Shamelessly co-opting Emily’s picture

This is somewhat ironic, because Emily commented that she is always in favor of removing dewclaws, but I am going to TOTALLY steal her gorgeous photo to illustrate what I am talking about in terms of dogs really using dewclaws for something.

This is her post. Which is gorgeous dog photo porn. Gorgeous. I mean it. Click the link. Just do it. I promise, it’ll be good.

See how Red Bull is actually flexing that “thumb” to hold on to the post? It’s on, ummm… his left. Your right. His right paw is relatively relaxed, so you can see the nails clearly on all toes, including the dewclaw. His left paw is flexing strongly into the wood, and SO IS THE DEWCLAW.

You can also see it when you compare that one to the pic below it. When he’s standing, the dewclaw’s nail is clearly visible pointing toward the front of his foot. In the holding-on picture, the nail is invisble–because it’s flexed and holding on.

Do you forgive me, Emily?

By the way, to answer some other comments, yes there’s very definitely a difference between front dewclaws. Some are attached at a very prominent angle and some sit very close to the leg. That’s the kind I always had on the Danes–they didn’t stick out much at all. The close-set ones would at least theoretically be safer from injury.

And yes, the flyball dogs all wear neoprene wrist guards that velcro around the leg. They use them to avoid skidding injuries but such a thing could also be very useful for a working dog going through heavy cover.

And I’m still really unconvinced by the “they could get injured” argument. Looking at the Danes over the years, by far the most common injuries were to tails (but Danes are never docked); a second would be lacerations over hips or ribcages. I did have lots of cut pads, some torn-out nails, and a broken toe. Zero dewclaw injuries. I ran my dogs through very heavy stuff and up and down mountains. So by that logic we should dock Danes’ tails, cut out loose skin on the hip, remove nails, etc., because better to deliberately cause the wound in a controlled environment than risk any possibility of it outside.

Gather round, and speak to me of dewclaws

With Bronte due sometime soon and since I have been thinking a great deal about Cardigan feet and bones, I suppose it’s only natural that I’ve spent a bit of time considering the dewclaw, and specifically whether it should stay or it should go. (Just to be clear, this is my own internal conversation — Bronte’s litter is Kate’s, not mine, and I trust her completely to make any decisions with those puppies. It’s for me as I think about eventual breeding that puts puppies in my own living room.)

I’ve never removed any from my Dane puppies. Lucy (my first bitch) came to me with no dews but everyone else has had them. I have personally witnessed, hundreds of times and on a daily basis, dogs using them with intent and great finesse. They use them to grasp and manipulate things (when holding bones between the front paws, for example) and they groom eyes and ears with them. I always felt a little bad for Lucy because she had to rub her face on the side of her leg but the others would carefully and very adeptly find exactly the itch or the bit of gook in their eyes and get it with the dewclaw.

Then there’s the fact dogs use their dewclaws when running, especially when cornering. I’ve seen this one too–when they corner you’ll see them extend and dig in the claw. It’s a joint they DO control and it has a surprising amount of movement and strength, considering that we usually just see it sitting there.

I’ve also seen my share of toe injuries but never a dewclaw injury to the front ones. The front dews can generally be ground back even further than the toes, so none of my dogs with dewclaws has ever had more than a short thick straight nail; there is nothing to catch or tear. The back ones strike me as more dangerous, though Bastoche, That Cursed Dog has both of his back dews and I was shocked at how complete the anatomy is. There’s no connecting bone (I understand that in some of the working dogs there is a bone) but there’s a little arterial pulse that you can feel quite clearly and the claw is well developed.

And, anyway, I am always leery of the argument that anything should be removed because of possible injury – so to prevent a remotely possible wound we should create a very certain one? It strikes me as very illogical. It’s also the same reasoning that has people cropping and docking, practices that I personally despise and refuse to take part in.

In fact, that reminds me of a herding/working board I was once reading where an OES owner was talking about how stupid people who didn’t dock tails were, and told a story of an OES who got his tail into the fire on the hearth and nearly set the house on fire. The responders on the thread chimed in; by the end of the thread you’d think OES tails were the force behind Communism in Eastern Europe.  The VERY NEXT THREAD was about bearded collies and what great dogs they were. On the same board, the next day someone was talking about how essential it was to crop Dane ears; on the same page was a thread about livestock guard dogs standing up to wolves and bears on a regular basis. Does no one get the irony? Beardies do the same things, have the same very long hair, and are even closer to the ground than OES are–but every single one gets to keep his tail. Danes spend most of their lives on couches and soft beds, while Anatolian/Akbash, Maremma, Pyr, and the other Big White Dogs spend their entire lives outside in incredibly rough terrain, actively driving off and even fighting with other climax predators, and sometimes don’t have human contact for days or weeks at a time. They have the same ear shape. So why is it so imperative that the Dane lose hers?

If tails are a clear and present danger, they are a danger to ALL dogs. If ears are a clear and present danger, they are a danger to ALL dogs. If cropping is beneficial, it should be part of the expectations for every dog with dropped ears. If docking is protective, every dog should be docked.  Apropos of dewclaws, the LGDs and Briards and so on not only keep their front dews but both back ones. If dewclaws are clearly not a major issue for livestock dogs, who are the hardest working and least supervised dogs in the world, why are they somehow ticking timebombs on the wrists of Cardigans? None of it has ever made any sense to me when I examine the arguments logically.

You’re probably getting by now the fact that I don’t like the idea of removing them. I agree that it makes the leg look prettier but I am not into procedures for the sake of looks unless there’s absolutely no detriment to the animal. When I started with Clue I figured I was just going to have to deal with removing them in Cardi puppies, figured it was part of being a good Cardi breeder, but I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the thought.

So… I know that removal of dewclaws is in the Cardi standard. I know that in the archives of showcardi-L there are at least some people who have finished Cardis with dewclaws. Does anyone have any stories or advice that can push me either way? I’d especially like to hear if anyone has seen a genuine prejudice against them in the ring.