Golden Retrievers Have Webbed Feet! (Explained)

If you’ve ever looked at your Golden Retriever’s paws up close, you may have seen something odd. They appear to have webbed toes, and you may be asking yourself: Do Golden Retrievers really have webbed feet?

Golden Retrievers do in fact have webbed feet. The webbing is much more subtle than that of a duck, but the flap of skin between each of their toes helps make the dog a better swimmer. Webbed feet is a trait that was purposely bred into the Golden Retriever when the breed was being created.

Golden Retrievers are a popular dog breed, and they have many fantastic qualities. One of the lesser-known features is their webbed feet. Keep reading to learn the ways a Golden retriever uses their webbed feet to help themselves and others.

A Golden Retriever using it's webbed feet to swim and retrieve a stick.

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Why Do Golden Retrievers Have Webbed Feet?
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Do Golden Retrievers Have Webbed Feet?

It’s no accident that Golden Retrievers have this webbing between there toes as they were bred specifically to be great swimmers. One of the original breeds used to create the Golden retriever in the mid-1800s was the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. With the word “Water” in its name, you know this dog must have been a great swimmer, and it’s a fact that the Tweed Water Spaniel also had webbed feet.

So the webbing is a trait that was passed down to the Golden Retriever from one of its original ancestors. Having webbed feet helps to make the Golden Retriever one, if not the best, water dog around. It’s also likely that having webbed toes is one of the reasons Golden’s love to swim so much. They’re good at it, so they really enjoy doing it!

Golden’s use their webbed paws to propel themselves faster through the water and to more easily stay afloat. The extra bit of skin between their toes makes a big difference in the amount of water they can move with their paws. It’s like if you wore a set of diving fins on your feet when you went swimming. You’d move through the water faster, while at the same time using less effort.

While Golden retrievers aren’t the only breed with webbed feet, the webbing is one extra feature that makes this breed perfect for the outdoors, as well as many other situations.

Here are a couple of the benefits to Golden’s having webbed feet:

Retrieving in Water

Golden Retrievers are a hunting breed at heart. They enjoy helping their owners hunt for game, and the breed excels at retrieving the downed game for their owner. So if you’re a hunter, you can take your Golden Retriever out in the field with you and train them to retrieve downed game on either land or in the water.

Also, Golden Retrievers can help with water rescues. Goldens are one of a few breeds that are well-known for being good search and rescue dogs. They can swim, cross streams or rivers and even save a struggling swimmer from drowning. The skills of swimming and retrieving can come in handy when saving someone’s life.

Navigating Rough Terrain

Even on land, your Golden Retriever can utilize their webbed feet. If you’re walking on uneven surfaces or wet terrain, the webbing can help your dog maintain traction. Their webbed feet can make a huge difference, and will keep your dog from slipping on a steep hill.

In these situations, the webbing between their toe can help get a better grip on rocky or muddy surfaces. This is especially the case in snowy or wet conditions.

Combining A Golden Retriever’s Webbed Feet With Other Skills

While we’ve established that Golden Retrievers have webbed feet and how this physical feature can benefit them in the water, swimming isn’t the only skill a Golden possesses.

Whether you want a family pet, a hunting companion or a dog to help find missing people, a Golden Retriever is a good breed to consider. Here are a couple of other skills Golden Retrievers have and how their webbed feet can be used in combination to supercharge their abilities:

Soft Mouth For Gathering Prey

While your dog may not kill prey, they can retrieve it and bring it back to you. While that’s a cool skill, it wouldn’t be worth much if by the time they brought you the animal it was all chewed up. Another physical trait or skill Golden Retrievers are blessed with is a “soft mouth”. Goldens have the ability to control their bite force and as such they can learn to pick up small animals and carry them without damaging the downed animal.

Watch these Golden Retrievers try the “Egg Challenge” with their soft mouths.

When hunting waterfowl, naturally you will be near a body of water. This means if you down a bird there’s a good chance it will come down in the water. This situation will give your Golden retriever an opportunity to combine two of their traits–they’re webbed feet for retrieving and a soft mouth to gently carry the prey back to shore.

Sense of Smell

Golden Retrievers are also know for their excellent sense of smell. Not all dogs are equal when it comes to their sense of smell and a Golden has a good strong sniffer.

This is one of the reasons that Golden Retrievers are often used by the police to search for contraband and as search and rescue dogs. Goldens can be trained to use their noses to sniff out most anything.

While there are certainly other dog breeds that have a great sense of smell, not many can be compared to the Golden Retriever when it comes to sniffing and searching in the great outdoors. A Golden can put both their noses and their webbed feet to work when searching for lost hikers or missing persons in rugged terrain.

Golden Retrievers Make A Great Family Pet

Of course, you can’t ignore the fact that Golden Retrievers make great family pets. They’re friendly, intelligent, and they’re one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. Golden Retrievers, however, need a lot of exercise and stimulation to keep them active.

If you need an excuse to take more walks or go to the beach, a Golden Retriever might be just what you need to get yourself more active. You can enjoy the benefits of a family pet while increasing your activity to help meet your dog’s need for physical activity.

Golden Retrievers are great for families with or without kids, and they retain their puppy spirit well into adulthood. If you’re a swimmer, there’s nothing more fun than taking a dip with your favorite webbed toed Golden Retriever!

Keeping Your Golden Retriever Safe In The Water

Just because your Golden Retriever has webbed feet doesn’t mean you can just put them in the water. Both in and around water, you need to keep your dog safe. If your dog has never been around water, you can’t expect them to be a great swimmer right from the start and if you have a new puppy, you’ll want to check out our article: Can Golden Retriever Puppies Swim? (And Is It Safe?)

When you take your dog to a pool or lake, take these safety precautions to make sure you and your dog have a good time.

  • Consider how fast the water is moving and how big the area is. For example, even the best swimmers may not be confident about swimming in the ocean. Golden Retrievers are not always the best judge of their abilities when it comes to water, especially at first, so you need to make sure that the area they’re swimming in, is in fact safe.
Watch these Golden’s swim for the first time. I’ve never seen so many Golden Retriever puppies in one place!

Discover how to train your Golden Retriever by playing games: 21 games to play with your Golden that will make them smarter and better behaved!

  • Start slowly if your Golden is new to the water. If your dog has never been in the water before, you can start with a swimming pool. That way, your dog can get a feel for the water and swim slowly. Make sure to show them where the steps are, so they know how to get out safely. You can also look for a calm lake if you don’t have access to a pool.
  • You should also give your Golden Retriever plenty of opportunities to take breaks. If your dog is active for too long, they can wear out. That can compromise their energy levels and then affect their safety in the water. Make your dog rest on land for a while before they go back in to swim more. Always keep an eye on your dog and get them out of the water when they start to look tired.
  • A life jacket is always a good idea. While Golden Retrievers with their webbed paws are excellent swimmers they can run into trouble in the water due to strong currents or just getting overly tired. It’s always a good idea to put your dog in a life jacket like this one (Amazon) for added safety and protection.

Final Thoughts

Webbed feet can help Golden Retrievers in the water as well as on land, and the webbing between their toes helps them do their jobs. From helping you retrieve prey to being a loyal family pet, a Golden Retriever’s webbed feet are an advantageous feature of this popular breed.

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Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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