Most of us have seen dogs tilt their heads in adorable and curious ways and wondered why dogs tilt their heads. As per a study published in October 2021 in the journal Animal Connections, it may be a sign of increased focus. In a previous study, researchers asked dog owners to put toys in a room and tell their dogs to fetch specific toys by name. Unfortunately, dogs could not do this even after 3 months of training, but still they were labeled as Gifted World Learner dogs.
The GWL dogs had tilted their heads in one direction 43 percent of the time when their owners asked them to fetch the toys. Other dogs just tilted their heads only two percent of the time.
“It seems that there is a relationship between success in retrieving a named toy and frequent head tilts upon hearing its name,” Shany Dror, researcher and co-author of the study said in a press release.
“Hence, it is important to refrain from thinking that only Gifted Word Learner dogs tilt their heads in other situations not tested in this study,” added researcher Andrea Temesi in the same release.
There may be some other reasons too.
First, researchers thought about sight and then they focused on the nose. The long snout of a dog can hinder the vision of the dog from many different angles, therefore it may be another reason for the dog tilting his head to get a better look at something.
It is mostly noticed when they want to look at a person’s face. Researchers think dogs read human expressions by using visual cues. They try to understand whether that particular person is sad or happy. But it’s not applicable to all dogs as not all dogs have long snouts.
Another reason for this behaviour of dogs might be fine tuning to sounds they hear. Sense of hearing of a dog is twice as much as human beings, so they tilt their head when they hear sounds at higher pitches.
Some specific muscles are governed by part of a brain that also governs head movement and facial expressions. These specialized muscles help process these sounds in the middle ear. Dogs just focus on the sound and head movement may be just reflex.
Dogs tilting their heads in an adorable way may be the outcome of extra attention he gets. Dog behavior consultant Steven R. Lindsay thinks that it may be a way of talking to a dog.