Do Border Collies Have Dew Claws? The Fascinating Use Of Dew Claws

Ever wonder what that little flapping pouch of skin with a nail at the inside of your Border Collies paw is? Chances are, you’re looking at your pups dew claws.

In this post, we’ll be going over the question do Border Collies have dew claws (spoiler alert, yes they do), we’ll be going over what they are and their fascinating use, as well as whether or not they should be removed and more. So stay tuned!

Do Border Collies Have Dew Claws

Do Border Collies Have Dew Claws?

To answer the question right out of the bat, yes Border Collie have dew claws.

Border Collies like a lot of other dogs, have dew claws on the inside of all of their paws. The dew claw is a digit that can be found on the inner side of your pups paws that most likely doesn’t touch the ground and that shares evolutionary homology with the human thumb.

It’s a lot less useful in dogs than what the thumb is for us humans though, which is why it is often surgically removed.

Depending on the breed, you’ll almost always find dew paws in the front legs and only occasionally on the hind legs.

Some dogs have multiple dew claws, like the Beauceron and the Icelandic sheepdog and are thus called “double dew clawed”.

Border Collies however, have single dew claws on the front and sometimes on their hind legs, although that may vary between individual dogs. 

What’s The Purpose Of A Dew Claw?

Many people think that the dew claws are vestigial appendages, and that they no longer serve any purposes. But that’s not really the case.

While it may be true that they’re not very useful right now, since circumstances have changed and most domestic dogs won’t be needing them…

There is a reason they’re still around.

Some fascinating examples of the purpose and use of dew claws in dogs (that most people probably don’t know about) is navigating snowy terrains and getting out of the frozen lakes.

Yes. Really.

Since all dogs originate from wolves, and wolves live mostly in freezing cold weathers, it was not uncommon for them to accidentally fall into frozen lakes while trying to hunt for fish of while exploring the wilderness, for example.

Finding themselves in this predicament of having to escape the clutches of the icy waters, they would have to start to claw their way out.

But because of how their legs are, having less flexible shoulder joints meant that at some point they’d have to stretch their legs out and to the sides.

That’s where the dew claws would come in.

do border collies have dew claws 2
Border Collie dew claw. The one that’s sticking out like a…sore…thumb.

Once stretched out, the dew claws would be able to attach themselves to the snow like ice picks, to provide for a better grasp (the rest of the digits had already done their job) allowing the wolf to gain better traction and eventually get out of the ice by being able to push its body on top. 

Wolves that still had intact dew claws were able to get themselves out of trouble, as opposed to those who didn’t which made it in this case, more advantageous.

This might be the reason that the claw evolved to be what we now see in dogs. They’re smaller, more protected from the ground by being higher up and also have less bone and more cartilage to be more flexible, which allows for that very awkward clawing angle.

Kind of makes sense for the Icelandic sheepdogs to be double dew clawed now, right?

Here’s an old video that shows what we mean: 

Apart from being able to serve as hooks to get themselves out of water in case they’re trapped, dew claws might have additional benefits to working breeds like hunting dogs, competition dogs, field trial dogs or herding dogs like the Border Collie.

The additional benefit to having dew claws for these breeds, is that it might help them get traction and better grip if they’re making abrupt changes in directions while running, hunting or competing, which might give them an edge there too.

Should My Border Collies Dew Claws Be Removed?

Surgical removal of the dewclaws, is not something as invasive as say, spaying or neutering your Border Collie, and thus it’s not something that should be on your mind that much.

The surgery is fairly straightforward, may be done with local anesthetics and is now considered mainly aesthetic or preventive and not crucially necessary. So it’s up to you, really, whether or not to get your pups dew claws removed.

Since the hind dew claws have almost no real connection and are very loosely attached on the legs of your dog (mostly cartilage and no bone) it’s a lot easier for them to get damaged or torn off. As a result, they do get removed more often.

The front dew claws, on the other hand, have a bit more bone in them, are more useful and are generally removed less. If your pup is of age and still has them, the removal might hurt a bit which is why it’ll require some anesthetics.

Bottom line is: If you’re afraid that your Border Collie might get its dew claws harmed throughout its life, then you might want to consider removing them just in case they eventually becomes a problem. Otherwise, there is no real need to get the claws removed.

If you think your pup will be very active or if you want it to hunt, compete or work, then it might actually be beneficial for them to have those claws ready to go, and thus, not removing them would be a better option.

It’s important that you as a Border Collie dog owner are aware of the dew claws, what they are and how they work, and to always check on them for injuries or infections, but more importantly to know that getting them hurt or removed is normal and of no big risk to your pup.

How Late Is Too Late To Remove Dew Claws?

A lot of Border Collie puppy breeders, have their newborn pups get the dew claws removed extremely early on, usually in their first five days of life. Similar in time to when they get their tails docked.

With that said, generally speaking it’s never too late to get the dew claws removed, as the procedure for getting them removed is extremely simple and non intrusive.

Many owners who’ve not removed their Border Collies dew claws in the early days or that get a puppy that hasn’t already had the claws removed, usually have the option to do so, when/if they decide to spay or neuter their pup. 

Of course, there is somewhat of a time constraint, since at that age your dog will be a bit older and might not resist licking or nibbling on their sutures, so a collar or bitterant might have to be used to prevent your dog from further harming itself.

So you do technically want to get them removed the earliest you can for that reason, but as we’ve mentioned in this post, it’s not a life or death situation.

In any case, you’d want to mention it and talk through your options with a licensed veterinarian.

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  1. My border collie uses her front dew claws to clean gunkyeye drainage off and pick stuff out of her teeth and pick inside her ears!!! I’ve witnessed it!

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