Can Dogs Feel Their Paws?

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Introduction

Your pup has some of the most amazing senses of smell and hearing. They use these senses for everything from sniffing out last night's dinner to hearing an intruder trying to come into your house. There is one sense we really don't talk much about with dogs, though. 

Have you ever thought about if your dog has the sense of touch? Meaning, can they sense things through the pads on their feet? It's an interesting question, and it's not as easy to answer as you might think.

Signs Your Dog Might be Too Cold

We’re not 100% sure how dogs act if they’re touching items with their feet. They don’t have fingers or toes like humans. So, we have to do a little guessing. We assume if dogs are feeling hot or cold on their feet, they’ll lift their paws up one at a time, but that’s really the only thing we know. We do know if a dog is cold, you might see them get shaky, and they might howl, or whine if they are outside and too cold to try and alert you that they need to go inside.

If your dog is outside on a hot summer’s day, and their little paws are feeling a tad warm, they might lift them up too. Some other signs you might notice if they are feeling too hot include panting (a lot of panting), trying to find shade, drinking a lot of water, and even trying to cool off in a kiddie pool or body of water, if there’s one available.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog is too cold:
  • Growling
  • Whining
  • Shaking
  • Howling
  • Whimpering
  • Paw raised

Other Signs

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog is too hot:
  • Panting
  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Cooling off in a kiddie pool or other body of water
  • Seeking out shade

The History of Dogs' Paws

There isn’t very much information about the history of dogs and them feeling their feet. However, dogs have descended from wolves, and it’s no secret that many wolves live in the cold and survive just fine. However, modern-day domesticated dogs come from many breeds and have many different traits. Some traits lend themselves to heat and some lend themselves more to the cold. So, it depends on your dog’s breed how well they’ll do in certain climates. 

Some concerned dog owners even go so far as to buy their dogs shoes. Yes, they make shoes for dogs, and you can get them at pet stores or even on Amazon. They make everything from snow booties to little chucks for your pup. Though, some scientists believe that dogs really don’t need shoes or even the cute little sweaters some dogs owners put on their dogs.

The Science Behind Dogs' Paws

There was some breakthrough research done by Japanese scientists on dogs’ paws. Dr. Hiroyoshi Ninomiya who’s from the Gakuen University of Tokyo wanted to test an old theory about dog’s paws. According to caninejournal.com, the original research done on dogs' paws claimed that dogs paws could resist temperatures up to -35 degrees. In the research that the Japanese team did, they noticed that the veins and arteries in dog’s feet are actually really close together. 

So, when a dog’s feet get cold, their heart pumps warm blood through the arteries and it warms their feet. They do go on to say, however, that that doesn’t mean you can leave your dog outside in the cold. It just means they’ll be alright outside for brief potty trips or to take a walk. Does this prove that dogs can feel their feet? Probably. Why would a dog have such a unique circulatory adaptation if they couldn’t even feel their feet?

A former dog owner talked about how she remembers how her beloved Shih Tzu used to scratch at the door when he wanted to be let in from taking a potty break. One day, she noticed him limping and biting at one of his front paws. With some further investigation, she and her sister found that while scratching on the wooden door to the house, their pup had acquired a huge splinter in his foot. 

They worked to get it out, and he whimpered as they did it. However, he was much, much better once they had gotten rid of the splinter. So, they firmly believe their dog could feel his paws.

Training Your Dog to Feel Their Paws

As for training your dog to feel their paws, you can’t, it’s just how they are when they are born. You can, however, make sure you keep your dog safe in the extreme cold or heat. Just because their paws might have some adaptations to help them doesn’t mean they are immune from the heat or cold. 

No matter what temperature it is outside, make sure your pup has plenty of clean (unfrozen) water. If your dog needs to be outside, make sure they have safe shelter from the elements. Also, keep an eye on your pup and the temperature outside. Leaving them outside in the hot or cold is cruel and can mean health problems or even death, in some cases.

So, can dogs feel their feet? The evidence points to yes, but you can probably leave the dog shoes at home.

Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Hot or Cold:

  • Make sure they have plenty of water (unfrozen and clean).
  • Make sure they have adequate shelter from the elements.
  • Keep an eye on your pup's behavior and the temperature.
  • Bring them inside if it's getting too hot or cold.