It is one of the canine manifestations which amuses and delights in the highest degree the dog lovers: when talking with them, the dogs stare at us with a special mimicry and tilting head to the left or right. How canine specialists explain this behavior?
Here are some explanatory hypotheses.
Dogs try to hear better what we say
In dogs – who have a much better hearing than human’s – the ears are very mobile, which helps to more precisely locate the source of a noise. Also, dogs are able, by means of a specific mechanism in the brain, to evaluate the difference between the times when the sound arrives in one ear and the time it reaches the other ear.
Slight changes in head position bring additional information that helps the dog to determine the direction from which the sound comes and the distance to its source.
They try to understand what we say
Is the explanation proposed by Steven R. Lindsay in his book “Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training”: when a dog hears the human voice, is trying to identify the words or tones that he knows and that are associated with a reward, such as offering a ride out or delicacies.
Dog middle ear muscles are controlled by that part of the brain that is responsible for the facial expressions and head movements, so that when a dog tilt his head sideways, is actually trying to perceive what we say and to communicate us, while it listen.
They can see us better
In trying to understand us when we speak, dogs are careful not only with words and tone, but also to facial expressions of people, their movements and postural language. Therefore, it is important to see our faces good.
Some researchers think that’s why the dogs move head sideways: to see better the faces of the people who speak them. A specialist, dr. Stanley Corren, thinks that this behavior is more pronounced in dogs with long nose, because it’s more difficult for them to see our faces (as we hold punch in the nose front and I try to look straight ahead, he says); Instead, dogs with short snout, flat-faced (as pekingese, for instance), tilt less their head as they perceive our faces more easily, their sight being less hampered by their snout.
In support of his hypothesis, he cites the results of an online survey conducted by himself, with the participation of 582 owners of dogs: 71% of those who had dogs with long snouts declared that their pet often tilt his head when is spoken to, but only 52% of people who had dogs with flat faces said the same thing.
We teach them to do so
Dogs are very nice when they tilt their head this way, and people tend to respond to this “cute” behavior in a positive way that reinforces that behavior, often rewarding the dog with petting or treats.
Therefore, the dogs will feel encouraged to keep this gesture.