Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dog Hackles

The hackle is the perfect tool in the canine communication tool kit.  It's visual AND smelly. 

When the hairs between the shoulder blades bristle upright, the dog is involuntarily "raising its hackles".

Humans hackle too. Goosebumps are
a type of hackling.
Hackling can convey any number of emotions. Depending on the dog's personality, it might mean he is defensive, alarmed, afraid, angry, insecure, or unsure.  Usually it's a way of saying, "Watch out. I'm prepared to meet any challenge."

Dr. Barkman wouldn't mind being able to hackle.  It's a handy way
of saying something without saying something.

An erector muscle connects the skin to the primary hair follicle (dogs have up to 7 follicles per shaft). Hackling, also called piloerection, is an involuntary response to a stimulus that causes the body to secrete adrenaline, which in turn causes the the erector muscle to contract and raise the hair.  

The erector muscle also pulls on the glandular bulb attached to each hair follicle causing it to secrete oil that empties into the shaft surrounding the hair follicle. The glandular secretion is not only a waterproof skin lubricant, it also contains pheromones for communication.

Can poodles hackle?
Poodles, Pulis, water spaniels and some other curly coated breeds have coats without the course primary hair, which is the only follicle involved in the hackle.  If you have a dog with a fuzzy coat, let me know if she hackles.

1 comment:

  1. So interesting to read the biophysical actions of this hackling. I've seen this response in my dogs when a passing dog looks as though it will tresspass on our territory! It's sort of spectacular to see!