New Study Finds Adorable Reasons Why Our Dogs May Tilt Their Heads At Us

Anyone who has spent any time around dogs in their life will have doubtlessly seen a dog tilting its head while looking at them. However, up until now no studies have ever been specifically looked into why dogs exhibit this behaviour.

Well, fortunately for all dog lovers, a new study has given some pretty interesting insights into why dogs may be tilting their heads at you!

The study into dogs tilting their heads came after another study looked into how clever certain dogs were.

Unsplash | Edson Torres

During a study into how effectively certain dogs could learn to identify all of their toys by name only, it was noticed by those overseeing the study that a large portion of dogs tilted their heads at their owners when a toy was requested by their owner.

Dogs, much like humans, present an asymmetry in terms of how they perceive their environment. While for some beings this might mean that someone has a preference of one ear or eye over the other when taking in their surroundings, dogs can also exhibit a preference of one paw over the other or even prefer one nostril over the other when sniffing their surroundings.

Scientists involved with the study have found that head tilting may also be another asymmetrical behaviour.


Dr. Andrea Sommese, who was the lead researcher in the study, explained to eurekalert:

"Tilting the head is yet another asymmetrical movement in dogs, but it had never been studied. We investigated the frequency and direction of this behaviour in response to a specific human verbal vocalization: when the owner asks the dog to bring a toy by saying its name.

"We did so after realizing that it often happened when the dogs were listening to their owners."

Head tilting was compared between dogs who could remember lots of their toys' names and dogs that struggled in this area.

Unsplash | Marliese Streefland

Seven of the study's dogs, all of which were border collies, were able to identify over 10 of their toys by the toy's name alone. These dogs were termed "gifted".

When compared against dogs that struggled with recalling their toys' names, it was found that the "gifted" dogs tilted their heads much more frequently when given a command.

This study suggests that when dogs are tilting their head, it may be a response to them trying to understand us more through memory recall.


"It seems that there is a relationship between success in retrieving a named toy and frequent head tilts upon hearing its name. That is why we suggest an association between head-tilting and processing relevant and meaningful stimuli," explained Shany Dror, the study's co-author.

"It is important to notice that this study only investigated head tilts during a very specific dog-owner communicative interaction: when the owner asks the dog to fetch a named toy. Hence, it is important to refrain from thinking that only Gifted Word Learner dogs tilt their heads in other situations not tested in this study," added Andrea Temesi, another author of the study.

The team are hoping that this will prompt more research to be done into this unexplored area.

Unsplash | Victor Grabarczyk

Some of the people involved with the study hope that further research can be done into why some dogs tilt their heads to the right and some dogs tilt their head to the left.

However, this study bodes well for the hope that more research into this area may mean looking into a specific dog's head-tilting can give an insight into that dog's memory, intelligence, and more!

h/t: Eurekalert