The dog’s anatomy is quite fascinating. Many pet owners assume or ask about the number of legs a dog actually has. A common question that people ask is, “Do dogs have two arms or do they have four legs?”
We did some further research into canine anatomy to help answer this question. Let’s look below to see what names we should use when referring to a dog’s limbs.
Do dogs have 2 arms or 4 legs?
Dogs actually have four legs, they do not have two arms. All species use their legs for walking and standing, and dogs just happen to walk on all four of their limbs. Therefore, dogs have four legs – there is no question. As a result, a dog is considered a quadruped.
The two legs up front are referred to as the forelegs. Here is where some confusion may come in. While canines indeed have four legs, the two front legs do have elbows and wrists. If you have ever interacted with a dog, you may notice when it gives you its paw, its foreleg will bend the way a human arm does.
It’s paw will also bend down the way a hand will. With that said, your dog’s paws are the equivalent of feet. When a dog walks, it will have as many as three legs and paws on the ground at the same time.
We have all seen how some dogs can be trained to stand on their hind or back legs. Let’s not forget, a human with a decent balance can also stand on one leg. Just because we may occasionally stand without one leg does not take away from the fact that we normally use two of them. It is the same with a dog. They can stand on their back two legs, but they are merely lifting their front two legs – not arms.
Animals such as primates, humans, and other species have bodies that are built with what would be considered hands. Hands can only be attached to an arm – not a leg.
Why don’t dogs have arms?
Mammals that are adapted for running or that live in the sea do not have a clavicle or a collarbone. Dogs are such an animal. Instead of having a developed collarbone, a canine has a small cartilaginous structure that allows enhanced speed and agility. This is one reason why dogs can run so fast and for such a long period of time. Because they are running on four legs – not two arms and two legs.
Unlike the human shoulder, your dog’s shoulder has as many as 25 muscles. These 25 shoulder muscles provide running flexibility and stability when standing.
You may notice your dog often uses its forelegs to dig or to scratch. However, its front paws are not able to grab or hold things. The function of a hand is to grab and hold. Since dog paws cannot serve that function, we can never consider them hands.
Do dogs have wrists and knees?
Yes, dogs do indeed have wrists. They have a wrist joint below each elbow in each foreleg.
Dogs also have knees. Their knees help them to jump and maneuver around with great agility. A dog’s knee is referred to as the stifle joint. The knee joint is made of three different bones called the patella, femur, and tibia. They have two knees located on each hind leg.
Like humans, dog knees are also covered by cartilage. The cartilage acts as a cushion, protects against grinding, and covers the ends of its bones.
As we’ve previously mentioned wrist joints, the wrist joints are the equivalent of a knee in the foreleg. A dog balances most of its front weight below the wrist. To be more specific, most of the front balance is in the paw area. Of course, this differs in mammals with wrists. Human wrists serve as a way to move our hands around. The only time our wrists should be used to bear weight is during certain exercises like push-ups.
Why do dogs have long back feet?
Dogs are built to run fast and for an extensive period of time. In order to move quickly, any animal must have strong feet. Your dog has long back feet because their toes tend to arch less. Lack of an arch makes the dog’s feet appear longer than others. These long feet require more energy to move, and in turn also help the dog move faster.
When a dog has long back feet, we call those feet hare feet. They are called hare feet because they are similar in appearance to the feet of a rabbit. Dogs that have hare feet are usually bred to run with extremely high bursts of speed. The fastest dog breed is the Greyhound. Greyhounds, Whippets, and the Borzoi breed all have hare feet.
You may notice your dog has little pads on the bottom of each paw. These paw pads are called carpal pads. These pads function to act as a cushion, traction, and braking device as a dog runs. Dogs have a carpal pad on all four paws. This serves as another example to show that paws are not the equivalent of hands. On the contrary, all four function as feet for a dog. No animal would need a traction or cushion device on a body part that is used to function as a hand.