In the early 17th century, the Japanese began selectively breeding the Akita to refine its hunting ability. Native to Akita and Odate – a mountainous region of Japan where snow is plentiful – the Akita was bred for strength, intelligence, and fearlessness. But is it true that this muscular dog has webbed toes, and if so, why? The Akita is not a water dog like many other dogs with webbed toes!
Do Akitas Have Webbed Fet, Paws? Yes! Although the Akita is not necessarily a “water breed” the webbing between their toes helps this big dog safely navigate rocky, snowy terrain native to Akita and Odate. The webbing helps by dispersing the dog’s weight more evenly.
In the following paragraphs, we will find out more about Akita’s webbed toes and find out the answer to a few other questions including why do Akitas have webbed toes? What the webbing between the Akitas toes is. Whether or not this mountain-breed can swim!
Do Akitas Have Webbed Fet, Paws?
Akitas do have webbed toes! Although some people say that the Akita has webbed feet, this is inaccurate as only the space between the digits of the toes joins with the thin connective tissue. If you gently separate your Akita’s toes, you will see that the skin between each digit joins the next one – similar to frog feet but not quite as pronounced.
Keep in mind, though, that this tissue between the toes can be sensitive. Do not try to press it – imagine someone pinching the “web” of skin between your thumb and pointer finger. As an aside – not all dogs appreciate having their feet handled, especially when you separate toes and try to get a better look at the anatomy of the paw. If your Akita does not like having their paws handled, please do not risk being bitten and making your dog feel uncomfortable!
If your Akita is still young, it is a good idea to begin handling their paws regularly to desensitize them to having their paws handled. This type of early training lets you check for paw injuries, but it also makes nail trims much less stressful for you, your dog, and your vet!
Why Do Akitas Have Webbed Paws?
Many dog breeds have webbing between their toes, but why do Akitas have webbed feet, paws? Most dogs with webbed feet use their webbed toes to help with swimming. Imagine swimming with flippers on – those flippers allow a dog to propel themselves through the water much more efficiently.
Some examples of dogs that use their paw webbing for swimming like this include –
- Chesapeake Bay retriever
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Brussels Griffons
- German shorthaired pointer / German wirehaired pointer
- Labrador Retriever
- Irish water spaniels
- Portuguese water dog
- American water spaniel
But the Akita was not bred for swimming, so why did they develop toe webbing? It all comes down to the snowy, icy territory where breeders originally trained the Akita to be an expert huntsman. Snow and ice in mountainous terrain can be problematic – particularly when chasing prey like bears! So, webbing between the Akita’s toes acts similarly to snowshoes on human feet.
The thin “webs” between the Akita’s toes create more surface area of the paw. This increased surface area of the paws allows for better dispersal of the Akitas weight when walking across sometimes dangerous territory.
Weight dispersal like this is necessary for the Akita for safety because of their size (the Akita grows to between twenty-four inches and twenty-eight inches tall at the shoulder and can weigh between seventy pounds and one-hundred-and-thirty pounds). Weight dispersal is also necessary for the Akita because it allows them to continue to track their prey without risking injury on uneven ground.
There are quite a few dogs with webbed toes classified as “swimming dog breeds;” however, very few dog breeds with webbed feet use them solely for navigating rough terrain. One of the only breeds we can think of besides the Akita is the Red-Bone Coon Hound.
Some Bernese Mountain Dogs do have webbed feet, but the American Kennel Club does consider webbed feet as a fault in the breed, so most breeders do not selectively breed their dogs for this trait.
What Is The Webbing Between Akita’s Toes?
The webbing between the Akita’s toes is connective tissue and, it creates a “web” between the digits. This web gives the dog a larger surface area when they plant their feet. Although the webbing between your Akita’s toes is thin and often looks like little more than the skin, there are blood vessels and nerves in this tissue that can make pinching, cutting, or injury painful and/or bloody.
Interestingly, all land animals have webbed feet in-utero – yes, even you! As embryos continue to grow, this webbing gradually disappears so that at birth, it is non-existent. Some animals, however, have “extra” webbing between the toes, so even when the animal is born, they appear to have webbed feet.
Many people see this extra webbing as a genetic mutation, but over the years, breeders have selectively bred their dogs to include this mutation to make them more efficient hunters.
By breeding dogs with extra toe webbing to other dogs with this trait, breeders eventually ensure that all dogs in their breeding stock carry this mutation. Once all breeding stock exhibit this mutation, it is guaranteed that all future puppies will also have webbed feet.
Webbed feet can be a beneficial trait – for example, in the Akita or Labrador Retriever, but there is some disagreement regarding other breeds. For example, the Bernese Mountain Dog we mentioned above.
The working Bernese Mountain Dog trekking through rough territory may benefit from webbed feet, but the American Kennel Club regulates the breed standard. This governance means dogs that do not fit the AKC breed standard do not receive formal recognition as “good specimens.”
Most breeders want to avoid this label as it limits their ability to profit off puppy sales, but for true lovers of the breed, it should all come down to whether or not a trait is beneficial to a dog.
There is no doubt that the working Bernese Mountain Dog would benefit from webbed feet when navigating rough terrain.
Are Akitas Good Swimmers?
Earlier, we talked about how most dogs with webbed feet are “water dogs” and use the webbing between their toes like flippers to propel themselves through the water. We also mentioned that the Akita is somewhat unique in that it uses its webbing more like snowshoes.
But does the mountain-climbing Akita ever use their paw webbing to propel themselves through water? Yes! Akitas can swim, and many love to swim and use the webbing between their toes in the same way a Labrador Retriever might.
You can help your Akita to become a swimmer by introducing them to water as early as possible. Be sure to use a life vest (no, not all dogs will instinctively swim!) and be patient with your dog as they come to trust swimming. Acclimating your dog to water is a slow but crucial process for your dog’s happiness and safety, no matter what breed they are.
The Akita’s particularly thick coat holds quite a lot of water, so getting wet can be troublesome for everyone involved! The thick fur coat may feel great to the touch, but once it gets wet, it can stay wet for over a day. It should come as no surprise that having a wet coat is unpleasant for your Akita and you because it creates a musty “wet dog” odor and can make your pup feel uncomfortable.
*Tip – If your Akita does like to swim, use a blow dryer on the lowest setting and blow warm air to dry their coat. Brush their fur coat as you dry it and work on small sections of fur at a time. Dry your dog’s undercoat first before you concentrate on drying the topcoat.
Once an Akita gets used to being in the water, they have even been known to seek it out or beg for pool time! Most Akitas, however, are driven by a primal hunting instinct that pulls them to the land rather than the water, so you are more likely to have a snow lover on your hands than a swimmer with this fluffy pup!