Labrador webbed paws are just one of the things that makes them such great swimmers, a role that was vital in their early purpose.
Let’s find out more about webbed Labrador feet.
Do Labradors Have Webbed Paws?
Webbed feet are common in birds, like ducks, geese, and swans. But, you might be surprised to learn that this trait is also common in dogs!
Labradors are one of the many breeds that have quite prominent webbed toes. But, you might not notice them unless you’re looking for them.
To see the membrane that connects your Labrador’s toes together, you may need to gently separate his toes.
All Labrador Retrievers have webbed paws to an extent, although some may be more noticeable than others.
What Do Labrador Webbed Paws Look Like?
Labrador toes are connected together with a very thin membrane.
You may not be able to see if whilst your Lab is relaxed. But, you might be able to see it when your dog swims, or by gently separating his toes from one another.
This membrane will be higher up the toes on some dogs compared to others.
Some may have quite large webbing between their toes. But, others may only have very short membranes between their digits.
This membrane will usually have no fur on it, but may have some short fur at the very tip.
Its coloring may be a little darker than the rest of your dog’s fur.
Why Do Labs Have Webbed Feet?
The question about why Labradors have webbed feet is a little harder to answer. But, it’s possible that our answer lies in the history and original purpose of the breed.
Labrador ancestors can be traced back to the island of Newfoundland, Canada. You can read more about their history here.
These dogs were first used alongside working fishermen.
They would swim to retrieve anything that the fishermen caught. So, Labrador ancestors had to be confident swimmers.
Over the years, Labrador owners may have specifically chosen to breed dogs with prominent webbing between their toes, as an attribute that made them good or confident swimmers.
It would also explain why so many Labs love the water now!
Are All Labs Good Swimmers?
A lot of Labs are known to love swimming and playing in water. In fact, one study showed that water was a more appealing stimuli to Labradors than humans or other dogs!
But, just because dogs have webbed feet doesn’t automatically make them good, or confident swimmers.
Some Labradors might not like water at all!
It will usually depend more on their early experiences. If you take your puppy to swim a lot when they are younger, after they are fully vaccinated, they will likely enjoy it more as an adult.
If you want your dog to enjoy swimming, make sure they have plenty of positive experiences in water, and don’t force them to swim if they don’t want to!
What Other Features Make Labs Good Swimmers?
Webbed toes are just one of the features that make Labs so well suited to the water.
They also have a thick double layered coat that repels water. This coat also serves to keep them warm in the coldest of swimming temperatures!
Their webbed toes help them swim and maintain their balance over muddy, slippery terrains.
And they have a wide otter-tail, which they can use like a powerful rudder!
This feature is a little more prominent in the English Lab than its American counterpart.
Do Other Dog Breeds Have Webbed Feet?
It isn’t just Labradors that have webbing between their toes! In fact, every dog breed has it to an extent.
Although, for many breeds, it won’t be very prominent. Particularly in breeds that don’t have a working background.
You’re more likely to notice it in retrieving and working breeds, such as the Lab, Golden Retriever, Newfoundland, Otterhound, and more.
Webbed feet don’t cause any health problems. In fact, they can give your dog great footing on slippery surfaces, and help them swim.
Other Fun Labrador Articles
Webbed feet is a pretty unusual topic! If you enjoyed reading about Labrador webbed toes, you’ll probably enjoy these other articles.
- Why Do Labradors Shed So Much?
- Labrador Love: Discover 15 Things We Love About Labradors
- When Do Labradors Mature? A Guide To Your Growing Lab
- Are Labradors Protective? Will Your Lab Leap To Your Defence?
- What Vegetables Are Good For Labradors To Eat And Snack On?
Why Do Labs Have Webbed Feet? A Summary
Labrador webbed feet can help their balance and their confidence in the water.
Their toes are connected by a small membrane, that you may only be able to see if you separate your Lab’s paws.
Make sure you’re very gentle if you try to look at the webbing between your Lab’s toes!
Some dogs will have more prominent webbing than others.
Have you noticed webbed toes on your Labrador?
References and Resources
- Tavares, S. (et al), ‘Labrador Retrievers are more Attracted to Water than to Social Stimuli: A Pilot Study’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2015)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website