How do dogs use their paws to scout their surroundings?

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Although a dog’s paws aren’t as functional as human hands, dogs still rely on their paws for many everyday tasks. A dog’s paws are made up of thick padding that protects them from various surfaces and makes walking on concrete, grass, or rocks comfortable. Dog breeds that have adapted to become great swimmers even have some webbing on their paws to facilitate movement in water.

A dog will use his paws to scout out surroundings in much the same way humans would use their hands to test out a situation. If a dog is unsure about the stability of a surface, he will initially only reach out one paw to test how much weight the surface can hold. Similarly, if a dog is unsure about jumping into water, he will test it out with one paw before jumping in.

A dog’s paws are also very useful for digging. Dogs dig in order to uncover, or recover a variety of items; digging is a primal instinct for dogs. Many times, a dog will smell something, or sense that something is in a particular place, and then set about digging to find what is there. With their paws and nails, dogs are able to scrape away surface layers and get down to the area where they sense something important might be hidden.

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