Many handlers may have noticed that their dogs have a tendency to tilt their head to the left or to the right when speaking to them. This funny behavior often makes us smile, because it gives our faithful doggies a particularly touching mimicry.
But what is the real significance of this behavior that we often see in a man’s best friend?
The dogs bow their heads to see us better :
According to dear Stanley Coren, whom you may not know by name, but who you must have heard of the intelligence test that praises Border Collies and German Shepherds, dogs would bow their heads when spoken to for a purely pragmatic reason.
Indeed, it would seem that this is linked to a very simple problem of visibility: dogs with the muzzle in the middle of the face, it would partly mask the view of our face.
Also, by tilting their heads, our faithful doggies would be able to see our facial expressions better and, in fact, to read our emotions to adapt their behavior accordingly. According to an experiment conducted by this same Coren, 62% of 582 owners surveyed noted that their dog frequently bowed its head when they spoke to them.
Of these dogs, a majority of those with long, broad muzzles demonstrated a greater tendency to tilt their heads, while dogs with flat muzzles more readily keep their heads upright. With Coren’s theory of the embarrassing muzzle based on this one experiment alone, it’s no wonder that other dog experts continue to dig into it and come up with a whole different theory.
A dog that tilts its head is a sociable dog :
Veterinarian Meredith Stepita cuts the grass under Dr. Coren’s foot, providing another explanation for this curious behavior. For her, dogs nod their heads when they think their owner is trying to tell them something important.
In this way, they would try to analyze the content of your words by focusing particularly on the tone of our voice and our facial expressions. In fact, they are more likely to nod their heads when they think they understand that you are telling them good news, such as time for a walk or a meal. Dogs that tilt their heads are therefore more sociable than others and show more empathy
The dogs bow their heads to hear us :
Another theory, just as pragmatic as Coren’s, postulates that dogs bow their heads to hear their masters better. While their hearing is able to pick up sound frequencies that we cannot perceive, it has difficulty in determining the origin of a sound and is even less efficient than the human ear in this regard.
Dogs may therefore tilt their heads to make sure that the words they hear are coming from their owner and not from some other part of their environment.
Dogs tilt their heads to focus :
Other experts in the dog world argue that dogs often tilt their heads when intrigued by something, even though the object of their attention is neither a living thing nor a source of noise. This does not discredit the theory of ears and muzzle, however, as it is possible to imagine that the dog is trying to detect a sound or to better see the thing that is intriguing.
It is also possible that tilting the dog’s head stimulates its vestibular system, which is responsible for sending mainly spatial information to its brain. Some studies suggest that the vestibular system could help fill deficits in the right hemisphere of the nervous system.