Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Did you know that your dog likely has a tiny beard of whiskers below its jaws? It’s actually a collection of nerves: These whiskers are called “vibrissae,” and like top-secret FBI tools, they allow your dog to investigate everything from you to your home.
The hidden power behind your dog’s vibrissae is their sensitivity. They are extremely receptive to touch. They’re designed to transmit detailed information about movement to aid your dog’s guidance and balance.

They can function as a guide when, for example, your dog walks down the hallway towards the water bowl at 2 a.m. That’s why the vibrissae are there; they let them know where their whole face is.

Your dog won’t like it if you touch or otherwise move the vibrissae. “They are highly innervated (supplied with nerves), so if they touch something or if the wind blows on them, there will be feedback to the dog’s brain,” says Debra Eldredge, DVM, of Vernon, New York, author of the Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook (Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated, 2007).

Because these hairs are so incredibly sensitive, take special care not to touch or brush one against its natural direction because that could be painful for your dog. Since these hairs are sensitive enough to detect wind flow patterns, you can imagine how painful it would be if you brushed them against their normal direction of growth. You need to literally avoid rubbing them the wrong way. Just as your nerve-filled fingertips are more sensitive than other parts of your body, your dog’s vibrissae are ultrasensitive. They’re meant to respond to minimal physical input. If you were to play with these hairs, even in jest, your dog might feel as though you pinched its face, and not in a good, pleasant way.

Read more: Your Dog\'s Secret Surveillance

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