Depending on your dog’s breed and coat type, grooming might be a weekly topic including brushing, combing and trimming nails or fur. But what about the prominent wiry hairs that surround your dog’s face?
Vibrissae (whiskers) typically grow around the muzzle, the cheeks, the chin and on both corners of the eyebrows. They are thicker and way longer than your dog’s natural fur and the root reaches deep into the skin.
Dogs can have up to 20 whiskers on each side of their face. So what happens if you cut or trim dog whiskers? Do they need them and what are they for? Let’s find out!
What Are Dog Whiskers Called?
Doggy facial hair is not simply called whiskers or vibrissae. Depending on the location of the hair, the whiskers have many different names. Starting with the most prominent whiskers around your dog’s muzzle, these antennas are called “mystacial whiskers” which origins from the word mustache.
The whiskers above the dog’s eyes are known as “supraorbital whiskers” while the cheeks carry the “genal whiskers”. When you look under your dog’s chin you might stumble upon the “interramal tufts” which arise from the little spot in the middle.
Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?
We commonly know from cats that they utilize whiskers to collect additional information about their environment. They help them to navigate through the dark and even identify different textured objects.
Before a cat enters a narrow tunnel, she will brush her whiskers against the inside to determine the size and length of the tunnel. Wind directions or even approaching animals can be detected by these coarse hairs.
For cats, as well as dogs, whiskers work like a sixth sense that they can use to learn more about their surroundings. Additionally, they act as protection for the eye just like human eyelashes. However, dogs do not depend on their whiskers as much as cats do, so should you trim them regularly?
Should I Trim Dog Whiskers?
Your dog went to visit the groomer and when picking him up you notice that his whiskers are shorter than before. But is this really necessary? In general, dogs never need their whiskers to be shaved, trimmed or cut and it’s more of an aesthetic choice to achieve the “clean” look.
Dogs that attend dog shows are commonly known to have trimmed whiskers. But there is really no need for trimming your dog’s facial hair if you don’t have a super long-haired breed.
If your dog is a hairy-faced breed such as the Poodle or Schnauzer, you can consider trimming them a tiny bit only if he is constantly getting food or dirt stuck in his chin hair. Other than that there is probably more harm than good in cutting dog whiskers.
What Happens When You Cut Off a Dog’s Whiskers?
Still today we are not really sure about the exact consequences of cutting dog whiskers and whether it’s extremely harmful or not. Many believe that cutting will interfere with the dog’s ability to navigate their surroundings.
Missing whiskers could lead to disorientation and your dog might frequently walk into walls or objects. Usually, when your dog steps towards an object, his sensitive whiskers are being touched which sends warning signals to the neurons in the brain that something is located in front of his face.
Taking away this helpful mechanism may lead to injuries especially during the dark hours of the day. Whether it’s harmless or not, trimming your dog’s whiskers is definitely not necessary and you should talk to your groomer about your preferences to save your pet from additional grooming stress.
Do Dog Whiskers Grow Back?
Yes, dog whiskers grow back so if your groomer accidentally cut them it’s not the end of the world. Even fallen out whiskers can completely grow back to their full size. The growth rate depends on your dog’s health, coat type, and age.
Some dogs find it very calming if you massage their whiskers but you should never try to pull them out! The strong and deep roots would definitely hurt your dog when being ripped out.
Does Cutting Whiskers Hurt?
Vibrissae, like any other hair, don’t have a nerve supply and therefore don’t transport any pain signals to the brain. It’s just like cutting nails which doesn’t hurt at all if done right. But again, it’s definitely not necessary.
Grooming Without Cutting Dog Whiskers
It’s possible to groom around your dog’s face without cutting the whiskers. For this technique, you will only need the Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush and Pet Grooming Scissors with rounded tips. Using clippers for the face can be very dangerous and can quickly lead to injury.
Start by only cutting off short pieces of hair and later adjust them to their final size. Occasional brushing will keep the coat in place and will provide you with the correct hair cutting direction.
When you get close the eyes, cover them with one hand and gently trim the hair until they are about 1/4-inch in length. Grab each individual whisker and cut the hair around it. Don’t stress too much if you accidentally cut a whisker, it will get easier as you practice.
Create a pleasant experience for your dog and take plenty of breaks in between. Feeding treats, chew toys or stuffed kongs can make a big difference. Take your time while grooming and don’t cut too quickly.
Do Dogs Shed Whiskers?
Once in a while, it may happen that your dog’s whiskers fall out which is totally normal and nothing you need to panic about. But a sudden loss of many or all whiskers is a reason for concern and should be consulted with your vet to rule out any underlying illness.
Are Puppies Born With Whiskers?
Humans have to reach puberty before developing any facial hair so what about our furry companions? Puppies are actually born with whiskers and they are one of the first hairs to develop.