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Ask A Vet: How Many Legs Do Dogs Have? (Updated 2023)

How Many Legs Do Dogs Have

Your furry friend loves touching you with their paws.

Moreover, your dog can hold a bone using their front legs as if they were arms.

Which has now left you thinking…

“Do dogs have 4 legs?

Or is it 2 arms and 2 legs all this time?”

Continue reading to find out:

  • How many legs dogs have.
  • Whether all dogs have 4 legs or not.
  • How to differentiate the term ‘arms’ from ‘legs.’
  • Scientific reasons why dogs have legs and not arms.
  • And many more…

How many legs do dogs have?

Dogs have 4 legs. They stand and walk on all fours, unlike upright humans who move with only 2 feet. A canine’s front limbs may look and sometimes serve like ‘arms,’ but vets still refer to them as ‘forelegs.’ And it’s because as dogs move, these limbs bear weight, too, like the hind legs.

Do all dogs have 4 legs?

All dogs are supposed to have 4 legs. They’re mammals who are ‘quadrupeds’ or animals who use 4 limbs to move. But due to unfortunate circumstances, some dogs can also be born with only 2 or 3 working legs.

Well, have you ever heard someone call a Fido their ‘two-legged’ friend?

Probably not.

But before we go on with the topic, you might be wondering…

“What are ‘quadrupeds’?”


As I’ve said earlier, they’re animals with 4 legs and walk using them, such as:

  • Dogs.
  • Cows.
  • Horses.
  • Giraffes.
  • Elephants.

The list can go on because most land animals are quadrupeds. For example, mammals and reptiles belong to that group.

On the other hand, we, humans, are ‘bipeds’ because we walk on 2 legs.

But there are rare cases of ‘quadruped humans’ too.


Based on a report, 5 members of a family in Turkey walk on all fours.

And as bipeds, we can move upright without using our 2 arms. So experts think this rare case has something to do with mutated genes.

Moreover, besides us, other species also walk on 2 legs.

For example, when on the ground, all birds are bipedal too. 

Also, experts found that cockroaches run on their 2 rear legs when in a hurry.

Meanwhile, apes, with whom we shared a common ancestor 5 to 8 million years ago, can walk both ways. Either on their 2 legs or 4 limbs.

And it’s the same case with other primates, such as:

So only a few animals can stand upright and move as we do.

But going back to the topic…

Unlike us, dogs move with 4 legs

According to vets, a canine’s 2 forelimbs carry 60% of their body weight while standing. And their rear ones are responsible for the other 40%.

But when trained or desperate, Fidos can also stand and walk on hind legs for a few minutes.

However, it’s not natural for dogs to be upright like us.


Walking on hind legs may strain a dog’s back if done frequently. And it may lead to injuries too, like a slipped disc. 

Also, as mentioned above, a Fido’s rear legs only carry 40% of their weight. 

Thus, their hind limbs alone can’t support 100% of their mass for a long time.

Now, you might also ask…

“How do dogs walk?”

Canines find balance and stand on all fours.

But when experts studied quadrupeds more like dogs and horses, they found something.

“What is it?”

Usually, quadrupeds walk with only 3 legs on the ground simultaneously. And their limbs form a triangular shape.

It’s their natural gait as you need to step a foot to move. But it doesn’t deny that quadrupeds have and use 4 limbs to walk.

Now, how do dogs balance their bodies?

The same specialists say that the nearer a Fido’s center of mass is to those 3 legs, the steadier they are.

Also, researchers observed what they call the ‘foot-fall formula.’

Most of the time, quadrupeds step with their left rear leg first. And it’s followed by their foreleg on the same side.

Then they stride with their right hind limb and front leg. And it’s the most stable way of walking for quadrupeds.

So summing up, dogs indeed make use of their 4 limbs as they move. Also, their limbs help them keep their balance.


Some canines may not also be ‘four-legged’ at birth

Let me share the story of Jordi, a Cocker Spaniel dog.

She was born with a small, deformed right forelimb. So she only has 3 working legs.

When Jordi was a puppy, she couldn’t stand on her own.

But as she grew up, she learned how to balance herself. 

Also, with the help of her siblings, her rear legs become stronger.

Now, Jordi’s an expert in ‘scent work’ or detecting odors. And she also earned many titles for it.

Next, apart from Jordi’s case, some Fidos are also born with only 2 legs.

For instance, 2 puppies made it to the headline for having no forelimbs.

The dogs’ names are Lt. Dan and Taz. And their condition didn’t stop them from enjoying their lives.

Based on a 2017 report, the 2 puppies are lively and play well like any other dogs.

So they were given a special job – to be service Fidos.

Therefore, if you ask me…

“Do all dogs need 4 legs to move?”

Again, canines are quadrupeds, so they have to walk on 4 limbs. But they can still move with 3 legs, although not as agile as four-legged Fidos. 

Also, with the help of a wheelchair, canines with only 2 working limbs could easily wander around.

Now, it’s time for the most frequently asked question…

Why do dogs have legs and not arms?

Dogs have legs and not arms because their limbs fit the function of the former term more. By definition, a ‘leg’ supports an animal’s or person’s body when moving. Now, dogs stand and walk on all fours, so all their limbs are ‘legs.’

I’ll explain this more in detail. So let’s dive in.

#1: Canines’ forelegs bear weight unlike a human’s arms

A dog’s front limbs may sometimes ‘act’ as arms. So they can:

But in the end, canines walk using their 4 limbs. And their ‘supposed 2 arms’ support their body weight.

So, it’s all legs, after all.

And that’s why technically, our furry friends’ limbs aren’t called ‘arms.’

However, here’s what makes a Fido’s legs more confusing.

You may have noticed this before, but…

A dog’s forelegs have elbows and wrists like human arms

Vets even say that a canine’s front limbs have the same bones as our forearms – ‘radius’ and ‘ulna.’

On the other hand, a dog’s wrist has ‘carpus’ or carpal bones too.

And these similarities can confuse some people. So they may treat a canine’s forelegs as arms too.

But despite that…

#2: Experts refer to a dog’s front limbs as ‘forelegs’

Let’s take a look at the dog’s anatomy.

Doctors call the upper part of a Fido’s front leg a ‘forearm.’

Meanwhile, the lower portions of it are also named elbow and wrist.

However, vets still refer to the whole 2 limbs of dogs as ‘forelegs.’

Also, they say you can’t compare canines’ front and hind limbs to ours.

#3: A dog’s front limbs don’t fit the term ‘arms’

Next, what do you mean by the word ‘arm’?

Dogs indeed have elbows and wrists.

So you’ll see that your Fido’s foreleg bends like our arms when you ask for their paws.

But according to science, the term ‘arms’ usually refer to the upper limbs of a ‘bipedal.’

And before this, I said that a ‘bipedal’ is someone who stands and walks on 2 legs like humans.

On the other hand, canines are ‘quadrupeds’ and move on fours. 

So they’re out of the list based on that definition.

Also, one more thing…

How can you differentiate an ‘arm’ from a ‘leg’?

The former usually connects to a hand. And this limb can manipulate or grab things.

So if we compare our hands to a dog’s paws…

What things could the latter do?

Typically, a Fido’s paws can:

  • Dig.
  • Fetch.
  • Scratch.
  • High-five.
  • Hold a bone.

But their paws can’t do the things our fingers can. Say holding a pen and writing using it.

Plus, dogs can hold a bone or other object with their 2 forelegs. 

However, it’s not possible with only 1 paw.

So canines use their mouth to grab you when they want attention. Or if they need to bring or hold something for a while.

“What’s the reason for it?”

I found some info that can be one of the factors for this.

Experts say primates like us have a ‘clavicle’ or collar bone. And we also have flexible joints in our shoulders.

These help us move our arms better than other species that don’t have those bones.

On the other hand…

Dogs don’t have collar bones

According to vets, what Fidos have is something that isn’t connected to their skeleton.

And their shoulder blades are only attached to the ligaments and muscles.

“Why’s that?”

Dogs don’t have collar bones because they have to be swift.

The absence of collar bones allows them to stride longer and run faster. And it’s because their shoulders aren’t connected, unlike us. 

And speed and agility are one of Fido’s top priorities.

To achieve these, dogs also have a flexible spine that can stretch to make them move faster.

Plus, they have strong hind legs that help them push forward efficiently.

Thus, ‘arms’ and ‘legs’ can’t mean the same thing to dogs.

So if you consider the things above, dogs indeed have 4 legs – not 2 arms.