The pose is familiar to you. The pose is dear to you. It’s the canine pose that makes you smile, melts your heart, and captures your camera… the head tilt. When dogs hear a curious sound, dog owners enjoy the adorable head tilt with the lifted face, inquisitive eyes, and alert ears.
The head tilt is a frequent behavior in dogs, but what does it indicate? Is it a mark of smartness, or something completely different?
Why do dogs tilt their heads?
There is no clear explanation from experts on why dogs tilt their heads. We have proposed several potential causes, such as:
Trying to locate a noise
A common explanation for why dogs tilt their heads is that they’re attempting to locate the origin of a sound. Dogs have a remarkable hearing ability—they can detect frequencies that are two to three times higher than what we humans can! Therefore, when your furry companion tilts their head, they might be hearing a sound that is beyond your audible range. Moving their head from one side to another may assist them in pinpointing the direction of the sound and identifying what it is.
They’re interested or curious
According to animal behaviourist Jill Goldman, Ph.D., dogs may show this behaviour when they’re facing you directly because they’re curious about what you’re saying and are tuning in to the frequencies, tones and words that appeal to them. They may not grasp the meaning of everything you say, but if they enjoy the sound of your voice, they may be making an effort to figure it out.
Adjusting their field of vision
Your dog’s head tilting may also have something to do with their eyesight. Stanley Coren, Ph.D., thinks that a dog’s snout may block their vision, so they move their head from one side to another to see things clearer. In his preliminary research, he found out that dogs with longer snouts like greyhounds tended to tilt their heads more than shorter faced breeds like pugs. But he also noticed that over half of the short-faced breeds tilted their heads too, so there’s still a lot to discover here.
It’s a learned behaviour
When your dog tilts their head, this adorable behaviour is likely to receive positive feedback such as a sweet voice, a pet and maybe even a treat. This makes your dog realize that tilting their head earns them love. Our canine buddies are eager to please us, and once they’ve figured out you enjoy something, they’re more inclined to repeat it!