Your dog is likely better at listening than you think -- here's why

That head tilt is more than just a cute quirk

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group

Are you ever talking to your dog and notice it tilt its head to the side?

It's pretty cute, right?

But have you ever wondered: Why do dogs do that?

It could be for a number of reasons, according to the website Mental Floss.

Let's touch on some of those reasons, shall we?


1.) They're really listening to us.

Most dogs, if not all dogs, can pick up on certain words: Walk, for example. 

"So when they cock their heads as you speak to them, it's possible they're listening for specific words and inflections they associate with fun activities like meals and playtime," the site said.

Makes sense, right? When humans are engaged in active listening, we show signs of that, too. So it only seems right that dogs do something similar.

2.) They're trying to hear us even better.

This reason is pretty scientific. But experts say the tilting of the head might have to do with how a dog's ear is constructed.

It's true that dogs can sense frequencies that even humans can't hear, but they don't have as strong of an ability to pick up on the source of a particular sound.

"A dog's brain calculates extremely minuscule differences between the time it takes a sound to reach each ear, so a simple change in head position could provide them with useful sensory information," the article said. "When dogs tilt their heads, some experts believe they are adjusting their pinnae, or outer ears, in order to better pinpoint the location of a noise."

Very interesting indeed.

3.) They're trying to read our faces for visual cues as well.

Here's the idea behind this theory: Dogs are trying to see us better when we speak.

They pick up on emotional cues in our voices, and they're also trying to read our facial expressions. When cocking their heads to the side, an expert from Psychology Today said dogs are likely trying to get a better view of our mouths, "where our most expressive facial cues originate," he told Mental Floss.

4.) They're empathetic.

We love this explanation.

Dogs are a man's best friend, right? Of course they'd be empathetic.

"If your dog is a frequent head-tilter, this could mean that they're especially empathetic," the article said. "Some experts have reported that dogs who are more socially apprehensive are less likely to tilt their heads when spoken to. But if your dog doesn't display this behavior, there's no need to automatically label them as a canine sociopath."

And sure, maybe it's just a dog's instinct to tilt the head, experts said. Still, the more you respond to it positively, the more likely your dog will do it, especially if you tell him what a good, good boy (or girl!) (s)he is.

h/t Mental Floss

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