Most dogs visit the groomer at some point in their lives; whether their long whiskers survive the trip is ultimately up to you. Talk to a reputable groomer before submitting your buddy to any grooming procedure and you’ll both leave with a satisfied shimmy.
World of Whiskers
Your dog’s whiskers are technically called “vibrissae.” The term is derived from the Latin word vibrio, which means “to vibrate.” This etymology is quite telling. When your buddy’s whiskers brush up against an object, they vibrate and stimulate the nerves in the hair follicle. This provides sensory information that guides his movements. If you’ve ever wondered how your buddy can find his way in the dark, know you know—he lets his whiskers guide him. They’re even sensitive enough to detect slight changes in air currents; a dog in a dark room can detect a nearby wall simply because of a change in the air current.
Trimming a dog’s whiskers is usually a purely cosmetic procedure, but sometimes it’s medically necessary. If your buddy has matted fur on his face, a few whisker causalities may be necessary to remove the mats and eliminate his suffering. Likewise in the case of hot spots or sores on the face. The fur must be trimmed around these areas to allow for proper airflow to the wound and subsequent healing. A whisker trim may also be necessary in the case of extremely long whiskers that curl into your buddy’s eye. Nobody wants his or her eye constantly poked; a quick, slight trim should resolve the issue.
When you trim or completely remove a dog’s whiskers, you’re compromising his ability to “feel” around his face and even move about confidently. Altering your buddy’s sensory perception may lead to confusion and even bumping into walls or missing his water bowl when he leans in for a quick drink. It’s especially important to leave whiskers intact if your buddy has poor vision. The good news is that trimmed whiskers will eventually grow back just like any other hair, but the time between trim and regrowth could be clumsy and confusing for your dog. Bottom line, he’d like to keep his whiskers if at all possible, please.
Choosing a Groomer
Choose a groomer for your buddy just as you’d choose a hairdresser for yourself. It would be risky to open the phone book and decide to get a full head of highlights from the first stylist you found. The same goes for your dog. You’re going to want to make sure the groomer you choose is reputable. Ask your veterinarian and other pet owners for recommendations. Some groomers are registered or certified by a grooming school or professional association, but don’t place too much emphasis on a certificate; there’s no current government regulation when it comes to pet groomers. Once you’ve found a reputable groomer and toured the facility, talk with the groomer. Ask her if she regularly trims a dog’s whiskers; create an open dialogue. If you prefer your buddy’s whiskers to be left alone, make that request. A good groomer will respect your decision and you can build up a level of trust that lasts over many, many nail trims.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.