Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

Have you ever wondered just why your dog has such long, coarse whiskers? The truth is that whiskers serve multiple important functions for your dog. Let’s take a look at whiskers themselves and the reasons that your dog has them.

A Detailed Look at Whiskers

In order to understand why your dog’s whiskers are important, you need to understand a little bit about how the whiskers are built. Your dog’s whiskers are called vibrissae. These vibrissae are long, coarse and rigid hairs which are located along your dog’s upper and lower jaw, eyes, and nose. The vibrissae are embedded deeply into your dog’s skin, and he can control them using small muscles near the surface of his skin. The follicles at the base of the vibrissae are full of nerve bundles, meaning that your dog has excellent feeling of when the vibrissae move or are vibrated by a touch or the wind.

Whiskers Enhance Your Dog’s Sight

Whiskers’ main purpose is to enhance your dog’s sight. Dogs don’t have the greatest of eyesight. To top it off, a dog’s long nose partially obscures his vision of objects that are right in front of him.

That’s where whiskers come in. Your dog’s whiskers help him to tell just where he is in space, so that he doesn’t bump into things. As your dog feels vibrations from his whiskers, he can tell where the wind is coming from or if there is an object close to his face. Think of the accidents that might happen if your dog couldn’t tell that there was a desk corner right by his eye and turned around quickly at a surprising sound or smell.

Whiskers Help Your Dog Find Small Objects

Whiskers are also great at helping your dog to locate small objects. Your dog can’t see what’s directly in front of his nose, but his whiskers can tell him how close he is to the food in his bowl or to the edges of the bowl itself. If your dog is trying to pick up a rope toy from the floor, his whiskers can help him locate just where that toy is without having to move his head around too much to properly see the toy.

Whiskers Help Your Dog Navigate

Whiskers serve a third important purpose: they inform your dog when a space is too small for him to squeeze through. Whiskers extend to roughly the width of your dog’s shoulders, the widest point in his body. If he feels the edges of an area on his whiskers, this can tell him that he shouldn’t try to go into that area. If he did, he might get stuck, and he certainly won’t be able to get through.

All in all, whiskers help your dog to better live his life. He can see, locate objects, and navigate more smoothly thanks to the help that his whiskers give him. Because of their multiple purposes, it’s best to leave your dog’s whiskers intact and untouched.

Have you ever noticed your dog using his whiskers to better “see” an object?