The Dewclaw Debate

Of all the procedures that are commonly performed on puppies, the dewclaw removal has to be the least controversial. It’s certainly the most minor procedure with the fewest complications and it offers decent benefits.

None of the common amputations (ear cropping, tail docking, dewclaw removal) are required in Border Collies and the dewclaw removal is really the only one you’re going to see done as a normal practice.

The benefits include: prophylactic prevention of tearing or accidental amputation due to rubbing or snagging during an activity, no need to trim the nails, and aesthetics. The disadvantages include: inflicting pain for questionable gain, wasting money on an unnecessary procedure, possible damage to the leg and decreased performance.

Dublin and Celeste both came with their dewclaws intact and I don’t really see a reason to have them removed. I certainly wouldn’t put them through a surgery for that alone, and since neither has had to go under for another procedure, the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. But neither dog wears down their dew claws which makes me question if they are really used during running and turning. But they’re not insubstantial, so I don’t think it’s as straightforward as removing the rear dewclaws which are typically attached by only a bit of skin and are much more likely to be torn off at the wrong time. Luckily, neither Dublin nor Celeste has rear dew claws.

Both of them do hate it when I clip their nails though. Fortunately they wear down the rest of their nails through normal activity and I don’t have to clip them that often. But those dewclaws grow with abandon and they each have one dewclaw with a slightly abnormal nail that is annoying to cut for both of us.

So last year when the litter was four days old I took them in to the Vet and had their dewclaws removed. Here’s the video:

So it’s about two minutes of pain and then it didn’t seem to bother them ever again. But what a minute there in the middle! They were all fast asleep within minutes of the procedure, there were no complications later, and I didn’t notice any of them licking the site or favoring their front legs. But who knows what associations they made with going to the Vet and pain?

I personally think that a lifetime of causing a bit of pain and annoyance while clipping those dew claws probably outweighs the minute of pain in the young pup, but it’s certainly not a guilt free experience and I’m unsure if I’d have it done again. At least Zeke forgave me after his claws were removed:

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.