Generally speaking, front dewclaws should not be removed. When standing, the front dewclaws may not appear to be functional because they do not make contact with the ground. However, in most dog breeds, the front dewclaws contain bone and ligaments within. Moreover, the five tendons that attach to the front dewclaws play an important role when the dog is in motion.
For active breeds that do a lot of running, short turns and tight cornering, there is a huge benefit in having a functioning front dewclaw as it stabilizes the carpus (wrist). When a dog’s lead leg is on the ground during the gallop or canter, the front dewclaw is on the ground to stabilize the carpus. When a dog turns, the front dewclaw digs into the ground to support the structures of the limb and prevent torque. Moreover, front dewclaws can play a critical role for gripping on a steep cliff face or climbing out of an icy river…
If the useful front dewclaws are removed, there is a higher potential for the carpal ligaments to stretch and tear, which could result in laxity and higher incidence of arthritis in the carpus over time. This can then result in more stress being generated through the dog’s carpus, elbow, shoulder, and spine as it tries to compensate for the lack of digit.
Unfortunately, front dewclaws can (rarely) get torn or damaged, which can be a very nasty and painful injury. However, in most high activity dog breeds, the relatively rare risk is outweighed by the purpose served by keeping the functional front dewclaws.
Generally speaking, rear dewclaws should be removed. Like actual wild wolves, most Tamaskan Dogs do not have rear dewclaws. That being said, some individual Tamaskan Dogs may have rear dewclaws if they inherit the rear dewclaw gene(s) from their parents, depending on the genetic makeup of the ancestral breeds in their bloodline. Since the Tamaskan Dog is a wolf-lookalike breed, it makes sense that, for those who have them, the rear dewclaws should be removed shortly after birth. However, this is not simply an aesthetic preference.
When standing, the rear dewclaws do not make contact with the ground and, as in most dog breeds, the rear dewclaws are not functional as they do not contain any bone or ligaments within. Since they do not contain the associated tendons, the rear dewclaws tend to dangle uselessly. These useless/non-functional rear dewclaws are at a much higher risk of getting caught, snagged, torn or ripped off, which is a very nasty and painful injury. Do to the increased potential for damage, and the lack of function served by the rear dewclaws, it is recommended that they be removed shortly after birth.
For the individual puppies that have them, our protocol is that these useless/non-functional rear dewclaws are removed by a licensed veterinarian at the breeder’s vet clinic when the puppies are 5-7 days old. First they are given an injection of local anesthesia to numb the area so that they do not feel any pain. Once the area is completely numb, the rear dewclaw is simply removed with a small snip and then the wound is closed with a single stitch or cauterized.
It normally heals within a couple of days and, in time, fur grows over that area so it is impossible to distinguish which puppies had their rear dewclaws removed. In young puppies, it is a relatively minor procedure and, thanks to the local anesthesia, completely pain-free. In adult dogs, it is a much more serious operation, which requires surgery under general anesthesia. Therefore, it is highly recommended for rear dewclaws to be removed when the puppies are still a young age to avoid any injuries or complications later on in life.
*It is important to note that SOME dog breeds have functional rear dewclaws or they may be required to be present for some breed standards: Great Pyrenees, Beauceron, Briard, Norwegian Lundehund, Anatolian Shepherd, Catalan Sheepdog, St. Bernard, Estrela Mountain Dog, etc. In these specific breeds, the rear dewclaws should not be removed.