Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

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Just like cats, dogs have whiskers that are found on either side of their muzzle. And, in technical terms, dog whiskers are called “vibrissae”, which comes from latin origin and which means “to vibrate”.

Whiskers are some of the first hairs to develop on growing puppies, and unlike those found on cats, they don’t grow in such an even pattern on both sides, they grow in a more scattered way.

Dog whiskers are very concentrated with nerves and blood vessels which make them very sensitive movement receptors.

Whatever moves your dog’s whiskers, be it a small breath of fresh air or someone brushing it for them, the nerves inside the whisker are stimulated and the whisker vibrates.

Just like we humans sense and explore the world with out fingers, dogs sense and explore the world with their whiskers.

But, exactly why do dogs have whiskers?

Dog Whiskers – What Are They There For?

Think of dog whiskers as sensitive sensory hairs that help them explore the world around them, understand the environment they are in and make wise decisions based on what they find.

Here are some of the most important functions of dog whiskers to dogs:

  • Notice nearby presence: Dog whiskers help them notice even the smallest air vibrations, which makes them aware of the nearby presence of prey or other objects they should be aware of, including physical details about these objects (such as shape, size and speed) which make them able to make an informed decision based on the information they have.
  • See at night: Dog whiskers come in very handy at night when there’s no light around, where they help guide dogs without any unfortunate accidents.
  • See small objects: Dogs often have difficulty seeing and focusing on objects that are real close to them, such as under-their-nose-close, which is where their whiskers come in handy by transmitting information to their brain about something that’s right under their nose and they can’t really clearly see.
  • Protect the face: Dog whiskers let dogs know when they’re way too close to something and are about to collide with it, which is one way how their face and eyes get saved from an unfortunate (and hurtful) collision or poke. You don’t want to see your dog running straight into a wall while you’re playing with them, do you? 🙂
  • Make informed decisions: Most common of which is dogs using their whiskers to find out whether they can or can’t fit and make their way through small spaces.

What You Can Tell From A Dog’s Whiskers

Besides everything dog whiskers allow your dog to do, you can also make a bit of use from your dog’s whiskers.

How?

  • Know your dog’s mood: Whiskers often tell very clearly how your dog is feeling. When your dog doesn’t feels unsafe, threatened and is ready to get aggressive, it will flare its whiskers and point them forward.

Are All Dog Breed Whiskers The Same?

Yup.

Whiskers among all dog breeds save the same purpose, and no dog breed has any advantages or disadvantages compared to another dog breed in this department.

While the length, thickness and other physical attributes of whiskers might differ from one dog breed to the other, all other purposes of whiskers (which is the important subject here) remain the same.

Should You Trim Your Dog’s Whiskers?

Cutting your dog’s whiskers is a subject of great controversy, but there is a common-sense middle ground answer to it all.

With some dog breeds that shed at terribly low frequencies, their whiskers may grow to the point where they become irritating to the dog in day to day life.

Some dog parents like to keep their dogs clean looking, while other people who train their dogs to be show dogs like to trim their whiskers because they believe that this will make their dog have an advantage over competing dogs.

And there are many more reasons that could warrant someone to want to trim their dog’s whiskers, but there are crucial things you should know first.

  • Painful: The procedure of having their whiskers trimmed is EXTREMELY uncomfortable and painful for dogs if done by unprofessional groomers that aren’t really aware of what they’re doing. Some of these groomers like to pluck the whisker out of its place instead of trimming it properly, and that just makes the whole process, which is uncomfrotable and painful to begin with (due to the very sensitive physical nature of whiskers), A LOT more painful.
  • Senses: By trimming your dog’s whiskers, you’re making them lose some of their sensory abilities we talked about in the beginning of this article, which leads to many problems such as confusion and decreased awareness.

So, the middle ground answer to this whole ordeal is that unless there’s an important medical reason that requires you to do so, or unless your dog’s whiskers have grown so much that they’re starting to irritate your dog’s skin and face on a daily basis, it’s best that you don’t trim your dog’s whiskers.

Assuming you absolutely must trim your dog’s whiskers, make sure you only have a COMPETENT PROFESSIONAL groomer do this and nothing short of one.

Do Dog Whiskers Grow Back?

If you find that a whisker of your dog’s has fallen out by itself, don’t worry, it will grow back by itself.

But, when plucking the whisker out yourself, this is when things get dangerous and you run the risk of halting whisker growth.

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