A trip to the dog groomer is much like a trip to the hairdresser -- every salon is different, and you have many styles to choose from. Like your hair, your dog's fur and whiskers will grow back. Sheared whiskers are not a permanent condition.
A dog's whiskers are actually sense organs called vibrissae. While many people feel that vibrissae serve no useful purpose for dogs, the fact is that dogs use them to gather information about their surroundings. No, your dog is not going to walk in circles if you cut off his whiskers, but he will certainly be missing out on something. Remember how it felt the last time you accidentally coated your fingertips with fast-drying glue -- you can pick things up but you can't feel them as well.
It is accepted practice to trim the whiskers on many long-haired breeds. Most short-haired breeds are typically left in their natural state. The best way to find out whether your groomer plans to trim your dog’s whiskers is to ask. Groomers often say they follow breed standards, but not all standards specify whether whiskers should be trimmed. So be prepared to make a choice. You can check out your breed's standards at the American Kennel Club's website.
Pros and Cons
There are benefits to shearing whiskers. Some dogs don’t shed and, left unchecked, their face fur would become matted and smelly. Show dogs often have their whiskers trimmed because their handlers feel that it gives them a neater appearance and an edge over the competition. Some people just like the look of a clean-cut face on their pet.
On the other hand, the procedure is uncomfortable for most dogs -- it's extremely painful if the groomer plucks rather than trims them. Trimming the whiskers dulls one of his senses and temporarily alters your dog’s natural appearance.
Talk to Your Groomer
The only way your groomer will know your preferences is if you tell her. If you are not sure what style best suits your dog’s needs, ask for advice -- but don’t be intimidated into believing that the groomer knows more about what is best for your dog than you do. Choosing to have your dog’s whiskers trimmed strictly as a cosmetic procedure is a valid option; just don’t be fooled into believing that it is accepted practice for every dog that walks through a groomer’s door.
Jenny Newberry, a former teacher with 25 years of experience, is a professional writer and photographer and holds a B.S. and a M.Ed. in elementary and special education from the University of South Alabama. She is also a history buff, praise and worship pianist, pet enthusiast, avid crafter and hobby gardener.