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What are Vibrissae (Dog Whiskers)

May 23, 2023
Dog Whiskers


What are Vibrissae  (Dog Whiskers)


Dog whiskers, also known as vibrissae serve several important functions for dogs. ('whiskers' is the general term we use for Vibrissae found in animals but lets focus here on dogs). Although we all think of the whiskers as being only coming from the side of the snout you'll be surprised how many different types of Vibrissae there are on your dogs head.


Types of Vibrassae

Have a look at your dog and see if you can see all the different types.


Supraorbital Whiskers

These are located above the eyes on the dog's forehead

Mystacial Whiskers

The most prominent whiskers, located on the muzzle or snout area.

Genal Whiskers

Positioned on the cheeks

Lateral Whiskers

These are found on the sides of the muzzle

Ventral Whiskers

Located on the chin or lower jaw



What are they used for?


Sensory Perception

Whiskers are highly sensitive and serve as a sensory organ for dogs and can help them gather information about their surroundings, such as detecting changes in air currents, vibrations, and even the size and shape of objects. Whiskers help dogs navigate through narrow spaces and avoid obstacles, especially in low-light conditions.



Dogs use their whiskers to communicate with other animals and humans. When a dog is feeling threatened or fearful, it may flatten its whiskers against its face, indicating its state of unease. Whiskers can also convey a dog's mood or intentions to other dogs during social interactions.


Body Awareness

Whiskers play a role in helping dogs determine the position and movement of their body in relation to their surroundings. This awareness is called proprioception. By detecting slight changes in air movements, dogs can gauge the proximity of objects and avoid collisions.


Hunting and Prey Detection

Whiskers aid dogs in hunting and tracking prey. They can detect subtle vibrations in the environment, such as the movement of small animals or the rustling of leaves, helping dogs locate and pursue their targets.





Although these 'whiskers' are sensitive and serve various functions, they are not the sole means of perception for dogs. Their main sensory organs for vision, hearing, and smell will play a more significant roles in a dog's overall perception of the world but we shouldn't overlook these amazing yet seemingly simple appendage.