The Pyr has a single dewclaw on the front leg and a double dewclaw on the hind leg.
On this xray, the double dewclaws, or toes, can be faintly seen, with their individual bone structure.
This double dewclaw is one of the distinguishing features of the breed, and a requirement in the breed standard.
If a Pyr is to compete in the show ring, these dewclaws must be two completely separate, well formed claws, arising from the inner aspect of the pastern and distinguishable as separate, individual toes, for this is really what they are.
Some dogs have quite a rigid structure, while others have totally floppy dewclaws. They may be set quite low with the lower one almost touching the ground but generally are set a little higher, well clear of the dog's foot.
When observing the pyr movement from the rear, it is important to note that these dewclaws may give the impression that the dog is moving too close.
The purpose of these extra toes was probably to provide additional balance and traction for the dog, as he performed his flock guarding duties on steep mountain slopes, and they may still be of use to dogs working in steep or rough terrain today.
The extra toes and claws never cause problems, which surprises owners of breeds without dewclaws.
It is not necessary to remove them!
and indeed it is better not to do so. Removal means cutting into the tiny bones in the toes and really is quite drastic surgery with all the risks of anaesthesia, infection and pain for the dog, all of which is totally unnecessary.
The only care they require is to keep the nail trimmed to prevent it growing around and digging back into the toe. Some ill effects may - and do - occur if the dewclaws are removed
This report is from Cathy Brooks, Mississippi Great Pyrenees Rescue, Inc.
" I have a Pyr I adopted who is 11 years old now and his dew claws, as far as we can tell were removed sometime before he was 4 years old.
While he didn't have any trouble in his younger years, he does have ankle trouble now. Not extremely bad but it seems that he sometimes has trouble with balance when he is depending on his back legs to hold him up, (i.e., coming up steps).
n addition to the weakness of Foster's ankles he also doesn't have the balance of the other Pyrs who have the double dews. I've seen him lose his balance more than once. He is also very sensitive (even after over 7 years after removal) in those areas when I go to brush him and clip his nails. He kicks like a mule when I forget and grab his ankle where the dews should be."
From Pyr owner Stephanie Whitney, U.S.A.-
"It always makes me sad to see the difference between the way that the Pyrs hold bones to chew them, firmly gripped and clearly held still with the front dew claws, while the wolfhounds (whose dewclaws are removed on day 3) try to hold their bones that keep slipping out of their grip, while they attempt to hold them between their paws at the spot that their dewclaws would have been, had they been left alone. I used to notice that if you touched the spot that the dewclaws had been removed, my first wolfhound would pull his paws away. He hated to have that spot touched."
Very occasionally there may be a double dewclaw on the front leg and triple dewclaws on the hind leg. Owners of such dogs report no problems with the claws and the general consensus is to leave them alone.
Other French breeds such as the Pyrenean Shepherd and Beuceron also have double dewclaws, perhaps they shared a common, distant ancestor.