Many dogs have a delightful habit of tilting their heads when spoken to or when they hear certain types of noises. Most humans find the action adorable. But why do dogs tilt their heads? The dog head tilt is not fully understood, and not much research has been done into its cause. There are a few possibilities that many experts agree probably contribute, and it\’s possible that more than one or all of them play a part. Dogs have specialized ear structures that enable them to narrow down where sounds are coming from. This includes the outer ear and the ear flaps. Tilting their heads when they hear a new noise might help dogs to pinpoint the sound\’s origin better. You\’ve probably seen your dog tilt her head when you ask her if she wants to go for a walk, go for a car ride, or visit the dog park. While dogs can\’t understand all of the words we say to them, there are definitely some that they recognize from repetition. Sometimes, they may tilt their heads in concentration, to see if they can pick out some words that are important to them. When we are listening to someone speak, we evaluate more than their words to understand what they\’re telling us. We listen to the tone of voice and watch facial features, among other things, to infer the other person\’s meaning.
Dogs are no different. What is different is that many dogs can\’t see our entire face when they are looking directly at us. This is because of the fact that their muzzles extend from their faces, blocking their view of the lower part of a human face, including the mouth. Stanley Coren, Ph. D. , F. R. S. C. hypothesized that this might be a large part of the reason that dogs tilt their heads when we are speaking to them; they are trying to see more of our face to better interpret our meaning (Stanley Coren, 2013). Dr. Coren illustrates this point by suggesting that you hold your fist up to your nose, thus imitating what a dog\’s muzzle would be like, and see how much it limits your ability to see the lower face of someone who\’s talking to you. Now, tilt your head to the side while looking at the person and see how much better you can view their mouth. Dr. Coren conducted an internet survey, asking people to quantify how often their dogs tilted their heads and what the facial structure of that dog was. His hypothesis was that dogs with flatter faces (brachycephalic breeds) would tilt their heads less than dogs with longer muzzles. The results of the study showed a statistically important difference: dogs with longer muzzles did tilt their heads more often than brachycephalic breeds (Stanley Coren, 2013).
It is well understood that dogs are social animals, and they repeat behaviors for which they receive rewards. When dogs tilt their heads in response to words or sounds, humans usually find it charming. We often say things like, \”Aw,\” \”You\’re so cute,\” and \”Who\’s a cute girl,\” in positive, praising voices. Sometimes we give the dog a treat or are motivated to provide them with some other reward like a car ride or a walk. These positive reactions encourage dogs to repeat the behavior that garnered them. If your dog is tilting her head constantly, tilts it when there is no sound to trigger it, or shakes her head or scratches her ear while tilting her head, she could have a medical problem. Call your veterinarian right away. References Stanley Coren, P. F. (2013, December 11). Why Do Some Dogs Tilt Their Heads When We Talk To Them. Retrieved from Psychology Today:
You May Also Like These Articles: It s official: one of the cutest things in the entire world is a dog tiltingPhis head with expectant eyes and turned-up ears. But why do dogs tilt their heads? While we ll never know for sure, researchers say it could be one of a few reasons: Let s say you re in a loud, crowded place, trying to carry on a conversation with someone.
It s hard to hear, so you turn one of your ears toward the source of the sound and perk it up, maybe even using your hand to fold your ear lobe and block out extraneous noise. Some researchers say that s exactlyPwhat s happening when your dog s head tilts. , making it easier for them to locate the source of a soundand how far away it is. Humans have relatively flat faces, soPwhen we have a conversation with someone, nothing obstructs our view. Dogs, on the other hand, have a muzzle that can blockPtheirs. has an interesting exercise to demonstrate this: pullPyour fingersPinto a fist, then place it over your nose. It s harder to see, right? It sP especially harder to see the lower part of someone s face. We rely a lot on visual cues when communicating, even glancing at the mouth and lips while we re being spoken to. Dogs do this toobut their view is different. Tilting the head to the left or right creates a new perspective, giving the dog more visual information to understand the message. Everyone is guilty of puppy voice. So or something similarhe may perk up, expecting whatever hePthinks is going to follow. It might be a walk, or a treat or a game of fetchthe bottom line is that something got his attention, and now he s expecting something to follow it.
Certain words, tone of voice or even the sound of the TV can trigger it. There s such a thing as a sixth sense, and dogs totally have it. They can tell when something s just not right, whether you re wallowing afterPa breakup or cursing everything after stubbing your toe. They may be confused, so they re assessing the situation, checking out how you re doingand then probably giving you lots of kisses and snuggles. , and it s an admirable trait in humans and dogs alike. After time, your dog may start to correlate being adorable with receiving a treat. Let s say you give your dog a small bone every time he cocks his headsoon enough, he ll string those actions together and start. Smart, right? On a more serious note, a head tilt could signal an. If your dog is tilting his head frequently, he may be trying to regain his balance or prevent himself from falling. The culprit? Vertigo, essentially. When something s not right in the vestibular system, we have a hard time gauging where we are in relation to our surroundings, which can be scary and off-putting. If you noticePconstant head tilts, falls or even nausea in your dog, make sure to visit your vet.