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  #1  
Old 05-21-2009, 04:15 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Why Do Dogs Cock Their Heads When You Talk to Them?

My dog frequently does this-it is like she is pondering my words. I have seen quite a few dogs doing this..anybody know why?
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  #2  
Old 05-21-2009, 04:17 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Ar?
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  #3  
Old 05-21-2009, 04:19 PM
Covered_In_Bees! Covered_In_Bees! is offline
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It's because you're talking to them in a language they don't understand as though they do understand it.

"What's this damn human doing talking to me again? He knows I can't understand him. Idiot."

Something like that.

Last edited by Covered_In_Bees!; 05-21-2009 at 04:19 PM..
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  #4  
Old 05-21-2009, 04:29 PM
tr0psn4j tr0psn4j is offline
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It's funny when they do it and I've always thought it was because of the same reasons humans do it too. This article seems to agree.
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Old 05-21-2009, 04:31 PM
Least Original User Name Ever Least Original User Name Ever is offline
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Baroo?
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Old 05-21-2009, 04:31 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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I can think of two reasons:
First, it positions her head so she can better hear what you're saying. Your voice is an important sound to her, so she wants to listen closely. You'll also see dogs doing something similar when there's a distant sound of interest.

Second, it's a social cue to let you know that she's listening to you. Dogs, like humans, are social animals, and so have evolved ways to better communicate with each other.
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Old 05-21-2009, 04:47 PM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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If a droopy-eared dog tilts his head, the ear will dangle further from the head letting more sound in. It's kind of the equivalent to a human removing one earbud from his iPod while talking to you.
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Old 05-21-2009, 05:10 PM
LouisB LouisB is offline
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Marcie's dog never does the head cocking thing. He does, when I'm close enough, do the leg cocking thing, though.
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  #9  
Old 05-21-2009, 05:11 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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Your dog comes from a long line of service dogs. He's lip reading to stay in practice.
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  #10  
Old 05-21-2009, 05:40 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Originally Posted by Harmonious Discord View Post
Your dog comes from a long line of service dogs. He's lip reading to stay in practice.
That's when he's looking at your arse.
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  #11  
Old 05-21-2009, 06:00 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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This is a fallacy, the dogs keep their head fixed and YOU tip your head when you talk to them but you don't realize this so it appears THE DOG cocked his head.
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  #12  
Old 05-21-2009, 07:05 PM
dragonlady dragonlady is offline
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I always assumed it was my dogs way of communicating to me that she knows I'm an idiot.
I call it her WTF? face.
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  #13  
Old 05-21-2009, 08:27 PM
Booker57 Booker57 is offline
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Dogs think human words work on gravity,most of the time we are talking down to them. They tip their head so that the words go in one ear and out the other.
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Old 05-21-2009, 09:42 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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Originally Posted by Booker57 View Post
Dogs think human words work on gravity,most of the time we are talking down to them. They tip their head so that the words go in one ear and out the other.
Arf!
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Old 05-21-2009, 10:35 PM
Enginerd Enginerd is offline
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Originally Posted by Covered_In_Bees! View Post
It's because you're talking to them in a language they don't understand as though they do understand it.

"What's this damn human doing talking to me again? He knows I can't understand him. Idiot."

Something like that.
It's weird that they think in English, but can't understand when I speak it.
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Old 05-21-2009, 10:58 PM
Covered_In_Bees! Covered_In_Bees! is offline
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I was translating.
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Old 05-21-2009, 11:36 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is online now
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I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is something along the lines of:

1) Traditionally it happened when a dog would try to orient one ear on you.
2) However, this also happens to look cute, making dogs who did this more liked by humans and hence more likely to be bred.
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  #18  
Old 05-22-2009, 12:57 AM
don't ask don't ask is offline
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Goren impressions.
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  #19  
Old 05-22-2009, 01:00 AM
I-VI-ii-V I-VI-ii-V is offline
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Imitating David Caruso
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  #20  
Old 05-22-2009, 02:14 AM
The Second Stone The Second Stone is online now
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Originally Posted by I-VI-ii-V View Post
Imitating David Caruso
But dogs are naturally good actors.
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  #21  
Old 05-22-2009, 02:39 AM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
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RCA Victor successfully bred this trait into all domestic canines.
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  #22  
Old 05-22-2009, 05:29 AM
Smeghead Smeghead is offline
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Only tangentially related: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uuqXXT7VYo
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  #23  
Old 05-22-2009, 06:42 AM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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Originally Posted by Larry Mudd View Post
Arf!
Sandy!
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  #24  
Old 05-22-2009, 07:37 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Geez -- have any of you people even owned a dog?


Our dog never cocked his head like that when anyone talked to him. He cocked his head when confronted with something unusual or novel. It seems pretty clear to me that it;s a physical manifestation of "Huh? What's going on? I don't understand this." from the dog. He did it plenty of times when there was no sound to confuse him at all -- just visual input.

So if your dog is cocking his head when you talk, it's evidently a sign that he doesn't understand.

I've always taken Nipper and the Gramophone (the symbol of RCA Victor in the US, and HMV in the UK) to be cocking his head because he hears His Master's Voice coming from the strange box, but his Master is nowhere to be seen. It's clearly a "Huh? What's Going On?" gesture, not a "Someone's Talking to Me" gesture. Moreover, the fact that this image was widely used is evidence that most people understand the significance of the cocked head.


Google "dog cocked head confused" and you'll get plenty of cites. One site at least claims that the purpose is to hear the sound better and/or where it's coming from. But, as I say, I've seen dogs do this when there was no sound at all, so I don't buy it.

Last edited by CalMeacham; 05-22-2009 at 07:39 AM..
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  #25  
Old 05-22-2009, 07:45 AM
Athena Athena is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
Geez -- have any of you people even owned a dog?
Yup, two of 'em at present. Both cock their heads when I talk to them. So there goes your theory!

I know exactly why they do it. It's an integral part of pug-human mind control. They realize that cocking their heads puts them in cute overload mode, and therefore the mind control waves work more efficiently, making toys get thrown, bellies get rubbed, and snacks get offered. I'm surprised the other breeds haven't picked up on it yet.
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  #26  
Old 05-22-2009, 08:08 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Yup, two of 'em at present. Both cock their heads when I talk to them. So there goes your theory!
Like heck! It's not theory -- I've never seen a dog cock its head merely from being spoken to. And I've seen them cock their heads plenty of times without any aural stimulation. Not theory, just observation.
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  #27  
Old 05-22-2009, 08:17 AM
Athena Athena is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
Like heck! It's not theory -- I've never seen a dog cock its head merely from being spoken to.
Head tilt from talking.

Mine do exactly that. Heck, if I play that video while they're in the room, they do the head tilt.

Maybe it's a pug thing.
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  #28  
Old 05-22-2009, 08:21 AM
Athena Athena is offline
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Oops, I see that video was already linked. Sorry for the double link! Shoulda read the whole thread before posting!
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  #29  
Old 05-22-2009, 08:47 AM
shiftless shiftless is offline
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In my dog's case it's because he thinks he may have heard me say either "walk" or "treat" and he is now paying attention in the hope that one of those words may come up again.
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Old 05-22-2009, 08:53 AM
Max Torque Max Torque is offline
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Dogs' ears are not like our ears. The fuzzy floppy bits on the outside don't give you much indication. From what I've read (about pugs in particular), their ear canals are quite long, which means that the parts that they actually hear with, the eardrum and such, are located very low, almost in their neck. The head-cocking is an attempt to orient those hearing parts to hear you better.
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  #31  
Old 05-22-2009, 09:01 AM
gigi gigi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Athena View Post
I know exactly why they do it. It's an integral part of pug-human mind control. They realize that cocking their heads puts them in cute overload mode, and therefore the mind control waves work more efficiently, making toys get thrown, bellies get rubbed, and snacks get offered. I'm surprised the other breeds haven't picked up on it yet.
http://www.cafepress.com/dogs_of_war/2801681
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  #32  
Old 05-22-2009, 09:03 AM
Heckity Heckity is offline
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I tend to agree with CalMeacham . I've had many a dog tilt it's head when I talk to it, but mostly when the words are unfamiliar. I think it's a combination of interest and trying to comprehend.

A treasured poetic memory of mine was my little dog sitting in the kitchen staring at her water bowl with her head tilted and I swear an eyebrow raised. A wee mouse had evidently gotten into her bowl and no doubt spent the evening scrambling up the sloped side and sliding back down. Finally exhausted the mouse drowned in the inch of water at the bottom of the bowl. I have no doubt my dog was saying, "WTF?"and wondering whether it was a snack.
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  #33  
Old 05-22-2009, 09:08 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Here's a really extreme example -- I thought this girl was going to hurt herself!

Pit bull head tilt

In my experience, mine tilt their heads when I make novel noises and don't bother during instructions they've heard before.
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  #34  
Old 05-22-2009, 09:15 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
Geez -- have any of you people even owned a dog?


Our dog never cocked his head like that when anyone talked to him. He cocked his head when confronted with something unusual or novel. It seems pretty clear to me that it;s a physical manifestation of "Huh? What's going on? I don't understand this." from the dog.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Athena View Post
Yup, two of 'em at present. Both cock their heads when I talk to them. So there goes your theory!
Seeing as pugs are only slightly more intelligent than animate mushrooms, I don't think these two viewpoints are at odds. Pugs confuse easily!


(And I say this as a former owner and adorer of pugs; I love the stupid little mushrooms!)

Last edited by WhyNot; 05-22-2009 at 09:15 AM..
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  #35  
Old 05-22-2009, 01:24 PM
AskNott AskNott is offline
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Dogs cocking their heads is nothing to fret about.

When the dog progresses to cocking her gun, now that's something to worry about.
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  #36  
Old 05-22-2009, 01:26 PM
Nametag Nametag is offline
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My dog cocks his head when he hears familiar words, particularly his favorites: "walk," "dinner," and especially "cookie." If I repeat the word, he'll try to cock it further, which looks really funny.

I believe that it's natural for dogs and many other animals to try to change their perspective when confronted with critical stimuli. An unfamiliar object (that may be dangerous or rewarding), a distant sound (likewise), and, in the case of dogs, words that lead to good things. There's also the training factor, as dogs do get rewarded for it, 'cause it's cute, but there is a proven benefit in the wild. Moving the ears into different planes helps locate the source of a sound -- some owls have their ears located at different heights, apparently for exactly this reason: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_l...n_of_elevation
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  #37  
Old 05-22-2009, 02:53 PM
Death of Rats Death of Rats is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
I can think of two reasons:
First, it positions her head so she can better hear what you're saying. Your voice is an important sound to her, so she wants to listen closely. You'll also see dogs doing something similar when there's a distant sound of interest.

Second, it's a social cue to let you know that she's listening to you. Dogs, like humans, are social animals, and so have evolved ways to better communicate with each other.
This makes sense. It would also explain why, when I talk to my cat, she glares at me like I'm scum and walks off in the middle of a sentence.
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Old 05-22-2009, 02:54 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Originally Posted by The Second Stone View Post
But dogs are naturally good actors.
For the win!!!!!
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  #39  
Old 05-22-2009, 03:11 PM
vivalostwages vivalostwages is offline
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My brother's dog used to cock his head and peer at us when we were talking to him, but more so when he was sitting down.

Once, in the car, the radio started playing "Jungle Love" by the Steve Miller band. There's a loud, synth sound at the very start of it that caused the dog to tip his head so far to the left that he was practically looking at the radio sideways.
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  #40  
Old 05-22-2009, 06:51 PM
LunarPlexus LunarPlexus is offline
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Because they can. Wait, no, that's something else.
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  #41  
Old 05-24-2009, 11:16 AM
Apocalypso Apocalypso is offline
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Their brains roll out of the socket, and they have to tip it back in.
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  #42  
Old 05-24-2009, 06:29 PM
notfrommensa notfrommensa is offline
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Every dog I've owned tilted his or her head. Poodles, Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Sheperd/Collie Mix.

I always thought it was sort of rudimentary sonar. The dog is trying to get a fix on the location of the sound.
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  #43  
Old 05-24-2009, 11:22 PM
cmyk cmyk is offline
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I've always called that head-tilt the "Rorp?!"

I think I got it from Scooby Doo. But it's perfect. I even say it in real life, when I'm confused or someone just said something incomprehensible. It's fun to use in chat, too.




ETA: Or maybe the Jetsons? Rorp?!

Last edited by cmyk; 05-24-2009 at 11:23 PM..
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