Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?

The dog head tilt: you can’t be a dog owner and not like it.

Alexander Yu
Xandery Writes
Published in
7 min readApr 6, 2022

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Henlo! Photo taken by the author.

One of the most interesting and entertaining things in the world is watching how your dog responds to new stimuli. Quite often, you’ll get an adorable head tilt out of it.

A completely innocent expression of pure confusion.

But is it just confusion? Confusion itself doesn’t really explain why a dog has to tilt their head. Perhaps there’s more to the story… let’s explore it.

High Level Reasons Why Dogs Tilt Their Heads

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of why dogs tilt their heads:

  • Genuine confusion/curiosity
  • To see better
  • To hear better
  • To show possible empathy
  • Possible vestibular syndrome or ear infection
  • It has been positively reinforced

All of these claims have gained some sort of traction. But they are scientifically backed to varying degrees.

Let’s look at each one in order and see if they make sense.

Genuine Confusion/Curiosity

Most of us have all seen it, whether in person or on the Internet. There’s no shortage of cute dogs tilting their heads, seeming out of utter confusion and curiosity.

If you’ve got a dog at home, chances are you can trigger a head tilt with a YouTube video like this one. It features no shortage of high-pitched, out-of-the-ordinary sounds that really catch your dog’s attention.

We take confusion and curiosity to be the expected answer in part because humans head tilt as well. When we’re confused, we also tend to tilt our heads to the side.

However, dogs definitely seem to employ the head tilt a lot more than we do. Why is that? As we’ll see in the next few sections, it may have something to do with the way our dogs are built.

To See Better

Consider this: perhaps our dogs need to tilt their heads. And it’s because of the structure of their faces.

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Alexander Yu
Xandery Writes

Self-development. Basketball. Unable to get dog hair off his clothes.