Do American Bulldogs Have Rear Dewclaws? Everything You Need to Know

As a dog lover and owner, I have always been fascinated by the unique characteristics of different breeds. One particular feature that caught my attention was rear dewclaws. I remember the first time I discovered them on my American Bulldog, Max. It sparked my curiosity and led me down a path of research to understand more about rear dewclaws and their presence in the American Bulldog breed. In this blog post, I will share everything you need to know about rear dewclaws in American Bulldogs, from their definition and purpose to the ongoing debate surrounding them.

What are Rear Dewclaws?

Definition and Purpose

Rear dewclaws, also known as hind dewclaws, are extra digits found on the inside of a dog’s hind legs, just above the paw. These digits are often not in contact with the ground and can vary in size and shape. While their exact purpose is still debated among experts, there are several theories regarding their function. Some believe that rear dewclaws provide enhanced balance and stability, while others suggest they aid in climbing and agility.

Presence in Different Dog Breeds

Interestingly, not all dog breeds possess rear dewclaws. It is more common to find them in certain breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, Beauceron, and Briard. However, there is an ongoing discussion about their presence in American Bulldogs, which we will delve into in the following sections.

The American Bulldog Breed

Breed Overview

Before we can determine whether American Bulldogs have rear dewclaws, let’s first understand a bit about this fascinating breed. American Bulldogs are known for their strength, athleticism, and loyalty. Originally bred for working on farms and protecting livestock, they have evolved into beloved family pets due to their gentle nature and affectionate temperament.

Physical Characteristics

In terms of physical appearance, American Bulldogs are muscular, with a broad head and a powerful build. They have a distinctive underbite and strong jaws. Their coats come in various colors, including white, brindle, or a combination of both. While their physical traits set them apart, the presence of rear dewclaws has been a subject of debate within the American Bulldog community.

Do American Bulldogs Have Rear Dewclaws?

Evidence from Breed Standards

According to the American Bulldog breed standards set by organizations such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC), rear dewclaws are considered a disqualification in the show ring. This suggests that American Bulldogs should not possess rear dewclaws. However, it is important to note that these standards are not definitive proof of whether all American Bulldogs are born without rear dewclaws.

Historical Perspective

To gain further insight, let’s take a trip back in time. The origins of the American Bulldog can be traced back to the working bulldogs brought to America by European settlers. These dogs were valued for their strength and versatility in various tasks, including hunting, herding, and guarding. In some historical accounts, there are references to the presence of rear dewclaws in these early bulldogs. However, as the breed evolved and breeders focused on specific traits, rear dewclaws became less desirable and were bred out of many lines.

Debate and Controversy

Despite the breed standards and historical references, the debate surrounding rear dewclaws in American Bulldogs continues to stir controversy among enthusiasts. Some argue that rear dewclaws can still be found in certain bloodlines and are not necessarily a cause for concern. Others firmly believe that rear dewclaws should be removed for the dog’s safety and well-being. The truth is, the presence or absence of rear dewclaws can vary among individual American Bulldogs, and it is ultimately up to the owner to decide what is best for their dog.

Benefits and Functions of Rear Dewclaws

Enhanced Balance and Stability

One of the proposed benefits of rear dewclaws is their ability to provide enhanced balance and stability. Just like a thumb on a human hand, rear dewclaws can offer additional support, especially during fast movements or when navigating uneven terrain. This can be particularly beneficial for working dogs or those participating in agility sports.

Aiding in Climbing and Agility

For breeds that are natural climbers, such as the Great Pyrenees, rear dewclaws can play a crucial role in gripping and maintaining stability while scaling steep slopes or rocky surfaces. While American Bulldogs may not have the same climbing instincts, some argue that rear dewclaws can still provide an advantage in certain physical activities, such as jumping or quickly changing direction.

Preventing Injuries

Another potential benefit of rear dewclaws is their ability to prevent injuries. When a dog slips or lands awkwardly, rear dewclaws can act as a safeguard, absorbing some of the impact and reducing the risk of sprains or fractures. However, it is important to note that this is a theoretical advantage and may not always apply to every dog.

Potential Issues and Concerns

Injury Risks

While there are potential benefits to rear dewclaws, there are also risks associated with their presence. Dogs with rear dewclaws may be more prone to injuries, especially if the extra digits are not properly maintained or trimmed. These dewclaws can get caught on objects or snagged in the fur, leading to painful injuries or even torn dewclaws.

Friction and Irritation

In some cases, rear dewclaws can rub against the dog’s leg, causing friction and irritation. This can lead to discomfort and potentially result in sores or infections if left untreated. Regular monitoring and grooming of rear dewclaws are essential to minimize the risk of friction-related issues.

Extra Nail Maintenance

Having rear dewclaws means having an additional set of nails to maintain. This requires regular trimming to prevent overgrowth and ensure the overall health and well-being of the dog. While it may seem like a minor inconvenience, it is an important responsibility that needs to be considered before deciding to leave rear dewclaws intact.

Caring for Rear Dewclaws

Trimming and Grooming

If your American Bulldog has rear dewclaws, it is crucial to establish a regular grooming routine that includes trimming their nails. This helps prevent overgrowth and reduces the risk of injuries or discomfort. If you are unsure about how to properly trim your dog’s nails, consult with a professional groomer or veterinarian for guidance.

Monitoring for Injuries or Infections

Regularly inspecting your dog’s rear dewclaws is essential to identify any signs of injuries or infections. Look for redness, swelling, discharge, or any other abnormalities that may indicate a problem. If you notice anything concerning, seek veterinary attention promptly to prevent further complications.

Should Rear Dewclaws Be Removed?

Pros and Cons

The decision to remove or keep rear dewclaws is a personal one and should be based on careful consideration of the pros and cons. While some argue that removal eliminates the potential risks associated with rear dewclaws, others believe that if these extra digits are healthy and well-maintained, there is no immediate need for surgical intervention.

Veterinary Recommendations

Consulting with a veterinarian is crucial when making the decision to remove or keep rear dewclaws. They can provide professional advice based on your dog’s specific needs and health considerations. It is important to remember that each dog is unique, and what works for one may not necessarily apply to another.


In conclusion, rear dewclaws continue to be a topic of debate and controversy within the American Bulldog community. While there are breed standards that suggest American Bulldogs should not have rear dewclaws, the presence or absence of these extra digits can still vary among individual dogs. Understanding the potential benefits and risks associated with rear dewclaws is essential for making an informed decision about whether to leave them intact or opt for surgical removal. Consulting with a veterinarian and considering your dog’s specific needs is crucial in ensuring their overall well-being and happiness. So, the next time you come across an American Bulldog, take a closer look at their hind legs, and you may just discover whether they have rear dewclaws or not.

ThePetFaq Team