Your dog is covered in hair, you already know that. But have you noticed that some of the hairs, especially on his muzzle, are longer and thicker than others? These hairs, often called dog’s mustache, also bear the name of vibrissae. If you take a good look at your companion, you will discover that these mustaches are implanted at the level of the muzzle, but also of the lips, chin and cheeks. There are even some above his eyes. How are these hairs different from other hairs?
The dog’s coat is mainly used to keep him warm. While the dog’s whiskers are a primordial sense organ. They serve him to detect vibrations around him and the pressure differences. Like rabbits, mice or cats, it thus physically feels its environment. It detects movements and evaluates the shapes and distances between an object and its muzzle. These hairs, in addition to being part of the sense of touch, are also a protection natural for your dog’s eyes. Let’s find out in detail the different functions of the dog’s whiskers and see why they should not be cut.
Shorthair dogs are more prone to physical assault than longhair dogs. If they hit against a piece of furniture, the sensation will be stronger than if there was a thick layer of hair. This is why the dog’s mustache has a more important sensory role in these dogs. It allows them to have a great awareness of their environment in order to avoid jostling objects at home.
This ability is also useful when the dog is playing. Focused on his toy, he does not necessarily see obstacles. His mustaches take over and show him their locations. This sensory organ extremely developed is intrinsically linked to the dog. When he walks around town, stands guard at home, or runs in the country, his mustaches are there to educate him about his immediate surroundings and potential dangers.
2. Detection of movements in the atmosphere
The human eye is designed to spot the movements in a place where everything is still. In dogs, this faculty is attributed to the whiskers. If a fly passes nearby, the dog feels it thanks to the movements of the air picked up by his whiskers.
Your animal also detects gestures around it, vibrations or tremors, drafts, etc. This organ is very sensitive and extremely efficient. It allows the dog to anticipate surrounding movements. He can then accept or avoid the contact of a hand or what he considers too close a danger.
3. Proprioception and orientation
The proprioception, it is the fact of being aware of the presence of his body in its environment. Thanks to his whiskers, the dog knows perfectly where his whole person is. This allows him to know in advance if he has room to go to such and such a place.
He also knows where his owner is, other people in the room, surrounding animals and obstacles to overcome or avoid. His mustaches allow him to guide himself and find his way in his living space, day and night.
4. Assessment of shapes and textures of objects
The dog’s whiskers have a non-negligible faculty: that of being able assess shape and texture Objects. This ability is particularly useful, especially in dogs with disabilities.
Indeed, a visually impaired or blind dog uses his vibrissae a lot to discover elements close to him. His mustaches also help him navigate his place of life without bumping into walls and furniture.
5. Estimation of the distance between an object and its muzzle
The dog’s whiskers are a very good distance indicator. When dogs feed or drink water, they don’t just use their eyesight to find out where their food is. His whiskers are there to tell him if the object is approaching or moving away.
The dog uses this faculty to smell an animal, to feel his master approaching or when he looks for his ball under a piece of furniture. The dog’s good reflexes are intimately linked to his mustaches, especially during games.
6. Natural eye protection
Like eyebrows, the hairs above the dog’s eyes are used to prevent the introduction of dirt. Small dust is stopped by this bulwark, thus avoiding a large number of ophthalmic problems.
These vibrissae also act as radar. They detect air movement and tell the dog when to blink or close his eyes for protection. Where humans use sight to close their eyelids when approaching danger, the dog uses its vibrissae to physically sense the risk.
7. Prohibition to cut a dog’s whiskers
When grooming certain breeds of dogs, it sometimes happens that the whiskers are cut. The reason is purely aesthetic. It is true that leaving large black whiskers on a small, well-shaved white dog is not the most beautiful effect.
But you will understand, these mustaches represent a indispensable organ to the dog. Cutting off your dog’s whiskers is like taking away his sight or hearing. These senses are essential for moving around, whether in nature or at home.
If you inadvertently cut the dog’s mustache, do not panic. For a while, your dog may hit some partitions and doors. His powers of anticipation during ball games or during his outdoor hunting parties will be slightly reduced. But his mustaches will grow back. Your animal will then regain all of its sensory capacities.
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