A Head Tilt by Your Dog Is a Good Sign

The pooch is probably trying to learn something, new study suggests
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2021 1:50 PM CDT
A Head Tilt by Your Dog Is a Good Sign
Who's a good boy?   (Getty/smrm1977)

Why do dogs tilt their heads? For the first time, researchers have produced a peer-reviewed study on the topic, and they're pretty sure the dogs are thinking—hard. The study in Animal Cognition involved about 40 dogs. Trainers tried to teach them to recognize the names of multiple toys, and they checked back and tested the dogs over months-long intervals, per Science. Some dogs got it—these would be the "gifted word learners"—but most did not. And the "gifted" dogs were far more likely to be head-tilters than the others dogs (43% of the time versus 2%), reports USA Today. "We suggest a relationship between head-tilting and processing relevant, meaningful stimuli," write the researchers.

Or as the post at Science puts it: "The dogs might be cross-referencing the command with their visual memories of the toys." For the record, border collies out-performed other breeds in the study, and one particularly bright collie learned 54 of 59 names. Another nugget: Each dog tends to tilt its head to the same side every time, and it doesn't matter where the human is standing. The researchers say further research is needed to zero in on exactly what's happening inside a dog's head during head tilts, which could perhaps lead to figuring out ways to better train non-gifted dogs. In summing all this up, Mashable makes a point to conclude with this: "Even if your dog doesn't tilt their head or actually know how to get a particular toy, they're still very good pups." (Read more dogs stories.)

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