The Norwegian dog’s functional paws act like brakes and skids on slippery mountain rocks

By Helin Jung
Updated December 10, 2009 12:45 PM

While many dogs may be skidding around these winter months, hoping not to wipeout on icy sidewalks, Kay Dahlinger’s three dogs – Cheers, Elle and Bliss – have got it covered … with their six-toes! Dahlinger’s canines are Norwegian Lundehunds, a rare breed that was discovered in the islands of Norway, where they developed this unique physical feature for climbing slippery mountain rocks. Each of the dog’s hand-like paw’s has 6 toes and 8 pads that act like brakes and skid on icy surfaces.

“It’s cold in Norway in July,” Dahlinger, who brought her dogs to their homeland in 2005, tells, “but they were all out there running and jumping and digging and yodeling and carrying on. It was like you could here them saying, ‘I’m home. This is where I belong.’ “

The Lundehund (pronounced loon-da-hoond) is on its way to being recognized by the American Kennel Club, and will be competing as part of the Miscellaneous class in this weekend’s AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach, Calif. The dog’s functional paws make it walk on its tippy toes and prance much like a ballerina. It also has ears that it can fold open and close at will, and a head that they can turn all the way around to touch its nose to its spine – useful for finding their way around the dark island caves!

Dahlinger, 67, the chief probation officer in Aurora, Colo., raises purebred Lundehunds to show. She became interested in this particular breed because she wanted a dog that was lower maintenance than her Jack Russell terriers. A fellow Jack Russell enthusiast (and avid mountain climber) introduced her to the Lundehund by saying, ” ‘You bathe them, you brush them, and you take them in the ring.’ “

The Lundehund was the perfect fit. Cheers, Elle (both champion dogs) and Bliss are “snuggly and cuddly” and great with her family. And, Dahlinger will never need an alarm clock again. “When it’s 5 o’clock,” she says. “They let me know that it’s time to get up and eat!”