JAN 18, 2018 05:54 AM PST

Why does my dog tilt her head?


If you have a dog, you've almost certainly noticed some head-tilting behavior once in a while. If you've ever fallen prey to the cuteness of it and given into another treat, you're not alone. But surprise, surprise, dogs don't actually tilt their heads to appear cuter to us humans - they do it to hear and see better.

According to studies led by a psychologist named Stanley Coren, who studies dogs and their behaviors, dogs with bigger muzzles express the "puzzled tilt" in an attempt to align their faces with ours, in order to better see or hear us (or anything else). Coren tested this idea by asking over 500 dog owners how frequently their dogs tilted their heads and then separated the data into the breeds of dogs based on how long their muzzles are. Coren found that owners of brachycephalic dogs (those like pugs with short muzzles) reported their dogs tilting their heads only 52% of the time when spoken to. Meanwhile, owners of mesaticephalic and dolichocephalic breeds (those with longer muzzles) like beagles and greyhounds reported their dogs tilting their heads 71% of the time when spoken to. Both of those numbers are significant. Try it out with your dog!

Another psychologist named Alexandra Horowitz thinks there is more to the story: dogs aren't just trying to get a better view at us when we talk to them, they're trying to hear us better, too. Horowitz hypothesizes that dogs tilt their heads to adjust the floppy parts of their ears called pinnae in order to get a better sense of where the sounds are coming from. Do you have your own hypothesis of why our dog tilts her head? Write in the comments!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
NASA's Dawn Mission Taught Us Much About the Asteroid Vesta
In 2011, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at its destination, enabling planetary scientists with the American space agency to study a particularly capt...
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
SpaceX Will Need to Demonstrate a Dragon Capsule Abort for NASA
NASA’s Commercial Crew initiative enabled third-party contractors such as Boeing and SpaceX to develop platforms that may be used in future crewed mi...
NOV 12, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 12, 2019
How Desert Ant Queens Establish a Colony
When a founding desert ant queen is ready to establish her own colony, the harsh environment compels her to do something that no other queen would ever dar...
NOV 12, 2019
Cardiology
NOV 12, 2019
Diagnosed With Atopic Dermatitis?
Eczema, dermatitis, atopic dermatitis: all names for the same disease of the skin. Although common in children during the first year of life, the condition...
NOV 12, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 12, 2019
Protein Batteries - Talk About "Power Bars"
The pioneers behind lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries were awarded Nobel prize this year. Still, scientists around the world already wish to move beyond this...
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
Could the Successful Juno Mission See an Extension Beyond 2021?
The Juno mission, launched by NASA in 2011 to explore the fascinating Jovian system, finally arrived at its destination in 2016. Since then, the spacecraft...
Loading Comments...