Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?

When your dog tilts its head while you’re talking, you probably think it’s very cute. It’s almost impossible not to smile or pat your puppy on the head when they do this. Have you ever wondered why dogs turn their head in such a way? If so, here are some possible reasons why your dog and other dogs tilt their heads.


When your dog tilts their head, they’re engaging with you. Social dogs are prone to head tilting because they enjoy interacting with people. Head tilts encourage human contact to continue, often resulting in a rewarding experience like a pat on the head or a ride in the car. Dogs repeat their behavior when they get rewarded.

Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?

To get a better view

Dogs with long snouts sometimes need to move their heads to see what’s in front of them. Head tilting gives them a better view. It allows a dog to stay focused on you. It’s how they communicate with you. Some long-nosed dogs that are prone to tilt their heads include:

  • Greyhounds
  • German Shepherds
  • Dachshunds
  • Whippets
  • Doberman Pinschers

Your dog can hear a range of many different frequencies, but they can’t always figure out where the sound is coming from. Because of this, your dog’s head tilting could be a way to listen to the frequency of a sound, plus focus on what the sound means rather than where it’s coming from. Dogs with flapping ears are at a disadvantage.

When is your dog’s head tilt a concern?

If a dog suddenly develops a head tilt, it could mean they’re suffering from a medical problem. Here are the common medical reasons why a dog may be tilting their head.

Head injury

Head trauma or injury causes head tiling in dogs. Depending on how bad the head injury is, the symptoms may vary or be slow to show up. Most trauma or head injury to dogs is caused by getting hit by a car. Symptoms of head trauma or injury could include:

  • Seizures
  • Circling
  • Head tilting or pressing
  • Blindness

Head trauma is serious. Contact your vet right away if you suspect your dog has injured their head.

Ear infection

Another cause of a dog’s head tilt is an ear infection. A dog with ear infections may shake their head or tip their head to one side. What you think at first is just cute behavior could be your dog’s discomfort from a painful ear infection. Other symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Scratching their ears
  • Odor from their ears
  • Loss of balance
  • Seeping from the ear

Dog breeds with flapping ears are more prone to ear infections than other breeds. Treatment for an ear infection is most commonly antibiotics and anti-inflammatory meds.

dogs tilt their heads

Vestibular Disease in older dogs

Older dogs are prone to vestibular disease. A dog’s vestibular system helps a dog keep its balance. It sends information to a dog’s brain about the position of its body and helps them move in relation to what’s going on around them. It’s often called an “old dog’s disease” because it generally affects older dogs, but it’s possible for younger dogs to suffer from this disease. This disease isn’t fatal, and dogs typically begin to recover from this illness in 48 to 72 hours. Symptoms may include:

  • Staggering
  • Head tilt
  • Imbalance
  • Vomiting
  • Circling
  • Eyes moving from side to side
  • Loss of appetite
  • Legs spread wide apart
  • Preferring to sleep on a hard floor instead of their bed

Lysosomal storage disease

Lysosomal storage diseases is an umbrella name for a group of disorders that affect the function of lysosomes. Lysosomes are little bag-like areas inside a cell containing enzymes that break down old parts of cells. If the enzymes aren’t there for some reason, the old cell materials will cause damage to tissues and eventually cause organ failure. Lysosomal storage disease is an inherited disease, which means both of a dog’s parents are carriers of the disease. Good breeding practices can prevent this disease from occurring.

Symptoms include:

  • Head tilts
  • Imbalance and lack of coordination when walking
  • Blindness
  • Seizures
  • Poor vision

Tumors in a dog’s head or neck region

If a dog develops a tumor or mass in the head or neck region, they often tilt their head because of the pressure they feel on this area. Certain breeds are more likely to develop brain tumors than other breeds. These include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Boxers
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Older English Sheepdogs
  • Collies
  • Pugs


Although scientists aren’t completely sure why dogs tilt their heads, most pet parents say they enjoy this charming behavior in their dogs. It could be when your dog moves their head to one side, they’re trying to understand you and maybe get a treat for being so cute.

At Central Broward Animal Hospital in Plantation, FL, we are ready to help you and your dog with whatever you may need! Call us at (954) 792-6323 to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions about your dog’s health!