You know when you’re at home dogsitting and you start speaking to your dog, and all of a sudden he tilts his head to the side? Most pet lovers will have noticed this cute moment and believed how it seems as if he was trying to comprehend what you’re saying. Well, good news! You’re not entirely wrong!

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Image credit: Flickr

Watching your dog cock his or her head to the side, especially when you are talking to the animal, is just too cute. Some dogs do this and some do not, but those that make this gesture are doing so for very good reasons.
The #1 Practical Reason Why A Dog Will Cock Its Head
Most often, a dog will cock his head to the side in order to hear more clearly. When they turn and tilt their heads the ear becomes more exposed in an up-and-more-forward position. The result is that the inaudible sounds (fuzziness) that they were catching will become clearer to the ear.
Other Dogs Do So For Different Reasons
Many dogs have learned to cock their heads to the side simply because they get a reward. What is the reward? Well remember how I mentioned how I mentioned that this gesture is just too cute?
Most pet lovers’ immediate response is to say something like, “Awwwww, look at Buddy with his head turned to the side, how cute!”, followed by lots of petting and soothing tones. This is a reward, and some dogs may have turned their heads to the side a few times in the beginning, but soon enough learned that this will give them lots of that lovable attention.
So if you have ever given a dog this kind of attention after it has tilted it's head in a really cute way then you have just positively reinforced that behavior. And you know what? The dog will remember this and might do this more often – not to hear better, but to feel better.
Human Speech & Your Dog
Dogs can understand part of our human language, but most of it is just a fuzzy blur to them. Almost like when a human hears a foreign language. Dogs cannot take in everything we say. But canines are very good at observing and becoming familiar with human tone of voice, body language as well as eye movement.
Trying To Absorb Every Sound He Can
It is when a dog notices something of interest that its ears perk up to catch all the sounds. If the sound comes from the front your dog might cock its head in the direction of the sound, but if the sound is coming from a direction to the side of him then there is not likely going to be any head tilting. Why? The ears are in the perfect spot already to pick up the minutest of sounds.
A dog's ear shape and position will have something to do with how the dog perceives sound and how often a head tilt might be noticed. Even the age and experience of the dog play a role in this. A German shepherd with pricked up ears might hear better from the front than a cocker spaniel who would hear better from the side. Certainly a long floppy eared dog would be seen tilting its head more often than a dog with open ears.

Next time you’re at home dogsitting, pay attention to when your dog cocks its head. It might’ve heard something or, more often than not, looking for some love and affection.