close up dog whiskers

When you look at your dog and think about how cute it is, you may wonder what function its whiskers serve. These hairs on its face give it character and an adorable factor, but what are they even there for? If you’ve ever wondered why your canine has whiskers and what exactly they do, read on for the answers to your burning questions.

Dog whiskers are hairs made of keratin, just like dog hair, and they help dogs sense what’s going on around them. But, unlike the other hairs, whiskers have a tapered shape and are thicker. The scientific name for these whiskers is vibrissae, which hints at how the whiskers can sense small vibrations around the dog. These specialized hairs allow dogs to communicate emotions and process sensory information. Whiskers grow around the dog’s cheeks, chin, muzzles, and even above their eyes.

Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

There are two primary reasons why dogs need whiskers. First, they help dogs sense the environment around them and make sense of it. Second, they allow dogs to express their emotions to other dogs and people

Here are the specific ways that dog whiskers function:

  • They transmit info through sensory cells.
  • The specific cells on dog whiskers help them sense movement and objects. In fact, their whiskers can even detect small changes in the air.
  • The whiskers make up for poor vision. While dogs generally have enhanced hearing and smell, they don’t have the best eyesight. Their vision is especially poor for items that are close by. So, their whiskers help them process and “see” by acting as radar detectors.
  • Dog whiskers help them show their emotions. Your pet’s whiskers can help it display emotions. If the dog is in good spirits, the whiskers above its eyes will rise. If it is scared or angry, the whiskers around its muzzle will point forward.

Why You Shouldn’t Remove A Dog’s Whiskers

It’s a bit hard to see why you’d want to remove your dog’s adorable whiskers, but if you’re curious about what would happen if a dog didn’t have whiskers, here’s what you should know. While a dog without whiskers can function, it can have issues seeing in low lighting because ’it isn’t able to sense or see what’s going on around it very well.

Some groomers may try to trim or remove your pet’s whiskers, but be sure to tell them not to do so. Luckily, the whiskers will grow back, and trimming them up doesn’t hurt them.

Final Thoughts

While humans don’t have whiskers, it’s easy to see why dogs need them. Their whiskers allow them to sense items nearby. You can think of their vibrissae as an extra sense, similar to sight, hearing, and taste.

Also, whiskers make your dog look extra cute, even if the whiskers are long and look a little wild!

Featured Image Credit: Robert Avgustin, Shutterstock