Dogs may tilt their heads for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common reasons is to better understand and process what they are hearing. When a dog tilts its head, it changes the shape of its ears and the direction of its ear canal, which can help them localize and distinguish sounds more clearly. However, there are other reasons. We’ll explain why here.
Is Dog Head Tilting Normal?
Whether head tilting in dogs is normal or abnormal depends on the individual dog and the context of the behavior.
According to Ellen M. Lindell, VMD, DACVB, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist at Veterinary Behavior Consultations in Asheville, North Carolina, certain dogs perform head tilts more frequently than others, but it’s not yet known why.
That’s because little research has been done on the behavior. However, a recent study provides at least a hazy indication that tilting behavior may be related to dogs who have exceptional word learning abilities.
The study focused on 40 different dog breeds and attempted to train them to memorize the names of numerous toys and quickly recall their names. The other dogs were unable to accomplish the tasks, but seven of the dogs did. The remaining dogs only tilted their heads 2% of the time, compared to the seven dogs tilting their heads 43% of the time.
More investigation is required to ascertain whether this conclusion is convincing and consistent enough to prove that head tilting is in fact related to intelligence and to ascertain whether there are any breed-specific links with the behavior.
Why Do Some Dogs Tilt Their Heads?
According to Amy Learn, VMD, DACVB, Chief of Clinical Behavioral Medicine at the Animal Behavior Wellness Center in Richmond, Virginia, dogs’ head tilts are most frequently in response to auditory inputs. The behavior is believed to occur when an animal processes or reacts to a sound or word that has some value, indicating that they have previously learned to recognize that object.
Learn adds that not every dog can learn the name of every object, and not every dog that understands a word tilts its head. Additionally, upon hearing a new sound for the first time, dogs can turn their heads.
While some dogs’ heads may tilt to the right, others may tilt to the left. As long as the dog is responding to stimuli, it appears that this is just a matter of personal preference.
Dogs’ head tilting could also be an effort to attract people’s attention. Although there is no proof that dogs purposefully tilt their heads to look more appealing, one study suggests that a head tilt can raise a dog’s appeal factor. Positively reinforced behaviors also have a propensity to repeat themselves over time. Therefore, Learn explains, if you laugh, compliment, or reward your dog when they tilt their head, this will encourage them to do it more frequently.
In some instances, a dog’s head tilting may indicate a hidden medical condition. If your dog suddenly begins to tilt their head, there is a good chance that they are experiencing some sort of medical issue.
Any behavior that suddenly manifests and has never been observed raises the possibility of a medical cause. Once dogs are 1 1/2 years old, new behavioral features do not abruptly develop unless the stimuli is unique.
Preventing Ear Infections
Colloidal silver is antibacterial and antifungal. These characteristics can clean the ears and keep them clean. And, help kill the bacteria causing the ear infections. Colloidal silver can be used orally or rubbed into the ears.
Due to its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar is a viable option for treating ear infections. Similar to colloidal silver, apple cider vinegar can be applied directly to the ears or ingested orally by combining a few drops with water.
Another natural medicine for ear infections is coconut oil, which has antifungal properties. When taken orally, coconut oil and CBD, an anti-inflammatory, can help treat ear infections. When it comes to CBD for dogs, the two CBD oils that are suggested are CALM and EASE (both of which are blended with coconut oil).
When to Consult the Veterinarian
According to veterinarians, a continuous head tilt that might happen when the dog is standing motionless or moving is indicative of a medical problem. They claim that when going through a medical crisis, the dog is not likely to be specifically engaged with a person or oriented toward a sound.
A dog walking in a circle may also experience problematic head tilting, says Learn. Other symptoms of a head tilt brought on by disease include:
- Head, ear, or neck pain
- Abnormal eye movements
- Lowered head carriage or difficulty holding the head up
- Falling over
- Inability to stand
Diseases that induce head tilts typically have inflammatory or viral origins and may or may not be uncomfortable. The brain, brain stem, and vestibular system, or inner ear, are among the systems affected. Your dog might also start to shake their head in response to ear-related head tilting triggers. Although this habit differs greatly from head tilting, they are both related to ear infections. Seek swift medical assistance if any of these symptoms suddenly appear combined with persistent head tilting.