Dogs’ whiskers are not only there to make our dogs look handsome, or to tickle us when they kiss us. They actually have a purpose, and we will find it out! Why do dogs have whiskers? If you were thinking that dogs’ whiskers were the equivalent to people’s mustaches, nothing could be further from the truth.
Dog whiskers, a.k.a. Vibrissae
Dog whiskers are thick hairs that grow in the muzzles, eyebrows, and jaws. They are very different from the fur, not only because of their shape and volume but also because they are super sensitive to touch. In fact, it is said that dogs’ whiskers are similar to humans’ fingerprints.
If you’ve ever touched your pup’s whiskers, he probably got upset, pulled his face away from your hand, or reacted in some way.
Why do dogs have whiskers?
If you were wondering 'why do dogs have whiskers? what are they for?', they have several functions:
Work as receptors: They help dogs know where they are and give them a sense of space. For instance, if a dog needs to walk through a small space, his whiskers will help them assess whether they fit through that space or not. They also help them realize if something is too close to their heads or if there is any danger nearby.
Protect dogs’ eyes: Dogs have whiskers on their eyebrows, and their main function is to protect their vision. As we’ve mentioned, whiskers work like sensors, so when a speck of dirt or a foreign object is sensed, whiskers send a signal to the brain to react.
Help locate food: Dogs use whiskers to know where they can find food. Dogs are natural hunters, who used to look for their own food. Thus, whiskers are very useful for hunting purposes and help them navigate in the dark.
Help express their emotions: Vibrissae are a very important part of dogs’ body language. They help dogs express their emotions. If a dog is feeling threatened, the whiskers will point forward as a defense. If a dog is chilled and relaxed, his whiskers will be as well.
What happens if a whisker falls out?
If you find a loose whisker on the floor, there is usually nothing to worry about. Injuries, daily wear, or bumps can cause a whisker to fall. But don’t worry: it’s not painful, it’s not a serious condition, and whiskers will grow back again safely.
Dogs’ whiskers are an essential part of our dogs’ bodies. They use them as receptors, to have a better sense of space, to localize food, etc. However, many dog owners decide to trim them or get them surgically removed, especially those who participate in competition shows (a.k.a confrontations). Whisker trimming not only affects a dog’s sense of space severely but it can also make them lose their stability and cause discomfort, so it’s not recommended.