Dogs bred for working in water, such as Newfoundlands and Labrador retrievers, have webbed feet. Newfoundlands are the largest of the water working dogs, and they have the longest toes. Labrador retrievers have the second longest webbed toes and paws so large they rival those of breeds twice their size.
Water Working Dogs
Water working dogs are dogs specifically bred to swim in water or walk on ice and snow. Water working dogs have webbed feet, but not all of them have the long toes that Newfoundlands and Labrador retrievers have. Webbed feet and long toes help propel the dogs through water because they present a larger surface area when they spread them to swim. They can displace more water, enabling them to push forward and paddle with more power. This is why Newfoundlands and Labrador retrievers are such amazingly fast swimmers.
Newfoundlands Make Excellent Water Rescue Dogs
Not only are Newfoundlands impressive swimmers, they’re also heroic and loyal companions. Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have been saved from drowning by a Newfoundland, as have numerous swimmers and shipwrecked sailors. The Newfoundland’s webbed feet thrust him forward, and his large size ensures he can carry the weight of a wet, clothed human in the water. On average, Newfoundlands are between 100 and 150 pounds. Some Newfoundlands can be even larger, weighing over 200 pounds and measuring over 6 feet long.
Labrador Retrievers Have Big Paws
Labrador retrievers are large dogs, but they’re not the giants Newfoundlands are. On average, Labradors weigh between 50 and 90 pounds. Some Labradors have been known to weigh more than 100 pounds, but that's not a healthy weight for Labradors retrievers. Despite their relatively average size, Labradors have some of the canine world's largest paws, along with long, webbed toes. An individual Labrador retriever puppy's paws can help you determine his eventual adult size. The larger the puppy’s paws the larger the adult dog will be and the better swimmer he’ll be.
Caring for Large Paws and Webbed Feet
Although paws are built tough, they’re not indestructible. It’s essential to care for your dog’s paws -- especially those with large paws and webbed feet, as there is more surface area to damage. Be wary of letting the dog spend extended periods of time walking on ice or snow, and be watchful of hot surfaces in the summertime. If you notice your dog is limping or frequently licking his feet, investigate his paws' padding and check the webbing between his toes. Contact a veterinarian if you notice any lacerations, signs of allergies or other signs of damage.
- Newfoundland Club of America: Newfoundland Water Rescue
- National Open Water: NOWCA Newfoundland Dogs Appeal
- Animal Planet: TV Shows: Dogs 101: Video: Newfoundland
- Watercubs & Kivisilman: Working Show-Quality Newfoundlands: The Paws in Newfoundlands
- Animal Planet: TV Shows: Dogs 101: Video: Labrador Retrievers
- Canine Health Foundation: Keeping Dogs’ Paws Healthy
- Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images