We all love that pose. Not only is it heartwarming, but it makes everyone smile. A dog’s head tilt is not only entertaining but adorable. Just looking at those perky ears and upward turned face makes you want to take a picture. But really, why do dogs tilt their heads like that? Let’s find out.
Why does a dog tilt his head when he hears an odd sound?
A dog has a keen sense of hearing in comparison to a human, and a dog can detect sounds and frequencies that a human can’t. However, a human has an advantage over a dog in one way, a human with normal hearing can hear a sound regardless of the direction it comes from while a dog has more limited direction hearing.
The human ear is designed to efficiently pick up a sound so that the person doesn’t need to turn towards a sound in order to capture it. The ability of a person to discern sounds is not affected by the direction it comes from, so no matter if it comes from the right, back, or left, you won’t have to pivot to hear it.
That’s not how a dog hears. A dog has ear flaps that either completely or partially cover the dog’s ear canal and will serve as an obstacle to the transmission of sound, so a dog will need to change his position to make the most of his sound detection ability, hence the head tilt.
Fortunately, a dog’s ear flap can move so he can make the necessary adjustments that he needs to focus on the specific location of the sound. Depending on the breed, a dog can face different challenges like a Cocker Spaniel’s heavy ear flaps will keep his ear canals completely covered and prevent sound waves from transmission in every direction. Also, a German Shepherd has an ear flap cover that only has a backside of the ear canal, so it limits the sound detection from the rear. For these reasons, dogs tilt their heads.
How does a dog’s head-tilting help with his hearing?
When compensating for their ear flap interference, a dog will perk up their ear flaps and then tilt their heads to ensure they had the best sound collection. When an interesting sound is heard from the front, dogs may tilt their heads in the sound’s direction. But, if the sound is from the rear, then dogs will turn before they tilt their heads. Sounds from the side won’t make him do a head tilt at all since a dog’s ears are found on each side of his head and are in a great position to hear the sound waves well.
Earflaps that are movable will also help dogs judge a sound’s distance and determine the time difference between when the sound is able to reach the left versus right ear. Basically, when a dog does a head tilt and adjusts his ear flaps, it will help him assess the distance and location of the sound.
Why does your dog tilt his head when you are directly in front of him?
A dog will sometimes look at his owners attentively while doing a head tilt and may appear to absorb every word. The sound is captured by his external ear canal, which is funneled to the inner and middle ear. It is then transmitted to his brain, and the muscles in the middle ear of your dog are controlled by the part of the brain that also controls head movements and facial expressions. So, when your dog is tilting his head to the side, he is really trying to hear and understand what you are saying and also let you know that he is really concentrating on you.
Dogs tilt their head to show you that he is engaged similarly to how a human nod during a conversation to tell you that he is paying attention. Social dogs that like human interaction will typically be tilting their heads frequently to encourage prolong human contact and continue the conversation.
Does a dog’s head tilt help him with communication in other ways?
A dog will also understand what we say, but also how we say it. A dog will assess its human’s body language, tone of voice, eye movements, facial expressions, and inflection in order to translate a human’s communication. So that they can understand humans, dogs will clearly need to see our faces, which they do when tilting their heads.
Face and head shape can interfere with what dogs see. To understand how a long snout can interfere with vision, hold your fist in front of your nose and try to look around it. You may notice that you need to turn your head in order to see objects directly in front of you. A dog will do the same exact thing. They will tilt their head to work around the muzzle that interferes with their sight. When they do that cute little head tilt, it is actually broadening their range of vision and will allow your dog to clearly see people’s faces, which will improve their communication.
Why does a dog tilt his head as you talk to him?
As cute as a head tilt is, the reason that a dog will tilt his head when you are talking to him or when he hears a loud noise, really is just a built-in instinct that utilizes a dog’s ears to assess the situation. A dog’s ears will act similarly to an antenna and perk up to determine the distance of the sound and how far away it is.
Does a dog tilt his head when he is confused?
A dog will tilt his head when he is judging the situation in front of him to understand it better and get a better understanding of what is happening. Certain specialists say that dogs do this to hear and see better, so if you give your dog a command and they seem confused, they may tilt their head so that you say it again.
Why do animals tilt their heads when confused?
A dog will tilt his head in order to judge the situation better so that he can gain a better understanding. For a dog to hear and see better, a dog will tilt his head, and if he appears confused, he may tilt his head so that you repeat what you just said.
Why does my dog tilt his head back when I pet him?
Most dog owners think that when a dog tilts his head when it is petted, he is showing you obedience and attention. When a dog does tilt its head, it may look cute, but you are really training your dog unconsciously using positive reinforcement.