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Dog Facts

Why do dogs have whiskers?

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Whiskers are specialized type of hair that many mammals have, including dogs; The scientific name for whiskers is vibrissae.

They vary in appearance based on breed and individual genetics. Dogs have whiskers on their muzzles and above their eyes, on their chins and above their upper lips. Compared to ordinary hairs, whiskers are coarser; twice as thick; have roots that are set three times deeper; are much more sensitive, because their follicles are packed with nerves.

These long, coarse hairs have a special role in tactile sensation, helping dogs define where they are in space. Beside the tactile sensation, whiskers have many other important functions for dogs. Dogs experience the world with the whiskers on their face and snout. They send a constant steam of data about their surroundings to their brains.

A dogs’ whiskers can detect faint vibrations and minute shifts in air currents. This helps them determine the presence, size, shape and motion of objects in their vicinity. That’s useful in the dark. These tactile hairs are a huge part of an animal’s sensory functioning, which may include everything from helping with food acquisition and communication with different species, as well as aggression, dispersion of pheromones, maintaining head position in swimming, and monitoring their environments (wind direction on land and current detection in water).

Dogs’ whiskers serve as receptors for important information about the size, shape and speed of nearby objects. Whiskers also help protect dogs. If a dog feels threatened, you will often see his whiskers fan out, then point forward.

Because their whiskers are so sensitive, when you touch them, do so delicately and carefully. Don’t trim or pluck your dog’s whiskers because it may cause your dog confusion and decreased awareness of his surroundings.