If you have a dog, you've undoubtedly had your heart stolen by those cute head tilts. Their ears stand up, they stare into your eyes and move their head to one side—and your heart melts instantly. You shower them with hugs, kisses and treats and patiently wait until the next time it appears.
If you wonder why dogs tilt their heads when we speak to them, you're not alone. According to professionals and various studies, the reasons dog tilt their heads may be much more meaningful than you think.
Is It Normal for Dogs to Tilt Their Heads?
You may have noticed that when you talk in your unique baby voice or play certain sounds from your phone, your beloved pup is more likely to tilt their head. While you might think that it's just because they know how much you love it, there are deeper reasons why your dog is tilting their head.
First off, your dog's head tilting is normal! There's no need to worry if you see your dog tilting its head when you speak. This is your dog's way of establishing communication with you in many cases, signaling to you that they're listening and engaged. Studies have connected this head tilting to their auditory, visual and concentration skills. These practical reasons may explain why your dog tilts its head so often.
In other instances, your dog's head tilting may occur even without any sounds or stimulation present. When your dog is doing this over and over, it may be dealing with a medical problem. While less common, a dog's head tilt might signify an ear infection or vestibular problem. Yeast or bacteria can cause these problems, leading to pain, itching and head tilting. If you notice something like this happening, you should have your dog checked out by your vet.
Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?
One of the cutest things your dog can do is tilt its head when you're talking to them. When we see this happen, we often praise them with laughter and smiles, which urges them to continue this behavior. While we love this famous head tilt because of its endearing qualities, it may also signify their engagement with you and the words you're using.
Dogs are intelligent animals — so much so that they use their head tilts to improve their communication and show that they're processing what you're saying. There are a couple of different instances in which your dog might tilt their head to show you they understand.
Head Tilting to Hear
Dogs have a greater sense of hearing than people do. They can detect higher frequencies and sounds that the average person cannot. However, a dog's directional hearing is more restricted than humans. While humans can hear sounds from any direction without having to turn our heads, dogs have a much more difficult time. This limitation means that they cannot quickly identify sounds unless their ears are in the correct position.
Many dogs also have larger ear flaps covering their ears, acting as a roadblock to sound. Different breeds have variously shaped ears that limit their hearing in different ways. Depending on their ear flaps, some dogs can't hear well from behind them, while others struggle from all directions. The head tilt you see may be a sign of the dog adjusting their ears and body to hear a sound better while also judging its distance and location.
Head Tilting to See
Dogs with larger snouts, such as Greyhounds or German Shepherds, are known to tilt their heads more often than those with smaller ones. Dog specialists believe those breeds with longer snouts have difficulty getting a clear picture of what's happening around them. Tilting their head allows them to enhance their angle of view to you, allowing them to better understand what you're saying and how you're saying it.
The next time you talk to your dog, take notice of what they're doing. More often than not, your dog will be staring directly at you. This staring is because dogs' listening doesn't stop with sounds. They analyze our body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Doing this helps them accurately interpret what you're saying. It's necessary for dogs to clearly see our whole faces to gather all of this critical information, which they can do when they tilt their head.
Head Tilting to Concentrate
Aside from improving their hearing and sight, your dog's head tilting may also be a sign that they're engaged and ready to communicate with you. Similar to humans nodding their heads when listening, a dog's head tilt shows you that they are concentrating on what you're saying. Many social dogs also love human contact and tilt their head as a way to increase the time they spend interacting with you.
The reason dogs tilt their heads could also be something more complex, according to recent studies. In a study published by the Family Dog Project, scientists found that when owners asked their dogs to fetch a specific toy, nearly all of the dogs who retrieved the correct toy tilted their heads beforehand. This action may be part of an intelligent dog's process when trying to recall words and make connections. This head tilt signifies concentration on what you said as a dog connects that word to a visual image.
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