Listening intently or trying to see us better?

Why do some dogs tilt their heads intently when we speak to them?

Mother Nature Network suggest three main reasons:
cc73de7c-eec7-4b1a-b366-f12fa46665d9.Large_1) They’re trying to HEAR better.
Tilting the head can help the animal more accurately locate the location and distance of a sound.

Patrick J Kiger in Nat Geo Blogs says: In Alexandra Horowitz’s book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know, head-tilting is portrayed simply as an effort by dogs to adjust their pinnae, or outer ears, to focus upon the precise location of sounds. That’s something at which they’re actually not as good as humans, despite their ability to hear frequencies that we can’t detect.

2) They are trying to SEE our faces better.3.12.10Pickle
Stanley Coren says: the reason some dogs tilt their heads when we are speaking to them has to do more with vision (like my dog Pickle on the right), rather than hearing and social endearment. Try the following simple experiment; hold your fist up to your nose as in the figure here. Now, in effect, you are viewing the world with a head shape that has a muzzle like that of a dog. If you now look at a person’s face you will find that the muzzle will block some of your vision, and reduce your ability to see the lower part of the face. Remember it is this part of the face, particularly the mouth region, which is a vital component of human emotional expressions. Next, still with your muzzle in place, tilt your head when you are looking at the face. With this head posture you can now clearly see the mouth region.

3) We’ve taught them to do it. They know WE LIKE it.
When dogs tilt their heads when we speak, it’s so cute, and we have a tendency to respond to the behavior with positive reinforcement, laughter and adoration. Here is the beautiful YouTube Pug Head tilt video:

I couldn’t find the story of a dog I’ve visited that tilted its head, so here is the story of of a Pug I went to instead.

Here is my main website with stories of many more dogs I have been to and helped



About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site:
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1 Response to Listening intently or trying to see us better?

  1. Pingback: Is your Dog a Twitcher? | Paws for Thought

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