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Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?

There’s nothing cuter than when your dog sits in front of you tilting her head from side to side while you talk to her. But why does she do it? Here are a few reasons why your dog tilts her head.

Hearing

One reason dogs tilt their heads is so they can hear well. Dogs have movable earflaps so when they adjust them, they hear differently. When dogs tilt their head and adjust the pinnae, or the outer ear, it allows them to focus on the location and the distance of the sound they are hearing. If you are on a walk with your dog and she hears something and tilts her head, she is probably not only trying to figure out what that sound is, but also trying to figure out where the sound is coming from. When we talk to our dogs, they may tilt their heads simply so they can hear us better.

pitt head tilt

Seeing

A simple reason dogs tilt their heads is so they can see you better. Dogs use our facial expressions, body language, and even eye movement to try and understand us, so it is important for them to be able to see our faces when we are trying to communicate with them. If you make your hand into a fist and hold it to your nose, you will see the world through dog’s eyes. You will be able to see that when looking at someone, your hand hinders your line of site to the person’s face. But, if you tilt your head to the side, much like dogs do, you can see the person’s face better, if not their full face. Dogs with longer snouts may tend to tilt their head more since a longer snout is a bigger obstruction of their view. Dogs with shorter snouts are able to see you better.

german shep head tilt

Physiological/Communicative Reasons

Another reason dogs may tilt their heads is because of a physiological response and a sign of communication. When your dog hears your voice, she might tilt her head in an act to try and identify words she knows, words she has learned that are associated with an action or activity such as “walk” or “treat” or even “go to bed.” When dogs tilt their heads when we talk to them, it is a way for them to show that they are listening and trying to perceive what we are saying.

chihuahua head tilt

So, the next time you are talking to your dog and she gets the head tilt going, she is actually trying to hear or see you better and trying to say, “I hear you!” Whether or not she ‘listens’ is a different story.

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