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I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly talking to my dogs. They know the basic commands and the names of their favorite things like “treat”, “park” and “beach”. According to dog intelligence expert and psychologist, Dr. Stanley Corin, the average dog can learn over 160 words.
But have you ever noticed your dog tilting his/her head when you talk to them?
They tilt to the left or right with their ears pricked listening to every word you say.
Photo: Unsplash/Matt Walsh
While absolutely adorable, what does it mean?
Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, wanted to find out the real reason for the head-tilt so they spent three months observing 40 dogs.
They used toys and word association training to try and discover what causes dogs to tilt their heads.
“We investigated the occurrence and direction of the head-tilts dogs perform in response to human verbal vocalizations, specifically, when the dogs were asked to fetch a toy using its trained label,” stated the report published in the Animal Cognition Journal.
Photo: Unsplash/Fredrik Öhlander

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Left or Right?
The dogs were either left or right-sided and consistently tilted their head in the same direction each time. The direction they chose was not affected by where the owner stood and just seemed to be a preference.
After analyzing all the trials, researchers concluded that dogs that tilt their heads not only recognize the word being said but could be visualizing the object or place.
“Our results indicate that only dogs that had learned the name of the objects tilted their heads frequently,” wrote Andrea Sommese, lead author on the study. “Thus, we suggest a relationship between head-tilting and processing relevant, meaningful stimuli.”
But more research is needed.
Photo: Unsplash/Baptist Standaert
This was the first study conducted on head-tilts in dogs and a majority of the dogs were border collies.
Now that we know our dogs (or at least most of them) are listening when we talk, we can teach them more words by using clear command words and lots of repetition. Apparently, talking to our dogs is a good thing, phew!