Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

dog is smiling in a camera 1

While a lot of people are aware that dogs have whiskers, few of them actually realize why. 

This is something that actually serves a purpose on a dog’s body like everything else. Some of the reasons for this might surprise and interest you as a dog owner.

Basics of Your Dog’s Whiskers

Whiskers are essentially thin and coarse pieces of hair that protrude through the follicles on a dog’s face. The placement of a dog’s whiskers is different from that of a cat, in that they are found on either side of its face as well as above its eyes. Dogs even have small whiskers on their chin.

Each breed has a slightly unique whisker pattern, and the location of them vary as well. Most dogs grow whiskers before they are fully matured. In fact, these are the first hairs that a dog grows as its body develops.

The increased sensitivity of a dog’s whiskers is due to the fact that they come from areas that contain a lot of nerves and blood vessels. This is why these whiskers are so useful to a dog—they use them to explore everything in their environment.

The Purpose of Whiskers on a Dog

A dog’s whiskers allow them to get around and maneuver their world as easily as possible. They essentially act as another pair of eyes, except without the vision. While this might seem a bit complicated at first, it’s actually quite simple.

  Rehoming An Aggressive Dog: When Should You Say Goodbye?

Your dog’s whiskers allow them to feel things that are nearby, which provides them with useful information. They are able to tell the size, speed and shape of things that are close to them, which aids in avoiding potent danger.

two dogs are sleeping uder the blanket

1. Radar Vision

Whether or not you realize it, your dog uses radar to navigate the world around it—sort of. When they are walking around, their whiskers pick up on subtle vibrations in the air from their movement. This helps them get around despite being somewhat far-sighted. The fact is that most dogs cannot see things very well up close, so they rely on their whiskers a lot of the time.

Before dogs were domesticated, they relied on their whiskers in the wild to help sense when predators were close by. They also aided in giving them a general idea of where their pack mates were at any given time. This helped keep these animals alive on a daily basis. While they are still important to them in modern times, they used to serve an even more crucial purpose.

2. They Tell You How Your Dog is Feeling

Believe it or not, your dog’s whiskers can also tell you how it is feeling most of the time. If your dog is feeling good, their whiskers will turn upwards. If they are on edge because of a perceived threat, their whiskers turn outward. This is just another way to tell how your canine companion is feeling, which can be very useful information.

3. Whiskers Keep Your Dog Safe

Another important purpose that whiskers on a dog serve is that they protect their face. If a speck of dust or other particulate matter falls near your dog’s eye, their whiskers will get it off quickly. This keeps their eyes clean and safe so they don’t get scratched or injured.

  10 Coolest & Best Dog ID Tags

If your dog is walking around outside and stumbles across a picker bush, it will probably sense the threat with its whiskers and turn around. As we mentioned earlier, a dog’s whiskers help it to navigate and avoid threats. This is just one example of that.

Sometimes a dog is able to find out if they can fit through a particular space by using their whiskers. This helps them avoid becoming stuck, which can be quite a predicament for these animals. Once a dog is stuck, it is difficult for it to get unstuck.

chinese crested with funny hair style

4. Caring for Your Dog’s Whiskers

It is important that you keep in mind just how sensitive your dog’s whiskers are. You should, therefore, be mindful of them when petting or grooming your dog. You don’t want to be too rough when doing either one of these things. Despite how powerful and useful a dog’s whiskers are, they can be damaged and even broken off.

If you have any small children in the house, it is crucial that you teach them how to properly handle your dog so as to avoid whisker damage. It can be easy for a careless child to harm this part of their pet without meaning to.

It is not a good idea to try cutting or trimming your dog’s whiskers. This is completely unnecessary and can ultimately do a lot of harm to them. Some people are tempted to do this to improve the look of their dog, but it is never a good idea.

Removing or even trimming down a dog’s whiskers can cause your dog to become disoriented and have trouble getting around. Keep in mind that this will also cause them a great deal of pain, as whiskers are rooted in follicles that have a lot of nerves.

  Dewclaws on Dogs - Keep or Remove Them?


  • Whiskers are pieces of coarse hair that sprout of out a dog’s hair follicles on their face.
  • The average dog has whiskers above their eyes, on the sides of their muzzle, and on their chin.
  • Your dog’s whiskers allow it to navigate their environment and avoid threats that could be potentially harmful to them.
  • Historically speaking, whiskers have helped dogs to sense predators and keep track of where their packmates are at any given time.
  • The position of your dog’s whiskers can tell you a lot about how they are feeling.
  • If their whiskers are turned up, they are most likely happy or satisfied. If they are turned forward, they are on edge about something (a possible threat).
  • The whiskers on your dog’s face allow it to avoid damage to their eyes and face on a daily basis by keeping all sorts of abrasive things away.
  • It is never a good idea to have your dog’s whiskers trimmed or cut, as doing so will only harm them in a number of ways.
Was this article helpful?