Most dogs are born with 4 toes and dew claws. Dew claws are located on the inner part of the leg slightly higher than the foot. They are essentially the dogs thumb. Dogs may be born with dew claws only on the front feet, on the front and back or with multiple dew claws. Certain breeds are known for having multiple dew claws such as the Great Pyrenees.
Standard poodles typically are born with only the front dew claws. Many breeders routinely remove dewclaws 3 days after birth when they dock tails.
The purpose of a dew claw is to act as a thumb. When you watch a poodle holding onto a object (stick, treat or toy) they will position their leg to use the dewclaw as a thumb to give them a firmer grip. Poodles without dew claws have a harder time holding items. The second purpose is to give them traction, extra grip when they are running. The dew claw will grab the ground or slippery surface and help them turn when running, playing chase and moving. Dew claws help to stabilize the wrist and may be helpful in reducing injury. Dew Claw Video
Dew claw nails need to be trimmed just like the other nails on the foot and require no special care.
There is no medical research that a dog is healthier or less likely to be injured if their dew claws are removed. Humans need their thumbs, dogs do too. We have decided at Heart Song Standard Poodles to leave the dew claws on our puppies unless there is a clear medical reason to remove them.
Dew claw removal has been banned in several countries. Here’s a video on how a dog uses their dew claw.