Why do dogs tilt their heads? New research makes an intriguing discovery.
Dogs are weird, wonderful, goofy creatures who are adorable on the outside and mostly a mystery on the inside. As much as we’d like to understand everything our furry friends are thinking, the closest we can get to fully interpreting their behavior is the dedicated work of animal scientists who try to answer some of life’s most burning dog-related questions, like: Why do some doggies tilt their widdle heads when we talk to them?
A recent study published in Animal Cognition, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, explored dog head tilting by observing when and in which direction dogs tilt their heads while performing a cognitively taxing task. The task in question was retrieving a specific toy from another room after being prompted with the toy’s name, which required the dogs to not only recognize the toy’s name as a command, but also to recall it in their memory and fetch it.
The authors observed 40 dogs and found that pooches who were particularly good at toy recall tilted their heads when hearing the command more often than dogs who were not. It’s possible the head tilters may be showing signs of paying attention or even matching a name to a visual image in their heads when they hear the name of their favorite toy, the researchers suggest.
Why dogs tilt their heads in certain directions deserves further study, the researchers said. Whether a dog tilts their head right or left could just be personal preference. Previous research on 12 dogs used brain scans to determine that the right side of dogs’ brains tends to be more active in processing positive or praise words. But the connection that observation may have on head tilting needs further research. Where a human was standing when asking a dog to get a toy didn’t impact the head tilting.
File this study under dog habits that are intriguing to know about but still in the early stages of scientific research. And even if your dog doesn’t tilt their head or actually know how to get a particular toy, they’re still very good pups.
This post was originally published in October 2021.