Picture of a dog with whiskers - why do dogs have them?

Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers? (The Answer May Surprise You)

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Many pet owners don’t fully understand the function of their dog’s whiskers. Why do dogs have whiskers under their chin, above their eyes, and on the side of their face?

Read on to learn why dogs have whiskers and how they add to a dog’s quality of life.

Whiskers Provide Sensory Information

Whiskers are vital for helping a dog navigate their world and environment. Dogs have whiskers to help them decipher the information they receive from the world. For example, whiskers on the sides of your dog’s muzzle can help them understand the consistency of the food their eating and help them understand depth perception.

Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers Under Their Chin?

Chin whiskers typically grow from under a dog’s chin, but many dog owners may not realize how important these whiskers are. Without these whiskers, your dog may not be able to detect food, water, or other essential items for survival.

These whiskers also help your dog with depth perception, so they don’t bump into things when they try to eat. 

Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers on the Side of Their Face?

Muzzle whiskers are crucial for movement. Many dog owners may wonder: why do dogs have whiskers on the side of their faces? These whiskers ensure that a dog can make out the size and shape of objects in their path.

Dogs also have whiskers on their cheeks. These whiskers can help your dog understand their space and prevent them from getting stuck in small places.

Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers Above Their Eyes?

Why do dogs have whiskers above their eyes? These whiskers can help a dog be aware of threats or annoying bugs that can obstruct a dog’s vision.

These whiskers are vital for sending signals to the brain that enable the dog to blink away any dirt or debris built over time.

What Happens if You Trim a Dog’s Whiskers?

You should never trim a dog’s whiskers. Trimming a dog’s whiskers can cause them to bump into furniture or other items while walking. A dog’s whiskers are small and don’t grow very long, even when unkempt.

Even when trimming your dog’s coat, leave their whiskers alone so they don’t suffer from spatial awareness or balance issues.

Does Every Dog Have Whiskers?

Every dog has whiskers, no matter how large or small. Each dog may have whiskers of varying sizes, but these whiskers are vital for their growth and development.

Tips from Our Vets

Dogs make excellent companions and bring so much joy to our lives. Unfortunately, however, they cannot speak to us.

If your pet exhibits odd behavior, it can be worrisome and difficult to know if the behavior is normal or a reason for concern.

Not sure why your dog is exhibiting a specific behavior?

  • Some behaviors can seem very odd but may be completely normal.
  • Others could signal illness or injury.
  • Due to the lack of ability for a dog to communicate with us verbally, it is imperative to pay close attention to what the dog is telling us through their behavioral changes.

The most important takeaway is that if you are ever concerned about a behavior that your dog is displaying, your best resource for information is your veterinarian.

In general, a new behavior that is not typical for your dog should be investigated. Examples would be:

  • Not eating
  • Suddenly sleeping more than usual
  • Being reluctant to go on walks or to play
  • Becoming aggressive or grumpy when interacting with other people or pets

These behavior changes most commonly indicate that something is wrong, and your pet needs to see their veterinarian as soon as possible. It is much easier and more likely to be successful, to treat an illness early in its course as opposed to waiting until the dog is very sick.

Other odd behaviors include:

  • Eating feces
  • Chasing their tail
  • Sudden bursts of activity (known as the “zoomies”)

These may be completely normal. However, if you notice a drastic change in your dog, for example, they never exhibited one of these behaviors, and now they suddenly are, it is prudent to have them examined by their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if the behavior is normal, it may lead to unintended issues.

For example, young dogs consuming their feces or the feces of other dogs can be a normal behavior but can lead to gastrointestinal upset as well as intestinal parasitism.

Parasites from your dog can cause serious health complications, not only for your dog, but also for you and your family, as many are transmissible to humans.

Licking of the feet or scratching may seem like normal dog behavior but typically indicates a health issue such as allergies, fleas, or skin infection.

Left untreated, these issues will worsen and cause additional discomfort for your dog.

Remember that your best source of reliable health information for your dog is your veterinarian. Because dogs cannot verbally communicate with us, it is essential to be proactive with any possible health concerns.

Working with a trusted veterinarian as your partner will ensure many happy and healthy years for both you and your dog.

Final Thoughts: Why Do Dogs Have Whiskers?

Whiskers are essential for a dog’s daily life. The whiskers on your dog’s chin, muzzle, and sides of their face will help them understand how far away things are and the texture of their food and help them walk without bumping into things like furniture.

Keep in mind these vital points about dog whiskers:

  • Whiskers help with spatial awareness, balance, and depth perception.
  • You should never trim a dog’s whiskers.
  • All dogs have whiskers, even if they aren’t noticeable.
  • Whiskers are essential for expressing emotion and affection.

You can see the small ways that your dog’s whiskers contribute to their daily life by watching them investigate things and seeing how their whiskers twitch.

If you’re looking for answers to explain your dog’s behaviors, you can check out our series of guides on why dogs do what they do:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.