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Most of us are familiar with a dog’s head tilt. This cute behavior may occur when humans ask a dog if they want to go on a walk or receive a treat. Although humans often interpret this behavior as a sign of engagement or or curiosity, one scientific study suggests that dogs may perform this behavior when they are attempting to process words that are familiar to them.
Many animals, including humans, perform similar head tilts. For humans, it may occur when you are remembering something. Other animals may tilt their heads to move their preferred ear or nostril closer to the sound or smell they are observing. Or, they may perform this head tilt to isolate a sound and figure out where it is coming from. Tilting your head changes the angle of your ears. This allows you to perceive sounds differently. However, for dogs, there may be another reason.
In the only study investigating this behavior, researchers observed a group of “gifted” dogs who could differentiate the names of several different toys. They found that when these dogs heard the name of one of their toys, they tilted their heads 43 percent of the time. On average, dogs who could not differentiate between their toys’ names only showed this behavior two percent of the time.
This suggests that a dog’s head tilt may not be an effort to identify or localize a sound, but rather an attempt to process a word that they know. Most dogs may perform this behavior when they hear a word they are familiar with like “walk” or “treat”. Dogs may perform this head tilt because they process familiar words on the right side of the brain. So, tilting their heads may be a response to stimuli. The study’s findings were published in 2021 in the journal Animal Cognition.
While this study does not appear to have caused harm to the dogs involved, millions of animals each year are tortured and killed as part of animal testing and experimentation. Sign this petition to tell the FDA to Phase Out Animal Testing!
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