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Puppy knuckling is when a puppy’s feet appear crooked or bowed out. It often happens due to various factors, including incorrect nutrition, genetics, and care. Some information available about puppy knuckling is outdated, confusing, or misleading. We get it!

Rather than boring you with science and research data, I will lay this out in a quick-start guide-type format. It’s 2024, and we have new information about how to prevent knuckling in puppies and how to treat it, too!

Read on if you have a large or giant breed puppy, such as a Great Dane, showing signs of puppy knuckling.

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Signs of Puppy Knuckling and “Bowing Out”

Your puppy may be knuckling over if you see the following signs:

  • Flat or weak feet
  • Turned out feet (which may also be genetic)
  • An ankle that bows over the foot
  • Ankles that shake or roll over the foot on soft surfaces
  • Feet and limbs that don’t look right

In the image below, you will see three puppies experiencing knuckling, from severe to mild. Mild knuckling in puppies can become severe or even permanent if left untreated.

Puppy Knuckling Photos

How to Treat Puppy Knuckling

Here is our easy 3-step guide for treating puppy knuckling!




Step One – See Your Veterinarian

Veterinarians attend school for many years to learn about companion animal health and wellness. They see hundreds of dogs weekly in a clinical setting and will know much more about the current science and research than any other resource you may find.

Many veterinarians are highly experienced in large and giant breed dogs and will give you the best advice.

Not only that, but if your puppy has crooked feet, your veterinarian needs to rule out other health conditions that may be similar or that may be contributing to growth disorders in your puppy:


Step Two – Change Your Dog’s Food

Forget everything you hear in breed groups and from pet owners. An alarming amount of it is based on anecdotes, profit-driven marketing, and other nonsense. The correctly balanced puppy foods (listed below) are necessary to fix growth disorders.

Switch foods quickly. Do not add toppers or supplements, and keep training treats to a minimum. Getting your puppy onto 100% correctly balanced nutrition will be a key to success.

We dig deeper into the science with our posts linked below. But for this quick-start guide, here is a list of dog food to feed a knuckling puppy. These are readily available at Petsmart or on (which we’ve linked below for your convenience).

Check out THE GIANT DOG FOOD PROJECT to compare brands and values.

It is critically important that you do not overfeed your Great Dane puppy, especially if they are knuckling. Too much food is related to growth disorders. Encourage small, frequent meals.


Step Three – Change Your Routine

Large and giant breed puppies have delicate joints. Protect the soft cartilage and help your puppy strengthen their feet by avoiding hard, slick surfaces and encouraging movement on soft, varied terrain.

Here are some movement and exercise ideas for puppies that are knuckling or that have flat feet:

  • Explore a natural area with small rolling hills
  • Play in sand or gravel
  • Stand on couch cushions and gym mats
  • Sit on a grassy lawn or at a park and watch the world go by (also great for socialization)

Put runners and mats down on slick floors in your home. Discourage your puppy from jumping.

Trim nails weekly. We recommend a DREMEL. Keeping the nails short will help protect the joints and keep unnecessary pressure off of the toes.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

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