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German Shepherd feet come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and even have their own set of paw problems.
But should you be worried if your German Shepherd’s paws look a bit odd or unusual compared to other dogs?
Let’s talk briefly about what the standard German Shepherd foot looks like and how you can keep your dog’s paws in tip-top shape.
The German Shepherd Feet: Breed Standards
The SV Standards
The German Shepherd SV (the Verein Fur Deutsche Schauferhunde) is the ruling breed club in the country of the GSD’s origin. The SV standards state that the German Shepherd paws are rounded, short, well-closed and arched.
The pads are very hard, but not chapped or too rough. The nails are dark, short, and strong. Dewclaws may appear sometimes on the hind legs and are removed during the first few days after birth.
The US Standards
The American Kennel Club standards describe feet that are short, compact, with toes well arched and firm, thick pads. Nails are short and dark.
Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed, but are normally left on and accepted. The dewclaws, if any, should be removed from the hind legs.
The UK Kennel Club
In the UK, The Kennel Club standards prefer rounded toes well-closed and arched. Pads well-cushioned and durable. With short nails, strong and dark in color. Dewclaws are removed from the hindlegs.
The Standards for German Shepherd Dog’s feet are all similar…
So, what do all these standards mean, really?
The 3 Shapes of German Shepherd Paws: Cat feet, Hare feet, and Webbed feet
Standards are what breeders should aim for in appearance. But the way a German Shepherd’s feet or paws look shouldn’t be the deciding factoring for breeding when the German Shepherd temperament and personality, along with health, is more important to the breed and owners.
Despite the compact standard, there are actually other ways a German Shepherd’s paws can look.
German Shepherd paws come in three basic shapes:
Each shape is suited to particular tasks and ground. Let’s take a look at each of the foot types a German Shepherd could have.
1. Cat feet
The cat-shaped foot is small and has a compact, round form. It is built for balance, endurance, and strength. With this type of functionality in mind, it’s natural to infer that the cat foot is commonly found in many large working dog breeds, such as the German Shepherd Dog
2. Hare feet
While the cat-shaped foot is compact, a hare-footed dog has two elongated central toes that project out from the rest of the paw. This style of foot is intended for speed and quick movement, especially out of a relaxing position. The elongated toes help propel the body forward with quickness and agility, much like the feet of hares or rabbits. Dog breeds with hare feet include the Whippet, Greyhound, and Borzoi.
3. Webbed feet
Webbed footed dogs are those built for swimming, but they are similarily proficient on land and especially boggy or slippery surfaces. Many hunting breeds have webbed feet, for example, the Weimaraner, Portuguese Water Dog, and Labrador Retriever which are all hunting breeds.
Now, let’s talk about the reality of all the different feet types and what this means to you and your German Shepherd.
Your German Shepherd’s Feet: The Reality
Many German Shepherd owner’s simply aren’t interested so much in breed standards unless they’re showing their dogs for competition.
For the average owner, we just want our GSD’s paws to stay healthy and strong so that our companions are able to move about in comfort and enjoy our walks together.
Let’s take a look at some pictures of German Shepherd Dog’s paws and feet.
All About The German Shepherd Paw Pads
A German Shepherd’s paw pads are like your favorite pair of sneakers-they provide many valuable purposes!
These pads provide them with extra cushioning to protect their bones and joints from the shock of running. The pads also provide insulation from weather extremes and aid in walking on rough surfaces (like concrete, rocky ground, or asphalt).
The Purpose of the Paw
The paw pad is made of keratin, collagen, and fatty tissues to serve a number of useful functions.
The paw pads act as shock absorbers for the bones and joints that make up the German Shepherd’s feet and legs, much like your comfortable running shoes. And the pad supports a GSD with balance, decreasing speed, and quick stopping.
Here we see the underside of the paw and the dark paw pad.
The paw pads also provide insulation for a dog’s feet and are especially efficient when it is remarkably cold outside.
The thick, coarse tissues that form the paw pads do not freeze as quickly or easily as normal skin, so they are able to withstand freezing temperatures for longer periods (but only when necessary). Your German Shepherd’s footpads are full of blood vessels that keep their feet warm in the cold and help them cool off during the summer.
The paws are covered in thick, tough skin that feels like sandpaper when rubbed against the grain of their skin. For working breeds, like the German Shepherd Dog, or dogs that spend much of their time outdoors or on rough ground, the paw pads become calloused and coarse.
This texture gives a German Shepherd’s paw pads added traction and stability. As the dog develops, their paw pads also become highly perceptive and flexible to the ground beneath their feet, which is why you rarely see a German Shepherd lose their footing and slip.
Long Feet Versus Short Feet: Which is Right for the German Shepherd Dog?
Some owners state their German Shepherd has long feet and long toes, for example, the hare foot type we discussed earlier. While others refer to their GSD’s paws as short and dense.
Both of these foot types are completely fine for companion animals as long as they are healthy and support your dog’s gait. Furthermore, each type of foot style gives the German Shepherd an advantage.
The cat foot will provide stability and strength, while the hare-shaped foot will give your dog an extra boost for running-especially when they’re sprinting from a resting position.
Take a look at these different feet types.
The breed information tells us that shorter, more compact feet are the Standard for German Shepherd Dogs, as this foot type provides the dog with better stability and a strong foundation for athletic abilities. However, long toes and feet don’t stop your dog from becoming active and enjoying all types of sports.
The majority of owners simply don’t care what the feet look like if their companions are healthy and happy.
German Shepherd Foot Care
Don’t neglect your dog’s feet! Even the smallest cut or tiniest bit of debris can create a large problem for your dog.
Here are a few tips for daily foot care and maintenance that are easy and prevent major foot problems from developing.
1. A Puppy Pedicure
If your dog’s nails make a clicking sound when they walk on the ground, they need a trim. The nails shouldn’t touch the surface when they walk. Trim their nail regularly.
2. Coat Hair Trim
Some German Shepherds have longer coats and foot hair that sticks out between the toes. This fur should be trimmed back so that it’s even with the paw pads. Shorter fur is less likely to collect stickers and rocks.
3. Check Between the Toes
Check between the toes for any debris, such as rocks, caked-on mud or twigs. Any debris stuck in the toe area can cause discomfort or skin irritation. Remove the debris with a warm cloth and soapy water.
Your dog’s footpads may crack or bleed if they get too dry. Don’t use your own moisturizer as this isn’t made with the right ingredients for dogs. Try a special multi-vitamin paw cream and massage the cream in until it’s absorbed. Reapply, especially after walking in the snow, on the blacktop, or rocky ground.
5. First Aid Treatment
Have supplies on hand for any minor first aid treatment. Wounds, cuts, and abrasions smaller than half an inch are generally treated at home with a mild antibacterial cleanser and a wrap.
For anything bigger or inflamed, or wounds that won’t stop bleeding, seek vet treatment immediately. It’s not unusual for your dog to step on sharp objects that might require home or vet treatment. Avoid any places where visible trash is on the ground, as glass might become impacted in your dog’s feet.
Conclusion: Your German Shepherd’s Feet and Their Health
German Shepherd feet come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. Breed standard or not, it’s said that a German Shepherd is only as good as their feet. And taking care of their paws is a routine and easy task that you can do daily.
Common causes of foot sensitivity include:
running too often on hard or hot surfaces,
unclipped fur between the toe pads which snags irritating objects,
and overgrown, painful nails.
You can prevent paw sensitivity by taking simple precautions. Routinely inspect your dog’s paws to determine if the fur has grown too long and to alert you to burs, impacted sharp objects, cuts, sores, or splinters.
German Shepherds can be so stoic that they don’t let on to any pain or show discomfort. That means YOU are responsible for their feet and you must stay alert to problems before they need serious medical attention.
Catherine Krasavin owns Shepherd Sense, a dog website aimed at German Shepherd owners and lovers. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, with Honors, and has been training dogs for over a decade. Catherine’s currently attending continuing education courses to keep up with the latest in animal science, as well as earning her diploma in dog training. She owns a plush coat German Shepherd who was awarded Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme Gold Award - the highest level of achievement.
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