Most dog owners have witnessed it. You say something to your dog, a phone rings, or something loud happens on TV, and your dog does the elusive head tilt. But, what exactly are dogs trying to accomplish by cocking their head to one side?
There is no definitive answer to this question, but animal behaviorists have their theories. Some dogs know certain words, or at least pick up on tone of voice. Many dogs will tilt their head when they think they’ve heard something that is usually followed by a reward. If you’ve just uttered the words walk, treat, or car ride, there’s a good chance your pup is titling her head in anticipation.
The head tilt could also have something to do with the way dogs hear. Canines have moveable ear flaps that allow them to locate a sound’s source. Sometimes, a slight change in head position provides a dog more information as to how far away a particular sound is. Repeated head tilts may also become a learned behavior. If an owner responds positively to their dog’s oh-so-adorable tilt of the head, the dog is likely to repeat the behavior to get some more praise.
As cute as a head tilt can be, it’s important to make note of any unusual behavior. A regular head tilt to one particular side, especially if not triggered by a noise, can be a sign of an ear infection, brain disease, or other health issues. Always consult a veterinarian with any questions or concerns.