Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?
As mammals, humans, and dogs have a lot in common. For example, we all grow hair. However, dogs (and cats) have whiskers upon their faces, unlike humans. So why do dogs have whiskers, and what’s the point of them? The answer to dog whiskers is a little more in-depth and fascinating than you think.
What are whiskers?
Whiskers are actually called vibrissae. Or, more simply, “feelers.” These whiskers are thicker and denser than the rest of the hair on your dog’s body. They are longer, too. As you may notice, whiskers stick out quite a bit. This is because their roots are three times deeper than regular hair on a dog’s body.
You may notice that your dog has whiskers upon its face. Most notably, whiskers appear above their eyes, above their upper lip, and on their chin. The placement of these feelers varies from breed to breed, but those places are most likely. Whiskers appear the moment a puppy is born, too. They don’t need to wait until puberty as humans do. Whiskers are an important part of your dog’s body, which is why they have them immediately.
In fact, whiskers are about as sensitive as a human’s fingertips. So, whatever you touch with your hands, your dog is feeling it with its face.
What do dog whiskers do?
The short answer is that whiskers are sensory equipment for a dog. Humans have their five senses, one of them being touch with their hands. Dogs, on the other hand, feel with their whiskers. It also helps keeps them balanced and navigate their way through their environment. Think of whiskers as antennae on an insect.
Believe it or not, the whiskers don’t actually feel anything because they don’t have nerves. Instead, they transmit information to the sensory cells to help your dog get around.
Dogs don’t have great vision. They can see far away but have trouble seeing what’s right under their noses. So, these feelers act as a “radar” of some sort to help your canine see closer objects. Speaking of their eyes, dogs have sensitive eyes. The whiskers above their eyelids will catch any dust or air particles before it goes into your pup’s eye. So, you’ll notice that when your doggo blinking or shaking their head, it could mean something is one of their whiskers, and they’re trying to get it off.
Whiskers also communicate emotions. When your furry friend is sleeping, the whiskers are too. However, if your dog is alert and feels something is nearby, the whiskers will point in that direction, knowing what’s coming. In addition, these feelers will help alert the dog to a small spot. For example, if your dog tries squeezing in between that hole in the fence and the whiskers touch the sides, your dog will know they’re too big to fit through.
Dog whiskers are delicate
40% of your dog’s brain is aligned with the sensory needs of their whiskers. Your dog needs their whiskers to function properly and convey its emotions regularly. This is why, when petting your pup, try to keep away from the whiskers. If you have young children, teach them not to pull or tug on their whiskers, which can hurt the dog.
Should you trim your dog’s whiskers?
The answer is no, absolutely not. Since whiskers don’t have nerves, cutting them won’t actually hurt. In fact, your doggo won’t feel a thing. However, once the whiskers are gone or even shorter, your dog will get confused.
Your pooch won’t be able to see properly, especially in dim light, and they’ll move slower because their balance is off. You’ll cut off their sensory receptors, and they won’t be able to navigate their way around the home, yard, or anywhere else you take them.
Sometimes, whiskers fall out, and that’s okay. They may get too long, and it’s time for them to go. Luckily, whiskers do grow back, so it’s no big deal. Your dog’s body knows what it’s doing, so it’s best to let it take care of itself in that regard.
Whiskers are more important than you think
So, why do dogs have whiskers? The short answer is that it helps them survive their surroundings. Your dogs can walk better with whiskers, see better, and convey emotions better with whiskers. For something so small upon their face, whiskers do a lot of work.