Cute with a Purpose: Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?
There are plenty of adorable actions dogs do every day that never seem to get old. One of the cutest reactions is your dog’s head tilt, a quick reaction that can melt just about any person’s heart.
Head tilts are most definitely adorable, but did you know that this movement may have meaning beyond a cute reaction? According to experts, dogs tilt their heads for a few different reasons.
Head Tilts Help Dogs Hear Better
If you notice your dog tilting his head when you speak to him, there’s a chance he’s just trying to hear what you have to say. While dogs may be able to hear sounds that humans can’t, they aren’t quite as good at determining the source of sounds without some help. It just so happens that head tilting is an effective way for them to figure out where a sound is coming from and better understanding what that sound is.
Experts believe that head tilting is a useful hearing tool for our furry friends because of how dog ears are designed. With a quick tilt of the head, your dog can reposition an ear to better detect a sound’s source. As a result, your dog can pick up on the tone of your voice to better understand what you’re saying, which is very important for a dog who’s trying to figure out if it’s time for fun or if you’ve got a tasty dog treat for a very special boy.
Head Tilts Help Dogs See Past Their Snout
Hearing isn’t the only sense that dogs may improve by tilting their heads. Some experts believe that vision is another reason for some head tilts, and it’s partially because your dog’s nose simply gets in the way.
While that reason may seem strange, look down at your nose. Now imagine if your nose was five times its size and you could see how it may block certain parts of your vision. For certain dogs, that’s a typical part of life with a sizable snout.
One expert found that head tilting was much more common among dogs with longer faces, while flatter-faced breeds, like pugs, were comparatively less prone to cocking their heads. As such, that head tilt may be a sign your canine companion is trying to get his nose out of the way and pick up on more visual clues.
Another theory is that head tilts may be connected to how well your dog can see. Whether you have a puppy whose sight is still developing or an older pooch with declining eyesight, a head tilt may be an effort to try and see something better. It’s like the canine version of squinting to see something or looking down through his bifocals (except without the glasses).
Head Tilts are a Sign of Empathy
Does it ever feel like your dog just knows if you’re having a bad day and is there to support you? That’s because dogs are naturally empathic animals. Whether you’ve stubbed a toe, are tired, or just need a cute canine by your side, your dog has an ability to sense your feelings and respond accordingly.
There are several ways that your dog can show empathy, including a simple but sweet head tilt. A quick cock of the head is a sign that your dog recognizes your mood. Think of it as an understanding nod from a friend, except this friend has four legs and is ready to make you feel better with a round of belly rubs and cuddling.
Head Tilts May be a Sign of Balance Issues
While the majority of head tilts are adorable facial expressions or simple means to improve hearing or vision, there are times when excessive tilting can be a red flag. Ear infections or issues like vestibular syndrome can all be more serious reasons why dogs may suddenly start tilting their heads.
There are a number of ways your dog may develop an infection in his ear canal – excess moisture, ear mites, and general sensitivities can all lead to issues. Head tilting combined with redness, discharges, and itchiness may all call for a visit to your veterinarian.
Vestibular dysfunction is another potential reason for head tilting. The vestibular system is responsible for helping dogs maintain their balance. Since this system is partially located in the inner and middle ear, dogs may tilt or lean their head to the side. If your dog regularly repeats this behavior and suddenly becomes disoriented or loses his balance, reach out to your vet for assistance.
Learn More About Your Best Friend
Whether your dog is trying to be empathetic or simply wants to hear or see better, a head tilt is a sign that he’s just trying to understand what you’re doing or how you’re feeling. Want to learn more about how you can support your favorite furry friends? Join our Best Friends Club today to receive our exclusive email newsletter full of articles on training tips, healthy habits, and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac dog food, treats, and other products.