Many mammals, including canines, have whiskers. Some dog owners think these whiskers are just longer unruly hairs that can be groomed and even snipped off entirely — but this would be a huge mistake. The whiskers, technically known as “vibrissae”, serve important specialized functions that help dogs sense the world around them and coordinate their movement.
Humans sense touch through millions of sensory receptors that line the skin and deeper tissue. Unlike humans, the follicles of the coarse hairs protruding from a dog’s muzzle, jaw and above its eyes are also packed with nerves that relay sensory information.
Essentially, these whiskers allow dogs to sense objects and the world around them as humans do with fingers.
What are a canine’s whiskers good for
The tactile sensation is made possible thanks to Merkel cells, which are specialized skin receptors associated with nerve terminals. A dog’s mouth and snout are very rich in Merkel cells, according to a study published in the journal Veterinary Science.
According to researchers, these tactile hairs serve a variety of functions. For instance, the whiskers allow dogs to gather information from subtle changes in air currents about size, shape, and speed of nearby objects. Ultimately, this allows canines to see their surroundings better, even in dark. It’s well known that vision isn’t a dog’s strong point, so their vibrissae greatly assist them — especially when dealing with close objects (dogs are farsighted). Whiskers beneath the chin allow dogs to “see” objects obstructed by their snouts.
Whisker’s positioned immediately above the eyes are particularly important for vision. When an object or strong airflow causes these whiskers to flex, dogs will reflexively blink in order to protect their eyes.
It’s not clear whether dogs use their whiskers for food acquisition. However, if they’re anything like rats, seals, and walruses — all related species that have been shown to use their whiskers to find food — dogs might very well use their sensing hairs for this purpose, too.
A dog’s whiskers can also serve an important role in communication with other canines or other species. Like many other mammals, when a dog is threatened it will automatically flare its whiskers, pointing them in a forward direction. This signals to predators and other aggressive animals that the dog is ready to defend itself and respond with violence.
Dogs may use their whiskers to also disperse pheromones, keep their head upright when swimming, and monitor their environment.
About 40% of a canine’s visual cortex (the part of the brain responsible for processing vision) is devoted to mapping information from whiskers. They’re that important!
What you need to know about your dog’s whiskers
Although they might look similar, vibrissae are distinct from body hair. The main difference is that a dog’s whiskers are directed by the nervous system and contain nerves.
Unlike cats, which have four rows of whiskers on either side of a cat’s face, the placement of a dog’s whiskers is less predictable. Some have a multitude of vibrissae, others may have few or even none. You should find them above the eyes, on both sides of the muzzle, above the upper lip (pointing down) and beneath the dog’s chin.
According to scientists, there are no breed-specific differences in canine whiskers. An exception may involve hairless breeds, which have no whiskers at all.
That being said, you should never trim your dog’s whiskers. Some pet owners believe their dogs’ whiskers should be groomed and snip them for aesthetic purposes.
This practice won’t hurt the dog, because there are no pain receptors found in whiskers. However, given the multitude of functions they serve, a whisker-less dog will become confused, disorientated, and less able to navigate its spatial surroundings. If you cut your dog’s whiskers in the past out of ignorance, know at least that they will grow back naturally.
In summary, dogs use their whiskers as a sort of radar to detect objects that they cannot properly see with their own eyes.
Apart from the fact that the photographs are gorgeous there is much material that is good to know. For instance, I never knew there were no breed-specific differences in canine whiskers. Just hadn’t thought about it before.
Yesterday and today are days where it’s my turn to do the neighborhood watch patrols. I left for the first patrol a little after 9am yesterday and when I was going up Livingston Drive there was a guy walking his Corgi. Now it’s the second time we have met and I stopped and let the sweet dog come up to my outstretched hand and sniff my fingers. John, not his real name, mentioned that he was slowly adapting to a life of love and affection in stark contrast to the beatings the dog received in his previous life. John was a real hero!
Here’s another example of goodness beyond description. Taken from The Dodo.
Dog Found On Side Of Road Immediately Snuggles Her Rescuer
Kris Lenker and her husband were driving home from work last week when they spotted something on the road ahead.
They assumed, being out in the country, that the small, tan animal was a baby deer — but as they got closer, they realized their mistake. “We slowed down and realized that it was a dog,” Lenker told The Dodo.
Lenker hopped out of the car and called to the dog, but the nervous pup took off down a pathway. Lenker followed close behind, tempted to turn around. “I couldn’t see her anymore and we almost left,” Lenker said. “I just had a feeling, though.”
Lenker found the dog hiding behind a fence, and after a few minutes of gentle pets, the nervous dog decided to take a chance. “She wrapped her front paws around my neck and let me carry her back to the car,” Lenker said. “She was absolutely terrified, but I could tell she trusted me … It just felt like we were brought together for a reason.”
Shortly after the dog entered the car, her demeanor changed. It was as if she knew she was finally safe. “I just pet her and told her I had her,” Lenker said. “That is when she just collapsed into a ball in my lap. It’s like relief just hit her. She rode the rest of the way home in my lap like that.”
While she decompresses and regains her strength, the dog, whom the couple has named Reba, is hanging out in a warm bathroom. When she’s up to it, she’ll get to meet her new dog siblings, who will show her the rules of the house.
And Reba is still just as affectionate as the first day they found her: “Belly rubs are her favorite, and she doesn’t hesitate to ask for them!” Lenker said. “She rolls on her back and paws at us until we give in.”
Reba was initially resistant to being rescued, but now she doesn’t want to leave — even to go outside for potty training. She demands that her mom carries her outside and back in every time.
“I think she is still afraid she will be left out there,” Lenker said.
It’s only been a few days, but already Reba has been putting on weight and learning what it means to have a real family. “Her energy level is so much better and she is the biggest love bug,” Lenker said. “All she wants to do is snuggle us and give us kisses. It’s her favorite thing to do.”
Lenker believes they were truly meant to have Reba as part of their family. “She wouldn’t let anyone get near her, but she let us take her,” Lenker said. “She trusts us so much and we have fallen in love.”
“She trusts us so much and we have fallen in love.” What a fabulous end result.
There are so many loving people out there that would do the same. It’s an honour to present this account.
It was published on the Majestic Animals website and I hope republishing it is OK.
Dog accidentally runs half-marathon after being let out for pee, finishes 7th
Sports are great for the health and running is the best way to keep you in a good shape. But I just can’t imagine to train hard for a 13 miles marathon, only to have a dog beat you. Well, that is exactly what happened with most of the Elkmont Trackless Train Half Marathon runners, in Alabama.
Ludivine, a 2 years old Bloodhound was out for a pee when she spotted all those guys running. And since there wasn’t any rule to say that only humans re allowed to participate, the quick thinker pup joined the marathon. Surprisingly, that wasn’t all as the doggy not just finished the run, but she even got a medal.
The adorable dog who finished seventh in the race, even had some pit stops!
She finished in just over an hour-and-a-half. Her owner April Hamlin said:
“All I did was open the door, and she ran the race on her own accord. My first reaction was that I was embarrassed and worried that she had possibly gotten in the way of the other runners. She’s laid back and friendly, so I can’t believe she ran the whole half marathon because she’s actually really lazy.”
Jim Clemens, who finished fourth in the half marathon said, “Every time I thought she had dropped off to go back home, I would hear her coming back up to me and she would race past me up to the two leaders. She would run off to romp through the streams and into yards to sniff around for a while.”
After the week I’ve had, I so needed this story! Check the video below!
Devoted exclusively to the work of Sue Dreamwalker
Sue earlier on in the week brought my attention to this page on her blog: Pastel Drawings. Sue said that I could republish them. I am flattered. In fact, there are sixteen of these beautiful drawings and I intend to publish eight of them today and the remaining eight in Picture Parade Three Hundred and Twenty-Two.
They are so beautiful.
Thank you, Sue, for giving me permission to republish them. Needless to say full copyright is vested in Sue Morton and them being republished in this place does not give authority for them to be republished elsewhere.
Last month, on a chilly winter day in Nova Scotia, Canada, Bryan Thompson had a chance encounter he won’t soon forget.
While walking through a local park, Thompson saw this: a stranger making his way through the snow, pulling a cart containing the most precious cargo.
Inside, bundled up against the cold, was a cozy white pup.
Speaking to the stranger, Thompson came to learn that the dog has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a spinal cord disorder which can lead to paralysis in dogs. Because of that, she’s unable to get around on her own — but that hasn’t stopped the pair from still taking walks.
The dedicated dog owner crafted the cart to ensure it never does.
In a post online, Thompson described his reaction to that scene.
“I told him he was a great person for doing that, because I know there are many who wouldn’t. He just said that she would do the same for him,” Thompson wrote. “It’s hard to type this without tearing up.”
Afterward, the stranger and his happy dog continued on their way — slipping out of sight, but not out of mind.
Thompson’s account of that touching encounter has since gone viral, inspiring countless others with an example of true love at its finest.
This stranger, who is not named, is just a miraculous person. Plus a caring and loving man. It’s no surprise that the encounter, as described above, has gone viral.
The first of the New Year but I suspect if will be far from the last.
Dear Fellow Dog Lover,
I’m pleased to report there have been no dog food recalls issued since September 26, 2019.
Euthanasia Drug Discovered in Adulterated Animal Fat
The FDA recently discovered an animal euthanasia drug (pentobarbital) in test samples collected at a major supplier of animal fat to the pet food industry.
We’re unable to locate any information about which pet food brands may have purchased the affected ingredient.
For this reason, we recommend all dog and cat owners remain alert to the potential for future recalls related to this news.
Click here to read the official FDA Warning Letter sent to the producer.
Dog Food Recall Update
Some pet foods previously recalled may still be on store shelves… or in your own home. So, if you’ve missed any of the 11 recalls we’ve sent since July… be sure to visit our Dog Food Recalls page for full details.
10 Best Dog Food Lists Recently Updated
Over the last 90 days, The Dog Food Advisor has updated the following best dog food pages:
To be honest there are times when I struggle to come up with something original in terms of blogging. And it is at these times of life that I am very grateful for the offer of a guest post. Take Bryony for example. This is not the first time that I have presented her work but I am forever grateful for her so doing.
This is her article on scent dogs.
The making of a scent dog.
By Bryony Ravate, January 2nd, 2020
If you’ve been lucky enough to be around dogs, you will have probably noticed how their noses are always moving. By possessing a nose up to 15x times more sensitive than our own, with 600,00 neurones, they can sniff out different components in every room. When you’re cooking a meal, you will be able to recognise the smell of a dish. But when your dog smells the meal, he can smell each individual spice and seasoning, the oils, the crockery and even any water.
You can use your dogs’ keen sense of smell for play – laying out different scents for them to explore. But their noses can also be used for working environments– such as in airports, with the police and in search and rescue missions. They can track down suitcases hiding illegal substances, follow the suspect of a crime and sniff out the victims of a snowstorm. To become scent dogs, the canines go through vigorous training. However, although all dogs have an exceptional sense of smell, not all dogs make it through training.
It makes sense to analyse what leads to success and failure in scent dog training. So, a keen researcher at University College Cork, Ireland performed a literature review in which factors behind success and failure in scent dog training were analysed. A literature review is the process whereby you search a database full of information (usually research articles published in reputable journals) and you extrapolate the information to create your own source. Here, I’m going to pull together some of the points I found the most interesting, points you may not think would affect the making of a scent dog.
Dogs with strong motivation to play or search, dogs which were bold rather than shy, and dogs which can adapt and cope with stressful stimuli are more likely to become scent dogs. High motivation to play or search, makes a dog easier to train. Play can be used as a reward, by allowing the dog to pull on a chew toy after being successful in a trial. Finding scents may be perceived as a game to the dog, increasing his motivation to engage. Bold dogs are less unnerved by new surroundings and situations. A nervous dog may be hesitant about pursuing an unknown scent – but a bold dog will take little hesitation. Adaptable dogs may be able to apply their knowledge to different situations and they will be unphased by commotions and will keep working when faced with distractions.
Dogs that live in enriched environments throughout their training have increased ability in trials. Like children, the more opportunities you offer your dogs to learn, explore and interact with their environment, the more it allows them to develop and grow. Dogs should feel secure in their home environment when not working; keeping them with other dogs and in bright rooms without using loud cleaning equipment (such as hoovers) will make them less anxious, leading to better accuracy in scent trials.
The Human Partner
Dogs emotions are often intertwined with their handlers. When a dog’s owner gets angry, the stress hormones in the dog increase as a result. If a dog handler is happy, the dogs will perform better. The bond between dogs and their handlers can affect the accuracy of scent trials. If the dog lives at the owners’ home when he’s not working, obedience and accuracy are increased. Although the bond between scent dog and handler is important, they must be independent thinkers. When faced with a problem- solving task, they must be able to manipulate the environment themselves to find a solution, rather than looking at their handler for cues about the answer.
These are some factors which can alter the likelihood of a dog being a successful, as reviewed by Camille A Trosi and her team. What we must keep in mind is that all dogs are individuals. We cannot use this information to ensure all dogs in the future will pass scent dog training. However, we can use this knowledge to give potential scent dogs the best possible start to life; providing enrichment, an affectionate bond with their handler, and a suitable home environment. Canine personalities are not always determined by genetics, and a suitable environment can give a dog a metaphorical push in the right direction to ensure he is the best he can be, whether that be as a scent dog, a guide dog or even a lap dog.
Original Source : Troisi, C. A., Mills, D. S., Wilkinson, A. and Zulch, H. E. 2019. Behavioral and Cognitive Factors That Affect the Success of Scent Detection Dogs. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews, 14, pp. 51-76. doi: 10.3819/ccbr.2019.140007
Now what I haven’t done before but intend to do straightaway is to reproduce an extract from Bryony’s CV.
I currently hold a Pass with Distinction in MSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare from Queen’s University Belfast. I also have a BSc in Animal Behaviour and Welfare from Plymouth University. As well as holding two degrees relevant to the field, I currently have 2+ years of work experience. I possess the core attributes required when pursuing a career in the scientific industry; dedication, independence and initiative. I am highly passionate and believe that with my unique skillset I can have a valuable impact in the field of Science Communication.
Plus Bryony has her own blog, BrynsteinScience, and is also on Instagram, of the same name.
We wish Bryony much success in her work life and in her caring and interest for animals in general and dogs in particular!
There is an extensive article on Wikipedia in the UK on scent dog and the link to that article is here.
Finally to close with this wonderful photograph of a scent dog.
A wolf’s eyes have the power to speak a great language. Did you know that wolves possess certain ocular characteristics that allow them to communicate with other members of their species using their eyes alone? One can guess that this gives a new meaning to the common phrase “puppy-dog eyes!”