If you own a dog, have ever met a dog, or have ever seen a dog, you know that most of them can't help being a cute. It doesn't matter if wagging their tail or taking a nap. It's going to be adorable no matter what.
But sometimes, dogs have the ability to take being cute to a whole new level. And that's when they give you the head tilt. For some reason, a dog with its head slightly askew automatically gives people a case of the "awws."
While it's true that dogs can hear more sound frequencies, they're still not so great at knowing where a sound is coming from. According to Mother Nature Network, “Dogs have movable earflaps that help them locate the source of a sound, but they also have brains that can compute time differences between the sound reaching each ear. A slight change in a dog's head position supplies additional information that the canine can use to judge a sound's distance.”
So the head tilt can help a dog understand where a sound is coming from. But in addition, it can also help a dog understand what its owner is trying to say. No, a dog can't actually understand human language, but it can pick up some clues.
By tilting its head, the dog can better perceive certain tones of voice or the sounds of certain words that have particular meaning for the dog. This explains why a dog can recognize its own name, or understands when you might be giving it a treat. And it understands when you say something indicating it might get in trouble.
“The muscles of a dog's middle ear are controlled by a part of the brain that's also responsible for facial expressions and head movements,” said Mother Nature Network. “so when a canine tilts his head, he's trying to perceive what you're saying, as well as communicate to you that he's listening.” It's kind of like the dog equivalent of saying, “Uh-huh...yes...uh-huh...”
However, another theory suggests that the head tilt has nothing to do with a dog trying to hear noises or understand people. It actually has nothing to do with hearing at all. It has to do with a dog's sight.
To understand this better, Psychology Today says, “Try the following simple experiment; hold your fist up to your nose... Now, in effect, you are viewing the world with a head shape that has a muzzle like that of a dog.” Got it?
Now notice what it's like to view the world normally, except with a make-shift snout in front of you. “If you now look at a person's face,” said Psychology Today, “you will find that the muzzle will block some of your vision, and reduce your ability to see the lower part of the face.” And by missing part of the face, you're also missing out on a key component of non-verbal communication.
Psychology Today continued, saying “Next, still with your muzzle in place, tilt your head when you are looking at the face. With this head posture you can now clearly see the mouth region.” And since dogs can't understand your exact words, getting this non-verbal communication right is extremely important.
The other reason that dogs might tilt their could have nothing to do with seeing or hearing better. It could be because of one simple reason, that's also very sneaky. And that could be because dogs know we like it.