What Are Dog Whiskers For

The Importance of Dog Whiskers

Dog whiskers can often be one of the cutest parts of a dog’s face, and they’re definitely one of the most distinctive. Many dog owners, at some point or another, wonder about their dog’s whiskers, especially when it’s time for a haircut and they’re wondering if their whiskers need a trim. But just what are they, and why do dogs have them in the first place? Read on to learn about the importance of dog whiskers.

What Are Dog Whiskers Exactly?

Dog whiskers aren’t even actually whiskers at all, but rather things that are called “vibrissae”, a word that comes from the Latin word “vibrio”, which means “to vibrate”. Of course, the whiskers don’t just vibrate on the dog’s face all the time, but they will vibrate under certain conditions, and that’s part of their primary function.

Dog whiskers have many different functions, and are highly tuned, extremely sensitive hairs that dogs rely on for a number of sensory functions that help them move throughout their world on a daily basis.

Whiskers are often the first hairs to start growing on a new pup, even before they’ve fully gotten hair or fur on other parts of their body. The whiskers grow on the muzzle, which isn’t exactly the nose but rather, the elongated portion of the face where both the nose and mouth are located. The whiskers grow out of the sides of the muzzle in random patterns that mostly depend on the breed and genetics of the dog. Whiskers can also be found on a dog’s forehead, above their eyes, above their lip, and on their chin. They are much coarser and thicker than the regular hair you’ll find on a dog.

Part of the reason why whiskers are so sensitive is because the roots of them are three times deeper than the roots of other hairs. Each and every one is full of nerves and blood vessels, which also makes them super sensitive to the slightest movement, such as a small breeze or someone just walking past them. To gain a better understanding of just how sensitive whiskers are, it might help to know that a dog’s whiskers are often compared to a person’s fingertips.

The Importance of Dog Whiskers

Knowing how sensitive a dog’s whiskers are is one step in understanding just how important they are to a dog. But they have so many functions that in order to fully comprehend just how important these small hairs are, you also need to understand everything that whiskers help your dog do on a daily basis.

  • Aid in vision. As stated, whiskers can pick up even the smallest shift in air currents or movement, and it’s for this reason that whiskers greatly help a dog with their vision. Whiskers can tell a dog that prey is lurking nearby, if there are objects nearby, as well as the size and shape of those objects. Ever wonder how dogs can see to hunt at night? Or how they can wander through your home in the dark and find their way to their food dish without bumping into furniture? Dogs can’t see very well in the dark and so to help them do so, they rely on their whiskers. While a dog walks, air will hit a wall, object, or other animal, and that air will bounce back and cause that slight movement that will then be picked up by the whiskers, alerting the dog that something is nearby.
  • Finding small objects. Dogs can’t see things when they’re very close to them; their eyes simply can’t focus on it. Because of this, they use their whiskers to identify those small objects, which will help them to find it and pick it up.
  • Whether it’s a small hole under a fence, a field of tall grass, or very dirty and dusty spots, a dog’s whiskers can help them navigate their way through the world. Whiskers can tell your dog if a space is too small for them to fit through, and they can also tell your dog to blink their eyes so that those small bits of dust don’t get into their eyes. The whiskers that are above the eye will also tell the dog to close their eyes in case they’re too close to an object that might otherwise poke them in the eye.

Should You Cut Your Dog’s Whiskers?

Many dog owners think that it’s okay to cut their dog’s whiskers, and often this is on the advice of a groomer. However, this should never, ever be done, not even if it’s just a trim. Whiskers will naturally fall out every now and then, but that doesn’t mean that they should be interfered with in any way, including pulling them out or cutting them. Your dog need whiskers for protection and to help them move through life on a daily basis, and so removing them in any way will take away some of this support and protection. In addition to that, whiskers are so sensitive and packed with so many nerve endings that pulling them out or cutting them could be very painful to your dog.

The importance of dog whiskers is something that should never be understated. Your dog needs these for so many of their daily functions and they should never, ever be tampered with by humans.

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