Have you ever wondered why dogs tilt their heads? Is it because we know it makes us adorable, or is there another reason? I thought it would be fun to find out why we do it.
After doing some research I came up with two reasons for dogs tilting their heads. Both sound quite logical to me, so let’s see what you think. I’ve also noticed with me and my sisters, I’m most prone to tilting, Bailie is an occasional tilter, and Katie rarely if ever tilts her head.
The first reason for us dogs to tilt our heads is to show our humans empathy. This seems to be the theory humans want to believe. By tilting our heads, it appears we are truly listening and really feel for the human telling us their story. We learn early on in life, humans love our head tilts, and the behavior often gets us a reward.
The second theory as to why dogs tilt their heads is for hearing purposes. Dogs normally have excellent hearing, but sometimes it’s hard for us to tell where the sound is coming from or what exactly the sound is. By tilting our heads, we can better locate the source of the sound and pinpoint the tone.
Now let’s add in the human. Do you realize humans also tilt their heads? Why do humans do it? The same two reasons as dogs do it. I couldn’t get a shot of a human doing it, so I just drew an example. Watch humans when someone is telling a deep, or sad story, they tend to tilt their heads. Have someone talk to you real quietly, or in a jumbled voice, you will tilt your head to try and figure out what is being said.
I find the head tilt fascinating. One sentence that always gets me tilting is when Mom asks if I want to go to the “bunny trails” which is one of our walks that I absolutely love. I would tilt my head all day long if it would get me walking the “bunny trails”! Does your dog tilt his head? What causes it? Do you believe my two reasons why dogs tilt their heads?
the mama tilts her head when she disagrees with someone or something, but she looks not as cute as me when she does that. it’s more the last “run, if you can-sign” before she turns into a verbal machine gun :o)
LOL! I know those verbal machine guns…not a good thing!
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
my gang tilts their heads when high pitch sounds are going off and trying to figure out where they are coming from.
Yep, that makes total sense.
Karen meldum says
I think so. No matter what, we look cute with tilted heads.
Ellen Shedlarz says
I hope you got to go for a walk on the bunny trail.
We get to do that once a week. Just love it, but Mom has to be ready with strong arms as Bailie and I go crazy seeing all the wabbits.
Torrey is very much a head tilter. I think she is trying to listen harder when she does it.
Katie never did much tilting at all. Bailie and I do it a lot, mainly for listening purposes.
I think the hearing thing sounds pretty darn logical.
This reminds me, I don’t see kitties doing much head tilting.
M. K. Clinton says
I tilt my head because Mom cannot resist it when I do. If we tilt our heads together, there is not telling what treats we could score!
Humans sure do fall for a good head tilt, don’t they!
Two French Bulldogs says
We tilt our head cause mom babbles to us and asks us questions
Lily & Edward
At our house I think hearing is the most likely cause too. Mom always is blabbering something at us.
Quinn and Carol says
Mommy thinks doggie head tilts are awefully cute and “treatable”. We don’t have treats around here, but when we did have brandi’s Temptations, our friend Maggie (a cute schnauzer) would eat them. She has kitty as well as doggie siblings and any treat is fair game at her house! Maggie does agility competitions, by the way, and she is a lady with a lot of wins! Reminds Mommy of YOU sweeties with your fabulous nose wins!
Thank you, we love getting titles! I know our cat bro Bert eats any of our dog treats he can find, but we usually leave the cat treats alone!
Frankie and Ernie says
We agree with what Lily and Edward said.
Reilly-Denny Cowspotdogs says
I think we would go with the second reason over the first 🙂
We are fans of the hearing explanation, but some dogs may just do it to be cute.
Ann Staub says
I think those theories make a lot of sense. I would have guessed that maybe it was because they were confused about something. They always seem to make a puzzled expression when they do that.
We are confused when we listen to human language or high tones, they give us a case of the tilts.
My Golden Life says
I absolutely believe both reasons! If a dog is rewarded often enough for a “cute” head tilt, s/he will do probably do it more often. And I have noticed on several occasions that each of my dogs – the angels included – tilt their head at a sound when they didn’t know I was watching.
We tilt mostly for hearing reasons around here.
Jan K says
Very interesting! I think dogs tilt their heads when they are trying to understand what we are saying. Ours seem to do it the most when I’m using a certain tone of voice, and I think you know that tone means something good and you’re trying to figure out what that is!
Luke tilts his head the most, and I think then Sheba and Cricket. I’ll have to be more observant about humans doing it too though!
I know my mom does tilt her head a bit when she can’t make out something people are saying, but she is not nearly as cute as dogs with tilted heads! We believe most dogs do it to figure out sounds which includes understanding speech.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
Mr. N tilts his head when I say his favorite words like walk, hike, Sage etc.
That kind of stuff always gets my head tilting too!
Genevieve Petrillo says
My head pretty much turns upside down when Mom says the word, “Car.”
Love and licks,
How about “want to go for a ride”?
Dolly the Doxie says
Good question! Mom doesn’t think I do head tilts at all. If she says anything remotely interesting like “walk” or “ride in the car” my ears go up, but no head tilt. She’s going to keep a look out though! Love Dolly
I don’t think all dogs do it. Mom can’t remember Katie doing it and now that she can’t hear, definitely not.
I am an expert “head tilter” and tend to tilt if I’m interested in the “key words” you are saying! Walkies and Cookies are two of my tilt triggers!!
Snacks is a trigger word for me! Humans know how to get us going, don’t they?
Charlie tilts his head occasionally but Harley never does. I think your theories are sound – it always gets a delighted reaction from any human nearby!
P.S. I love your drawing! 🙂
I’m not an artist, but I dabble in drawing with my paw on the screen now and then 😉
Leroy is a total head tilter. Sometimes I think he does it thinking, “what the heck is wrong with her?” Lol
Mom says she feels like we do it to make her feel a bit like a crazy woman!
charlie Downunder says
Crikey ….. I’m a bigtime head tilter. I’ve got no idea why I do it but if anyone says ‘Wanna go to the beach’, ‘wanna go to the park’, ‘ok!!’ and lots of other words I almost tilt my head right off. Oh and bagpipes …… bagpipes do it too. I hear bagpipes, even on tele or miles down the road and my head tilts out of control.
We don’t have any bagpipes here. We have bags and pipes, but neither get our heads tilting. For Bailie and me, it is usually trigger words like walk, wabbit, etc.
Jeanne Pursell says
Chloe is my head tilter! LadyBug has never done it…not sure why. She was my rescue so I don’t know much about her early life. Chloe knows it usually gets her a treat! 🙂
The Dogs of Luv & Emma's Dry Pets says
“For hearing purposes” makes sense. Emma tilts her head and it’s always after a sound or someone saying a word/phrase like “Do you want to go for a walk?” (One of her favorite phrases!)
Yep, we can totally see why it’d be for hearing purposes too!
That is what we really think. I haven’t noticed my cats doing it, though.
Those are some interesting theories on why dogs tilt their heads. I like the idea that we are unintentionally reinforcing the behavior. I’ve raised 7 puppies (Labs and Goldens) over the past 10 years and some did the head tilt while others did not. I’ll have to pay closer attention next time I bring home a puppy.
For Bailie and me, we tilt for hearing purposes, Mom is 100% sure. She tilts her head too when she is trying to get sounds clearly. Katie was never a tilter.
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Jodi Stone says
Interesting theory. Sampson tilts more than Delilah and I find it totally adorable!
Bailie and I both tilt for the same things. Katie has never been one to tilt her head much and now that she can’t hear, it doesn’t happen at all.
2 Brown Dawgs says
I always think the head tilt is a listening thing.
We think so too, but some think it is from training as well.
Tails Around the Ranch says
It takes an especially pitched sound to make Sam tilt and even then, not very often. I think it’s mostly because he’s dimwitted. 🙂
Awww, poor Sam! We tilt when we are trying to understand and for high pitched noises too.
Kimberly Morris Gauthier says
Love this! It makes perfect sense to me!!!
Everyone knows it is cute, and I think most dog parents know why we do it but never think about it. It was time to put the reasons in writing.
Miss Molly Says says
MIne tilt their heads when I talk to them. I think they are trying hear better, but the ooh’s and aah’s probably encourage it 🙂
We do it for the hearing part for sure.
Elizabeth Copeland says
My hypothesis is that they do it solely for the cuteness factor. “Did you shred my favorite shoes?” Me: lavish pet with cuddles, and remind myself to put all shoes away.
LOL! I think we do it to hear better, but some dogs may do it to be cute.
Dawn Miklich (@PetFaves) says
Very interesting! I’ve never thought about why dogs tilt their heads before. I think I was too taken with the cuteness of it all!
Thanks for joining in the Pet Blogger Showcase!
We never thought much about it either and then one day wondered about it.
christycaplan (@christycaplan) says
Oh this is so interesting! Only Walter does this and it’s on rare occasion. I’ve always wondered this (not to mention it’s so cute) and it looks like Walter is trying to listen to me so I’m going to go with the theory that he’s trying to pin point where sound is coming from since he’s pretty sound sensitive. I do see my husband do this sometimes as well — and now that I think about I see children do this… awesome post.
We go with the hearing theory too. It makes a lot of sense.
Miss Molly Says says
Fabulous post! Miss Molly and the pack has picked it as a feature in the Pet Bloggers Showcase this week! Congrats!
That is awesome! Thank you. We think it is something interesting a lot of pet parents want to know about.