- Social or Emotional. It is believed by some that dogs are attuned to our emotions and the purpose of tilting their head is to empathize or socialize with you when you talk to them. It is their way of saying “I do care about what you are saying, even if I don’t understand”.
- Hearing Better. There is another theory that the tilting of the head has to do with the way a canine ear is constructed. By tilting their head to the side, they can pick up different tones in your voice, allowing them to better understand what you are telling them. It is possible that they may have trouble picking up where the sound is coming from, and by tilting their head they can better determine this.
- Trained Behavior. It is possible that the head tilting is a trained response. That every time they do it they gain a reward whether it be attention, or a change of attitude, or just a difference in your stance. If you are berating your dog for a bad behavior and suddenly stop when they tilt their head, they may pick up on it.
- Better View. An interesting theory, raised by Stanley Coren Ph.D. of Psychology Today’s Canine Corner, is that dogs tilt their head to get a better view. It is possible that their muzzle is blocking the view of your mouth when you are speaking. Humans put off a lot of their emotions around their mouth when they speak. Stanley Coren believes the snout on a dog may block part of their vision of your mouth and so they tilt their head to get a better view. In a small scale study he performed, he did show that a significant number of dogs with larger muzzles were more likely to tilt their head than those with small to almost non-existent muzzles like the Pugs and Pocket Pitbulls.
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