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Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?

Ever spoken to your dog and seen them tilt their heads as if they are listening to your every word? The head tilt is one of the cutest things dogs do…but why do dogs tilt their heads?

two dogs sitting

Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?

Head tilting actually helps your dog hear better! So they really are trying to pick up our every word. Although dogs have better hearing than humans in that they can pick up frequencies that escape us, their directional hearing isn’t as good.

Humans can hear sounds from any direction. For dogs, this is a little trickier as they have ear flaps (pinna) that cover portions of the ear canal and create a sound barrier. The pinnae is movable to allow the dog to make adjustment as needed to hear sounds from different directions.

A dog’s breed will also impact the ear flap coverage that can hinder their hearing. For instance, cocker spaniel’s have heavy ear flaps that cover the ear canal entirely. When a dog is having a hard time hearing, they can perk up their ears and tilt towards the direction of the sound. This gives you the adorable bright eyes, perky ears, and head tilt that you may be familiar with.

Tilting their heads allows dogs to better assess the direction and distance the sounds is coming from. Because dog’s ears are on the sides of their heads, you may often notice them tilt their head when you say something right in front of them. This is because the head-on sounds is harder for them to decipher and requires a little extra help to absorb.

Some dogs will tilt their head to engage with the human interaction and show that they are concentrated. This is quite common with intelligent, social dog breeds like border collie’s and australian shepherds. These dogs will often tilt their head in response to a command, taking in every sound to understand what they are being asked to do.

Do Dogs Only Tilt Their Heads to Hear Us Better?

Improved hearing isn’t the only reason dogs tilt their heads. Tilting their head to the side also increases their range of vision so that they can better focus on the person engaging with them. Cocking their head to the side can help them get a clearer view of the person in front of them without their snout in the way. This can help the dog fully absorb the communication from the person as dogs pay close attention to our expressions in addition to the sound they hear.

It’s also possible that some dogs tilt their head a lot because we positively reinforce this behavior. Because it looks so cute, we may give them a pat or say their name, which encourages the dog to repeat this behavior in the future.

Recently adopted a new puppy? Check out the top 400 puppy names of 2022. For more information on dog training, see our guide to clicker training your dog.

Elizabeth Muenzen

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Content Specialist
DOG PERSON🐶

Pets: My dog Benji is mixed Yorkie, Poodle, Chihuahua, and MaltiPom (YorkiPooChiMaltiPom?), yet he mysteriously bears no resemblance to any of these breeds.
Fun stuff: I love to cook!

Content Specialist
DOG PERSON🐶

Pets: My dog Benji is mixed Yorkie, Poodle, Chihuahua, and MaltiPom (YorkiPooChiMaltiPom?), yet he mysteriously bears no resemblance to any of these breeds.
Fun stuff: I love to cook!

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