Where big, beautiful dogs are concerned, Great Danes stand head and shoulders above the rest. These massive, powerful, yet surprisingly gentle giants make exceptional pets as long as you have enough space. It pays to get your next pup from an approved breeder if you’re looking for a dog who’s true to type. Yet, with all the various breed standards, it can be hard to keep them all straight. First looks can be deceiving. Small details like the space between a dog’s toes can be incredibly telling. I did a deep dive into doggy genetics and breeding to learn more about the Great Danes and discovered something intriguing about their feet.
Do Great Danes have webbed feet? According to AKC breed standards, purebred Great Danes do not have webbed feet. Any dog can gain traits from cross-breeding. However, purebred Great Dane Dogs shouldn’t have webs.
Great Dane Breed Standards
Every dog has a specific set of ‘most desirable’ traits. The American Kennel Club chooses these breed standards based on the history, use, and ideal presentation of the particular sub-group of dogs. These standards are agreed upon by kennel clubs, and they’re always under review. As dog breeds evolve, the specific physical appearance may change.
The pedigreed pooches are part of an incredibly long and storied tradition of dog breeders. Over the last several thousand years, humans have tinkered with the genetics of dogs to help them achieve their highest potential, performing different tasks. Some are made to hunt small pest animals, while others need to swim or climb trees.
Great Danes were originally bred in Germany to help with hunting wild boars. Their size, strength, and sweet temperament as companions all aided the dogs in doing their job. A gentle nature might seem contradictory for a hunting dog who seeks out large, violent prey. However, it helps to balance out the killer instinct with kindness at home.
Great Danes Need Special Consideration
Raising a huge dog like a Great Dane means thinking about things smaller dog owners don’t need to worry about. For example, a Dane’s size means that eating from a bowl on the floor is very uncomfortable. I suggest picking up a Platinum Pets Double Diner Feeder from Amazon to raise their dishes up in a more comfortable position. Your dog’s neck will thank you. Click here for colors, prices, and availability.
Why Have Breed Standards
While modern dogs don’t necessarily need to perform the jobs they once did as a part of our lives, the history, physical, and mental specifics were sought after and carefully included in the very DNA of these domesticated animals.
Breeding dogs to have common groups of physical appearance and attitude traits serves a modern function as well. One person may need a dog who is high energy and wants to play all day. Meanwhile, another person prefers a more laid back pet who will hang out and relax with them.
Maintaining the breed standards helps assure that people are able to bring home animals that suit their lifestyles. Whatever draws an individual to a particular group of dogs, be it looks, size, or attitude (hopefully all three), is achievable through breeding.
When you bring home a new puppy, the adult they will become is never a guarantee. However, breeding dogs to maintain certain traits helps assure that it’s much more likely that the dog will be one the person truly wants to share their life with.
Standards for Great Dane Feet
According to the American Kennel Club, Great Dane feet have a very specific set of desirable traits. The AKC is the governing body that determines which dog breeds are recognized in the USA and which are considered hybrids. They determine and record the current standards for each kind of canine from head to toe.
“The feet should be round and compact with well-arched toes, neither toeing in, toeing out, nor rolling to the inside or outside. The nails should be short, strong, and as dark as possible, except that they may be lighter in Harlequins, Mantles, and Merles. Dewclaws may or may not be removed.”
– From AKC.org breed standards on Great Danes
Take good care of your precious pup’s paws, whether they have webs or not. If you worry about damage to the pads or have cold, damp weather, I suggest picking up an outstanding set of dog shoes to protect their feet. I prefer QUMY Dog Boots. They’re secure and adjustable, which is fantastic for my dog. Plus, they have excellent traction. You can get a set by clicking here.
Why Some Great Danes Have Webbed Feet
A Great Dane with webbed feet isn’t up to the breed standard, but what does that mean? First, you can’t show a web-footed Great Dane at a dog show and expect to win. Second, it may mean that somewhere back in their breeding line, the dog was crossbred with a swimming or digging dog.
It’s also possible that the webbing between the toes is a natural evolution. However, for a professional breeder, having this feature would make the dog undesirable breed stock. A puppy with web-toes would not be useful to continue a pedigree line. However, it doesn’t otherwise affect the dog.
Webbed toes are more useful when it comes to treading water or doing the doggy paddle. Hence a webfooted Great Dane would be a good companion if you spend a lot of time in the pool or at a lake. There are several breeds that have webbed toes as a standard. They’re typically dogs who were meant to be in the water more often.
Dogs With Webbed Toes
Numerous breeds have webbing to help them swim or perform other jobs where a fuller surface area to the feet is helpful. Here are a few of the incredible web-footed dogs that your Great Dane might be related to if they share this unique feature.
- American Water Spaniel- This athletic breed was developed in Wisconson in the 1900s. They’re native to the northern Midwest lake area.
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever- Chessies are large sporting dogs who are from the Retriever, Gundog, and Sporting breed groups. You’ll find them hunting ducks alongside their human companions often as not.
- Dachshund- These adorable little ‘weenie dogs’ and their webbed feet originally hunted badgers. The extra webbing helped them to dig better and faster. Though it’s hard to imagine a tiny dachshund breeding with the much larger Great Danes, it’s certainly possible.
- German Wirehaired Pointer- The GSPs are waterfowl hunters by nature. Unlike the digging dachshunds, they use those webs for swimming.
- Otterhound- Though otter hunting has been outlawed in England, that was what these British dogs were initially bred to do. They’re the rarest dog on this list with only around six hundred worldwide.
- Portuguese Water Dog- Unlike most water-loving web-footed dog breeds, the Portuguese Water Dog was not bred for hunting. They worked on the water, passing messages from one ship to the next.
- Newfoundland- Like Great Danes, Newfoundlands are also known for their large size. These dogs excel at water rescue. Between their webbed toes and the double thick coat that helps them stay warm, they make ideal lifeguards.
- Weimaraner- Arguably the most likely crossbreed for a Great Dane that has webbed toes is this ‘gray ghost,’ dog. Weimaraners were also bred in Germany for hunting, though their smaller size means they didn’t hunt boars as the GD dogs could.
Protecting Great Danes Feet
With or without webbing between the toes, Great Danes’ feet can be sensitive. Cracked and dry paw pads will make your Dane miserable. I like to keep the Natural Dog Company Pawdicure Bundle in my cabinet for my pup’s feet. You can find a Pawdicure pack for your pet by clicking here.
Do Webbed Toes Help Great Danes
Great Danes with webbed toes may be from the north. As humans moved, settled and traded in different areas, their dogs went with them. Like other animals, and people, dogs adapt over time, and those who live in the equatorial zones develop darker pigment to protect the skin from the sun. Similarly, we and our pets lose pigment over a few hundred or thousand generations when we head north.
It’s possible that the webs on a non-AKC-standard Great Danes’ feet come from having ancestors who spent a lot of time in Scandanavia, or t could be a throwback to the cold German winters.
In addition to webs being useful for digging and swimming, a wide webbed toe would also help navigate the snow better. This is especially true if you weigh a lot. Great Danes can reach a massive 240lbs.
Any dog can share a trait with another breed. Typically it means there was crossbreeding at some point in the lineage. That means for ‘purists’ who adhere to the breed standards, a dog like the Great Dane should never have webbed toes.
The European Kennel Club doesn’t recognize toe webbing as a standard Great Dane feature either. However, plenty of pet owners have GD dogs that have them. Unless they want to show them at official events and breed them for pedigrees, it doesn’t make any difference.
Regardless of how you view it, the webbing serves a useful purpose. Whether a dog uses the webbing to swim, dig or walk in the snow, this unusual doggy feature can help a great deal.