The Truth Behind The Doggy Head Tilt
We’ve all seen it before: that adorable little head tilt our dog does as they stare intently at us conversing with them. This would usually be followed by a little bit of cooing on our part and some head pats. It makes one think: is there a biological reason for the head tilt, or are our pups just showing us how adorable they are? While there aren’t any conclusive findings, some studies have proposed plausible theories that might be close to the truth.
1. Better Vision
Try this out: Ball up one hand into a fist and place it on top of your nose where a dog’s snout would be. You would notice that your vision is partially blocked by your “snout”. If you try talking to someone like this, the lower half of that person’s face would be blocked, particularly the mouth area. It is important to note that our facial expressions are very often influenced by the mouth, and dogs are very good observers of our facial cues. By tilting your head to the right, the person’s face is no longer blocked.
This experiment gives us reason to speculate that dogs tilt their heads to understand us better when we talk to them. To test this theory, Stanley Coren conducted an online survey. He asked owners to indicate how often they catch their dogs tilting their heads when spoken to and what their dog’s breed is. He compared the answers between owners of dogs that have flatter snouts and owners of dogs that have longer snouts.
Out of the 582 participants, 71 percent of owners of dogs with longer snouts reported that their dogs frequently tilt their heads when spoken to. On the other hand, 52 percent of owners of dogs with flatter snouts reported the same phenomenon. Though this is still a large percentage, the difference between the two groups is significant, suggesting that snout length does influence a dog’s tendency to tilt its head.
It is possible that more perceptive pups use the head tilt as an indication that they are processing what is being said to them. It could be a way of expressing their confusion or their interest. Dogs are very good at picking up key words or phrases we use that may indicate what is going to happen next, such as food, walk, and play. A head tilt might be their way of reacting to what is being said as they listen out for those very important words.
3. More Love
When we respond to the tilted head with excitement and affection, our reaction encourages our dogs to tilt their head more often, even if it isn’t for any practical reason. They simply enjoy the attention and do it for more love from us.
While we may never get to the truth behind the doggy head tilt, one thing’s for certain: it’s just the cutest thing in the world.