There’s a certain humanity in dogs. They always seem to have your best intentions in mind, they always look enthusiastic, and, even if you can’t necessarily prove it, you swear they can tell when you’re having a bad day. But they also have a positively human tick: the head tilt.
But what exactly does it mean? According to Mental Floss, there are several explanations, none of which include “they’re trying to get rid of swimmer’s ear.” There appear to be benefits to the move, part visual and part auditory.
The canine ear is incredibly sensitive, capable of picking up a far wider range of frequencies than humans. Their sharp sense of hearing can pick up the most minuscule undulations in frequency, and their head-positioning makes a world of difference. The head tilt allows them to position their pinnae, the outer part of the ear, so they can locate the source of the sound better.
Stanley Coren Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today about a possible visual benefit as well. A dog’s snout is firmly in its field of vision. Although they adjust and eventually learn to not notice it (much like humans do with their noses—oh no, you’re staring at your nose now), the head tilt allows for a different angle. Usually, a dog’s muzzle would block the lower part of the subject it’s staring at, but the head tilt allows for a full view. Coren also suggests that dogs can get a better look at the human mouth from the tilt position.
So while the head tilt does help heighten certain senses in dogs, it also helps them better understand the humans that care for them. Isn’t that sweet? Plus, here are more things your dog secretly knows about you.