Experiment Explores Why Dogs Tilt Their Heads

When you speak to a dog, and see him tilt his head, you just melt a little inside because it's just plain cute. But why do they do it? We've heard a lot of logical speculation, such as they do it to hear better, to see over their snout, to activate their brains, or maybe it's a learned behavior because we react to it. But new research gives us a clue that it's really a gesture indicating that they are thinking.

A canine experiment that wasn't about head-tilting had a group of seven talented border collies retrieving specific toys by name, showing us how many words they know. The dogs already identified as "smart" did much better than the control group of 33 average dogs (most were also border collies). Duh. However, the researchers also noted a lot of head-tilting between the request and the retrieval, so they crunched the numbers.

The gifted dogs tilted their heads between the request and the retrieval 43% of the time. The control group only did the head tilt in 2% of trials! This led the researchers to believe that the gesture indicates the dog is calling up a memory and processing the meaning of the words they know. Read more about the research at Science. -via Digg

(Image credit: Sommese, A., Miklósi, Á., Pogány, Á. et al. An exploratory analysis of head-tilting in dogs. Anim Cogn (2021)/CC BY 4.0)

#dog #dogcognition #headtilt

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