Monday, June 27, 2011

What's up with the extra toes?

Great Pyrenees are famous for their double dew claws.  Most dogs have a dewclaw; what seems to an "extra" toe on their limbs that is more proximal to the body.  Some owners have these removed often during spay/neuter.  The theory is that they are vestigial appendages and can cause damage if they are left on the dog.  The dog may snag or tear them during their normal play or work.

For Great Pyrenees, these appendages are a breed standard.  They are often a breed disqualifier in show circuits if they do not have them.  Functionally, the extra "two toes" are there to offer more leverage and grip while they are navigating their terrain performing their livestock duties.  As non-livestock friends, we keep them because they are a breed trait and often owners find no drawback to retaining them.

Some dewclaws (and double dewclaws) are more "floppy" than others.  Some dogs with these appendages can use them quite effectively to add extra grip to their step.  Other dogs, they seem more non-functional and seem to hang.  Either way, they are not "dead" appendages, and have an adequate amount of blood supply and tendons nonetheless.

Personally, I feel that the argument for removal is tantamount to that of dewclawing a cat.  They are natural parts of the dog's body, and can serve a function in the case of these working dogs.  I have read several articles, and spoken with many experienced Pyr owners, who claim they have never had a problem allowing their dogs to retain their dewclaws.  As an avid Pyr owner and lover, I adore nothing more than seeing double dews on a Pyr mix...a sure piece of proof they may be of this distinguished bloodline of amazing dogs.

I have two Pyrenees myself.  My Ana has only one slight remnant of double dew on one of her back paws.  My Cahota has typical double dews on both back legs, though they are more the "hanging" type of double dews.  In my experience with the breed, I have met several Pyrs whose dews seem highly functional and not "hanging".

Some things I've read suggest if your Pyr is absent of double dews, that they are not a pure bred Pyr.  Experience has taught me this may not be true, as we have witnessed dogs of clear Pyr bloodlines have puppies without.  All the same, we have found dogs that have "an aunt Pyr in the wood pile" who clearly do not look exclusively Pyrenees, yet have retained that double dew.

Either way, anything inherently Pyrenees is a beautiful thing, because Pyrenees are beautiful and are a gift from nature and breeding.  In my opinion, leave your double dews as they are.  They are a special little reminder of how amazing Great Pyrenees are!

Written by Shannon Murphy


  1. Glad to hear this. I thought my 2 pyr. puppies were deformed or something LOL.

  2. We adopted our Pyr mix from a rescue. They required that she be spayed before they released her to us (not a prob) and we were really disappointed to learn that the vet also removed her dew claws at the same time. Not to mention, he seems to have done a sloppy job and the wounds became infected to boot. Poor girl had a rough puppyhood. We treat her like the princess she is now. I feel a bit relieved to read this story as the next Pyr we have will keep what he/she is born with outside of spay/neuter.


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