1. Dogs Can’t Help It
If you own a dog, have ever met a dog, or have ever seen a dog, you know that most of them can’t help being a cute. It doesn’t matter if wagging their tail or taking a nap. It’s going to be adorable no matter what.
2. Stepping Up The Cuteness
But sometimes, dogs have the ability to take being cute to a whole new level. And that’s when they give you the head tilt. For some reason, a dog with its head slightly askew automatically gives people a case of the “awws.”
3. Tilt Mystery
But why do dogs do the head tilt? Is there a purpose for it? There are a few theories as to why they do this, and all of them could be true.
4. Hearing Improvement
The inquisitive look a dog has when it tilts its head might actually be a clue to the head tilt. That’s because many experts say that the head tilt is done to help the dog hear better. But wait – don’t dogs already have great hearing?
5. Finding The Sound
While it’s true that dogs can hear more sound frequencies, they’re still not so great at knowing where a sound is coming from. According to Mother Nature Network, “Dogs have movable earflaps that help them locate the source of a sound, but they also have brains that can compute time differences between the sound reaching each ear. A slight change in a dog’s head position supplies additional information that the canine can use to judge a sound’s distance.”
6. Decoding Humans
So the head tilt can help a dog understand where a sound is coming from. But in addition, it can also help a dog understand what its owner is trying to say. No, a dog can’t actually understand human language, but it can pick up some clues.
7. Words And Tones
By tilting its head, the dog can better perceive certain tones of voice or the sounds of certain wordsthat have particular meaning for the dog. This explains why a dog can recognize its own name, or understands when you might be giving it a treat. And it understands when you say something indicating it might get in trouble.
8. Listening Face
“The muscles of a dog’s middle ear are controlled by a part of the brain that’s also responsible for facial expressions and head movements,” said Mother Nature Network. “so when a canine tilts his head, he’s trying to perceive what you’re saying, as well as communicate to you that he’s listening.” It’s kind of like the dog equivalent of saying, “Uh-huh…yes…uh-huh…”
9. Vision Improvement
However, another theory suggests that the head tilt has nothing to do with a dog trying to hear noises or understand people. It actually has nothing to do with hearing at all. It has to do with a dog’s sight.
10. A Small Experiment
To understand this better, Psychology Today says, “Try the following simple experiment; hold your fist up to your nose… Now, in effect, you are viewing the world with a head shape that has a muzzle like that of a dog.” Got it?
11. Obstructed View
Now notice what it’s like to view the world normally, except with a make-shift snout in front of you. “If you now look at a person’s face,” said Psychology Today, “you will find that the muzzle will block some of your vision, and reduce your ability to see the lower part of the face.” And by missing part of the face, you’re also missing out on a key component of non-verbal communication.
12. Clear Vision
Psychology Today continued, saying “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.” And since dogs can’t understand your exact words, getting this non-verbal communication right is extremely important.
13. Being Tricky
The other reason that dogs might tilt their could have nothing to do with seeing or hearing better. It could be because of one simple reason, that’s also very sneaky. And that could be because dogs know we like it.
14. We Forgive Them
Since humans react so favorably when dogs tilt their heads, it’s possible that this positive reinforcement has taught dogs to do it as much as possible. It’s super manipulative…but also super cute, so who cares?
No definitive explanation has been settled upon yet by the scientific community. It’s possible that the head tilt is done for all of these reasons at different times. (But if it seems like your dog is only doing it when it’s in trouble, it’s probably trying to play you for a fool. You’ve been warned.)