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Should I Remove The Dewclaws From My German Shepherd?

spurs to my german shepherd

A few years ago my dog ​​fractured one of his dewclaws and the vet recommended that I remove the dewclaws from my German Shepherd. Don’t worry, you were back walking in no time! So that got me thinking about the whole dewclaw debate …

Should I remove the dewclaws from my German Shepherd? All dog breeds have front dewclaws. They are there for a purpose and should not be removed unless there is a good reason to do so. However, opinion is divided and some breeders remove front dewclaws from puppies in their early days to prevent possible injury or to improve appearance in future show dogs.

What are dog dewclaws?

Dog dewclaws are simply toenails (claws) located on the inside top of its front legs. All dog breeds have dewclaws on their front legs and they are a normal part of a dog’s anatomy.

They are firmly attached to the dog’s leg bone via two main tendons and have nerves, blood supply, and muscles, just like your dog’s other toes!

To put it another way, try to think of a dog’s front dewclaws as the thumbs of humans, although in most breeds they are not as mobile or functional as our thumbs.

They do not make contact with the ground when the dog is standing and the name comes from the spur’s so-called tendency to deflect dew from the tops of blades of grass.

What is the purpose of a dog’s spur?

The front spurs of a dog have several functions, including grip and stability when running:

When dogs run, their front legs often bend to the point where their dewclaws make contact with the ground . At high speeds (especially when turning) or on slippery surfaces, these spurs provide additional traction and help stabilize the carpal (wrist) joint.

The dog’s front spurs can also help them when climbing, for example, to help them get out of the water if they have fallen through broken ice, or when climbing over rough terrain, or to help them catch the bark when climbing trees in some hunting breeds.

Check out this interesting and surprising short video showing how retriever dogs use their claws to get safely out of icy waters. The video was put together to show how useful dewclaws are to dogs and removing them can sometimes put them at unnecessary risk:

Spurs can also be used to better grip objects, for example food, or when chewing a bone or toy or playing with a ball.

Some dogs also like to use them for grooming, especially around the head, or for scratching.

Why did humans start to remove the dewclaws? It became standard practice to display certain breeds at dog shows with their claws removed.

People believed that it gave their dog’s paw a smoother look, thereby enhancing its appearance for show. It was then that many people began to think that it was common or normal practice to remove dewclaws.

So let’s look at some of the arguments for and against removing your German Shepherd’s frontal dewclaws:

German Shepherd breeders who have the dewclaws removed from their puppies in the first few days will say that it helps prevent injury in case the gaff is torn or damaged.

This can happen while the dog is working, hunting, or playing. The simple act of running across rough terrain or jumping over a fence can cause a painful injury if the claw catches on something. In the home environment, claws can easily catch on carpets or get caught in furniture.

Although extremely rare, removal of the spur can help prevent disease, such as a cancerous tumor. I’m not so sure about this argument, but that’s just my part.

Since the dewclaws do not touch the ground when the dog is simply walking, they do not naturally wear out like the dog’s other claws. Therefore, they can overgrow when owners forget to cut them.

Do German Shepherds have hind claws?

Some dogs may also have dewclaws on their hind legs and this includes the German Shepherd, although this is rare. My German Shepherd has no butts. If you think of hind dewclaws as the big toes of the canine world, however, these tend to be attached only by a flap of skin and tissue in contrast to being attached to the bone in front dewclaws.

To make matters more interesting, some breeds even have double dewclaws.

Most hind dewclaws are merely genetic abnormalities and serve no useful purpose, however in some dog breeds they are there to serve a purpose. These breeds include:

  • Pyrenean Mountain Dog
  • Beauceron
  • Briard
  • Lundehund noruego
  • Anatolian Shepherd
  • Catalan sheepdog
  • Saint Bernard
  • Australian pastor
  • Icelandic Sheepdog
  • Spanish Mastiff
  • Cao Fila de Sao Miguel
  • Weather in Siberia Oriental

You may have noticed that these are all BIG or GIANT dog breeds . They are also all WORKING DOGS , for example sheep or cattle herders and are used to care for livestock. They use the rear spur for stability and grip on rough terrain, mountainous regions, or in snowy and icy conditions.

Hind dewclaws or double dewclaws are relatively unusual compared to the general dog population.

It is common for vets to remove double or rear dewclaws to prevent injury, especially if they are loose or hanging off the leg. Again, this is open to debate as the number of rear or double dewclaw injuries is quite low.

Show dogs and dewclaws

Should I remove the dewclaws from my German Shepherd for a show? If you want to show your German Shepherd their front dewclaws can be left or removed, however, removal of dewclaws on the hind legs is preferable but also NOT required:

The front dewclaws can be removed but are usually left intact. Rear dewclaw removal is preferable but not mandatory.

Some breeds, for example the Briard, Icelandic Sheepdog, and Beauceron, must have their hind dewclaws intact for display purposes. Therefore, it is best to check your dog’s breed specific standard if you plan to put them in the show ring.

In the UK, there is no requirement in any of the Kennel Club Breed Standards that dewclaws must be removed.

When should dewclaws be removed?

If a breeder decides to remove the dewclaws from the puppies, the procedure should be done 1 to 3 days after birth. Sometimes the breeder can remove them immediately after birth if they have the experience and confidence to do so, but only if the puppy is doing well.

Some dog owners decide to remove them when their dog is spayed or neutered under anesthesia. Removing the dewclaws from your German Shepherd is an end-of-day amputation and unless they are removed during the first few days of birth, a general anesthetic will always be necessary.

How are German Shepherd dewclaws removed?

If a breeder decides to remove the dewclaws from puppies in their first days of life, they do not need general anesthesia. A local anesthetic is administered, or the puppy can be sedated. In other words, the puppy will feel calm but will not be asleep during the extraction.

The procedure is done without any apparent negative effects on the puppies. Pain is minimal, as the bones are still soft and the muscle tissue is undeveloped. However, some breeders prefer to have the vet perform the extraction, which is usually done on the first visit. Recovery is fast.

In adult dogs, the surgery is fairly straightforward. Once the German Shepherd has been anesthetized, the vet will disinfect the skin around the nail to prevent any infection. Surgical instruments are used to cut the skin, tissue, and muscle to remove the entire toe. The wound is sutured with dissolvable stitches and bandaged.

Antibiotics and pain relievers are usually prescribed. Surgery can be done with a local anesthetic if the toe is not well connected to the leg as in back spurs.

Is it illegal to remove the dewclaws?

In some countries, it is illegal to remove the dewclaws for cosmetic reasons. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, the removal of dewclaws has to be for a legitimate medical reason.

They consider that a surgical alteration of the natural state of a dog is only acceptable if it is necessary for the health and well-being of the dog. In practice, veterinarians will remove a dog’s dewclaws if they hang loosely from the paw, and therefore there is a risk of injury.

According to the UK Kennel Club, removing a dog’s dewclaws is not currently illegal in the UK, however, here is what they say:

The Kennel Club’s position is that it does not support cosmetic removal of dewclaws. However, it recognizes that in certain individual circumstances removal of dewclaws is in the best interest of a dog’s welfare.

What do you do when a dog’s spur breaks?

If you see your German Shepherd biting or chewing on a dewclaw, it may have been torn, especially if it hasn’t been trimmed. However, if your dog’s spur breaks, he will be in excruciating pain and will need veterinary treatment. Spur injuries can vary.

The nail can be partially or completely torn or split and there is a risk that the spur will become infected.

Although injuries to the spur can occur, they are quite rare. However, I think I must be one of the unlucky ones as my German Shepherd has damaged his claws twice.

The first time was when I was a puppy. As he jumped to the kitchen door, his nail broke. I know she was in considerable pain as she would not let me or the vet get close to her. She had to be sedated while the vet cut off her hook as much as possible.

Later in life, he broke his tick while playing with a soccer ball. He screamed in pain every time the ball hit his leg. The two spurs were later surgically removed to prevent any further injury. Maybe he should have taken them off when he was a puppy? Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Depending on the damage done and your opinion of the removal, the vet can either trim the nail (as in the case of my German Shepherd as a puppy) or remove the damaged dewclaw completely. In the case of my adult dog, the vet recommended removal due to the fracture.

For maintenance, the dewclaws are no different from your dog’s other nails, however there is a difference between trimming the nail and removing the dewclaws, especially since we have already learned that the front dewclaws are attached to the leg bone.

Extremely active dogs can wear down their nails, including dewclaws, so nail trimming is not necessary, but for most dogs, especially less active dogs, regular trimming is needed.

How much does it cost to remove a spur from a dog?

The average cost of a veterinarian to remove a puppy’s dewclaws can range from $ 35- $ 45 depending on the area where you live.

Most vets will also charge a fee for the initial exam, however most will also offer a discount depending on the number of puppies undergoing the procedure.

The cost of an adult removal will also vary depending on numerous factors, including:

  • the number of dewclaws that are removed
  • if the dog has double dewclaws
  • the complexity of the operation
  • how much muscle and bone is attached to the claw
  • the age of the dog
  • whether it can be done while the dog is undergoing other surgery

Since the most expensive part of the procedure is general anesthesia, it is often combined with other surgeries, for example during spaying or neutering.


You and I now know everything there is to know about dog dewclaws. I must confess that for being a German Shepherd, I didn’t know much about them at first and have learned along the way. I guess this is because I had to do it, having had first-hand experiences!

Opinions on tick removal will always be divided and this can vary among veterinarians, reputable breeders, and dog lovers. Some swear that dogs need them, while others believe that they are useless and best removed. I think if you have had a first-hand participation like I have, then this is going to affect your opinion.

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I love the animals. Reading and writing about them, their customs, their peculiarities or the attention they require is exciting, and I also believe that it makes us better people. I share articles that solve the questions that dog caregivers face on a daily basis.

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