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New study explains why your dog tilts its head when you speak

Story at a glance

  • Researchers in Hungary believe they’ve discovered the reason why dogs tilt their heads at you when you speak.
  • The adorable gesture is a signal that the dog is intently listening and processing what it’s hearing.
  • The study was published in the journal Animal Cognition on Oct. 26.

Does your heart melt when your dog tilts its head at you? Researchers in Hungary believe they’ve discovered the reason why these furry friends do it.

A new study published in the journal Animal Cognition on Oct. 26 found that the adorable gesture is a signal that the dog is intently listening.

“We observed 40 dogs during object-label knowledge tests and analysed head-tilts occurring while listening to humans requesting verbally to fetch a familiar toy,” the study states. “Our results indicate that only dogs that had learned the name of the objects tilted their heads frequently. … Thus, we suggest a relationship between head-tilting and processing relevant, meaningful stimuli.”


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The dogs in the study that were considered “gifted word learner dogs” and recognized more objects tilted their heads in response to their owners naming the objects 43 percent of the time, while the other dogs only did so 2 percent of the time.

“This study is the first step in this direction,” the researchers said, “showing how this behavior could be related to the presence of meaningful and salient auditory stimuli for the dog.”


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