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How Do Whiskers Help My Dog Navigate?

Will dog whiskers grow back? The short answer is yes. However, dog whiskers may not grow back if you aren’t careful when cutting. Dogs have specialized hairs called whiskers that grow above their eyes, on their muzzle, and chin. They’re also known as vibrissae and they help your pooch navigate their surroundings.

They’re an important part of your dog’s sensory perception, so it’s a good idea to keep them in great shape. But what happens if they get accidentally cut, pulled out, plucked or singed?

They Help Your Dog Navigate

Dogs use their whiskers as extra sensory perception, just like you’d find on a plane with radar or on a bat that uses echolocation to sense its surroundings. The hair follicles in whiskers have clusters of tactile receptor cells (Merkel cells) that respond to the smallest change in air currents and send signals to your dog’s brain, Coates says.

This information helps them determine the size, shape and speed of nearby objects. For dogs with poor vision, this information is a lifesaver in the dark, helping them to “see” things more clearly and avoid bumping into anything they shouldn’t, he says.

Whiskers also help protect a dog’s eyes. They are responsible for the blink reflex, which is when a dog closes their eyes if they feel something threatens to hit them in the eye. Superciliary and eyebrow whiskers detect air currents, which then signal your dog’s brain to trigger the blink reflex.

They Help Your Dog Communicate

Whiskers are a big part of how dogs see the world. Like a radar detector, they sense changes in air currents and send that information to the dog’s brain.

This gives them all the details they need to get from one place to another, including the size and shape of objects nearby. It also helps them tell wind direction, which is important when a dog swims.

Moreover, whiskers help dogs communicate with other animals and humans. If a dog is nervous or worried, they may flare their whiskers to let others know.

They also help protect a dog’s eyes from rain drops or dust particles. This is because their whiskers frame the eye, which can catch dirt before it gets in.

They Help Your Dog Protect Their Eyes

Most of us know that dogs have whiskers, but many people don’t realize how important they are to your dog. These coarse hairs around a dog’s nose, jaw and above their eyes are called vibrissae and serve specialized functions to help your furry friend navigate and communicate.

They allow your dog to sense the air currents around them and detect the size of nearby objects. They also help a dog understand how large an opening is and whether or not they can fit through it, according to LiveScience.

But more than just a radar system, these hairs also protect your dog’s vision from damage. When an object or strong airflow causes these whiskers to bend, your dog will blink reflexively to keep their eyes safe from harm, explains veterinarian Chris Butzer.

You can see this in action by lightly brushing a dog’s whiskers above their eyes. If a tiny speck of dust falls on one of these sensitive hairs, the dog will immediately fling it away.

They Help Your Dog Find Their Way

Dogs are largely blind to the things right in front of their noses and rely on whiskers (technically called vibrissae) for help. These hairs are deep under the skin and are embedded with clusters of nerves that send sensory messages to the brain whenever they meet something.

When a dog’s whiskers sense pressure, contact, movement or air currents, the vibrations are sent to their brain. This lets them know what’s around and helps them navigate their surroundings better, says Dr. Butzer, a veterinarian.

Another important function of dog whiskers is that they help your dog feel if an object is close. That way, they can avoid bumping into walls and furniture when navigating their home.

They also help protect your dog’s eyes from dirt and debris, so they don’t get poked by twigs or branches on their walks. When your dog’s whiskers touch anything, they usually trigger a reflex that blinks their eye to prevent dirt or other particles from getting into their eyes.


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