Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

Why do dogs have whiskers?

Ever look at those whiskers that frame your dog’s face, and find yourself wondering: why do dogs have whiskers?

It’s a good question, because it turns out those whiskers do a lot more besides just making your dog look cute. 

Keep reading to find out exactly what dog whiskers are for, and learn the effects of cutting dog whiskers before you decide to give your pup’s facial hair a trim.  

What Are Dog Whiskers For?

Dog whiskers, also known as vibrissae, are specialized hairs that are thicker, stiffer, and more deeply embedded in your dog’s skin than his normal fur. Dog whiskers are found in different places on a dog’s body, including above the eyes, on the cheeks, and under the chin. 

But what are dog whiskers for? Two very important things:

1. Navigating the World

The primary function of whiskers is to act as a sensory tool for dogs, helping them navigate their surroundings and detect potential danger.

Whiskers are extremely sensitive to touch and movement, as they’re surrounded by nerve endings that send signals to your dog’s brain. If your dog touches an object or surface with his whiskers, the nerves send information to the brain about the texture, size, and shape of the object. 

So, whiskers help dogs identify objects in their environment, even in low-light conditions.

2. Communicating Emotion

Your dog can also use his whiskers to communicate his emotions. 

You’ll know if your dog is happy or curious because he’ll raise his whiskers above his eyes, giving him the classic “big puppy dog eyes” look. It’s impossible not to smile when you see it!

On the flipside, if a dog is feeling threatened or scared, he’ll flare the whiskers on his muzzle and point them forward toward the source of the threat. It’ll look like his whiskers are saying, “Back off, buddy!”

So, if you’re trying to figure out what your furry friend is feeling, pay attention to his whiskers. You can think of them as little mood indicators for his face.

Can You Trim Dog Whiskers?

Now that you know how important your dog’s whiskers are, you might be wondering: can you cut a dog’s whiskers? The short answer is no, you shouldn’t trim dog whiskers. In fact, it’s crucial to resist the urge to to start plucking dog whiskers (even if they look untidy). 

These long, stiff hairs help dogs detect objects, sense movements, and navigate their way around. Imagine if you lost your sense of touch … how difficult would it be to perform your daily tasks? It’s a bit like that for dogs: without their whiskers, they would feel lost and disoriented.

Cutting or plucking dog whiskers can also cause discomfort, confusion, and pain. In fact, even when petting your dog, it’s best to be mindful of his whiskers, and only touch them gently along the grain.

So even though it’s natural to wonder “can you trim dog whiskers?” … leave your dog’s whiskers alone. They play a vital role in your dog’s overall wellbeing and it’s important to keep them intact. If you’re worried about how they look, there are other ways to groom your pup’s face without plucking dog whiskers.

Effects Of Cutting Dog Whiskers

Whiskers act as a dog’s “sixth sense,” providing them with important information about their environment that they can’t get from their other senses alone. When you cut a dog’s whiskers, you’re essentially limiting their ability to sense and navigate their surroundings. 

So the effects of cutting dog whiskers are particularly dangerous if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors. You may be disrupting his ability to avoid potential hazards like predators, traffic, and other animals.

The nerves in dog whiskers are so sensitive that cutting them can also cause pain, irritation and even infection. In some cases, cutting dog whiskers may even cause behavioral changes like increased anxiety or aggression.

Do Dogs Whiskers Grow Back?

Yes, dog whiskers do grow back over time. In fact, your dog can naturally shed and regrow whiskers just like he does with his coat. 

The regrowth process can take several weeks to several months, depending on the individual dog and the location of the whiskers. On the longer end, it can take up to two or three months for your dog to regrow his whiskers back to the original length, depending on how they’ve been trimmed.

RELATED: Should you shave your dog in summer?

Bottom Line| Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

Dog whiskers are a crucial part of your dog’s sensory system. They help him navigate the world, detect danger, and express emotion.  

It may be tempting to trim or pluck dog whiskers … but it’s important not to do so, as it can have negative effects on a dog’s wellbeing and behavior. 

So next time you notice your furry friend flaunting those adorable whiskers, or if someone asks you what are dog whiskers for … remember that they’re not just a fashion statement. They’re an essential part of what makes your dog a dog!

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