Most dogs have whiskers under their chin and Mother Nature sure knew what she was doing when placing them right there. Those whiskers and hairs found on a dog's face are there for a purpose, and a very important one too. For good reasons, Mother Nature has decided to retain them throughout the years.
Dog Whisker Anatomy
While in humans, hairs growing on the chin are often considered unsightly, dogs have too cute faces to grant removal of them. Even if you were thinking about removal, you may want to thing twice once you understand what whiskers are and how different they are from regular hairs.
When we think of the word "whiskers" we typically think of the hairs growing nearby the dog's muzzle, right on the upper lips. These whiskers are known as "mystacial whiskers" as they appear where a moustache would be.
However dogs have more groups of whiskers such as those growing on the top of the eyes (superciliary), by the cheeks (genal), and under the chin.
The whiskers under the chin are known as the interramal tuft, and typically a couple of these hairs sprout from a little bump of dark skin.
The Function of Dog Whiskers
Whiskers are thicker, longer hairs that have a hair follicle that's heavily innervated by sensory nerves, meant for spatial sensing.
The hairs function almost like an antenna, when something in the environment rubs up against them, they vibrate and stimulate nerves in the hair follicles, explains veterinarian Dr. Mary Fuller in an article for Vet Street.
These nerves then transmit information to the brain providing dogs with feedback about their surrounding environment. This ultimately explains why whiskers are medically referred to as "vibrissae" from the Latin word vibrio, meaning "to vibrate."
Detection of The World Under
Here's the thing, dogs have blind spots under their chins, which is why sometimes they cannot see that treat you tossed that's right under his nose.
While a dog's mystacial whiskers (those whiskers on either side of your dog's muzzle) provide information about what's on the dog's left and right, the hairs on his chin can tell him what's happening right beneath his head, protecting him from injury.
So those chin whiskers help your dog determine how close or far his head is from the food or water bowl, especially when he's in the dark. But wait there's more!
Despite being long-legged, hunting often required dogs to carry their heads low to for the purpose of ground snuffling or food burying. So these strategically placed whiskers allowed dogs to do all that.
Information About Moving Objects
Your dog's whiskers under the chin also offer an additional perk: they are very sensitive to changes in the air currents. So those chin whiskers provide your dog with information about any nearby moving objects.
A dog can therefore determine an object’s size, shape, and moving pace based on the air vibration the object produces as it travels. This is extremely useful when it comes to sensing danger in dark conditions.
Walking Through Tunnels
Additionally, those chin whiskers along with other whiskers, also turn helpful to dogs who have a passion for digging tunnels (yup, that's why dachshunds have long bodies). With the head carrier low through the tunnels, dogs were always aware of the space around them.
Can I Cut My Dog's Chin Whiskers?
Some groomers may opt to trim the whiskers around a dog's head. This is strictly a cosmetic procedure. Several dog breeds have the whiskers routinely cut off for the show ring so to attain "a cleaner" outline of the jaw.
If your groomer opts to trimming them because there's absolutely no way to trim the hair on the face without cutting the whiskers (think poodles), the good news is that once trimmed, they tend to readily grow back.
While this doesn't hurt dogs, in the meanwhile though, your dog may need to adjust the way he senses things in his surroundings, explains veterinarian Roger L. Welton.
Here are some more in depth thoughts on cutting a dog's whiskers, from veterinarian Dr. Ivana: Can you cut a dog's whiskers?
Did you know? According to Stanley Coren, out the several areas of the brain meant to register tactile information in the dog, nearly 40 percent is dedicated to the dog's facial area, particularly in the regions of the upper jaw.