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  • You've probably seen a dog tilt its head in response to a weird noise

  • or something you said.

  • It's super cute, but why do they do it?

  • Well, the answer's not entirely clear,

  • and there hasn't been any peer-reviewed research about it.

  • But a couple scientists hypothesize that head-tilting might help dogs see and hear us better.

  • One popular idea comes from a 2013 blog posted by a psychologist named Stanley Coren,

  • who studies dogs and their behaviors, among other things.

  • He thinks that puzzled tilt means a dog is trying to see you better.

  • When you speak to someone, dog or otherwise,

  • you express a lot of emotion with the lower half of your face.

  • And according to a small 2015 study,

  • it seems like our canine companions can tell the difference

  • between facial expressions that show emotion, like happiness or anger.

  • But a dog with a bigger muzzle might not be able to see your smile or frown clearly,

  • so Coren suggests that tilting helps them get a better view.

  • He tested this idea by surveying 582 dog owners online,

  • asking them to describe about their dog's breed or head shape,

  • then to rate how frequently their dogs do the head tilting thing.

  • The data were split into two groups.

  • One was brachycephalic dogs with flatter faces like pugs.

  • And the other was a mix of mesaticephalic dogs with medium muzzles like beagles

  • and dolichocephalic dogs with long noses like greyhounds.

  • In Coren's survey, 71% of owners of bigger-muzzled dogs reported that

  • their pupsfrequently,"“most of the time,” oralwaystilt their heads when spoken to,

  • as opposed to only 52% of owners of smaller-muzzled dogs.

  • That, he says, is a statistically significant difference.

  • But 52% is still a lot of dogs, so this probably isn't the whole story.

  • A psychologist who runs a dog cognition lab named Alexandra Horowitz thinks that

  • dogs could be trying to hear us better with those sideways looks.

  • Specifically, she thinks they're tilting their heads to adjust the floppy parts of their ears,

  • called pinnae, to get a better sense of where sounds are coming from.

  • A third take from a dog trainer named Steven Lindsay is that dogs tilt their heads because

  • one part of their brain is involved in both listening and body language.

  • We think a region called the nucleus ambiguous

  • controls a dog's head movements, as well as the muscles in a dog's middle ear

  • that help it perceive subtly different sounds.

  • So Lindsay suggests that when your pup is listening,

  • it can't help but show you with its body too.

  • We don't really know how accurate any of these guesses are,

  • but we do know that dogs tilting their heads is real cute.

  • So to any animal psychologists out there: round up some puppies, do some research,

  • and post more of these adorable videos online... for science!

  • Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to all of our patrons on Patreon

  • who keep these answers coming.

  • If you'd like to submit questions to be answered, or get some videos a few days early,

  • go to patreon.com/scishow.

  • And don't forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe!

You've probably seen a dog tilt its head in response to a weird noise

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Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?

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    Leo posted on 2017/07/01
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