How do dogs use their whiskers to scout their surroundings?

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A dog’s whiskers are called vibrissae. These long, coarse hairs are present above a dog’s eyes, along the muzzle, and under the jaw line. Vibrissae are sensory hairs that are extremely sensitive to touch, and can help a dog scout their surroundings. These hairs are nearly twice as thick as the rest of a dog’s coat, with much deeper roots. The reason these hairs are so sensitive is because their follicle is made up of an extremely dense nerve cluster.

The vibrissae are often likened to a human’s fingertips, and used in a somewhat similar fashion. Humans use their fingertips to touch and detect textures and other sensory perceptions, while dogs use vibrissae to sense vibrations in the air. These vibrations could send messages about the presence of nearby people or animals, scents in the air, or the size and shape of an approaching object.

A dog’s whiskers are great receptors that enable a dog to analyze their surroundings. Dogs rely on their senses of smell, sight and intuition to determine whether or not a situation is friendly or threatening. Whiskers also help to protect the eyes and muzzle; they are often the first to be touched and are used to warn a dog to back away, close the eyes, or snarl the teeth if the touch seems to be malicious.

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