german shepherd head tilt

German Shepherd Head Tilt: Why Do German Shepherds Tilt Their Heads?

The German Shepherd head tilt is probably the cutest gesture you’ll ever encounter as a German Shepherd owner. But do these head tilts mean anything? Is it just something cute or can it be a cause of concern?

Why Do German Shepherds Tilt Their Heads?

There are multiple reasons why a German Shepherd may tilt its head, and these reasons vary from it just being a simple reaction to being an indicator of a medical issue.

For example, a German Shepherd may tilt its head to react to a sound and to try and hear it better, but it can also be doing it to ease itchiness brought about by an infection.

Let’s discuss these reasons further.

Finding The Source Of A Sound

German Shepherds tilt their heads so that they can adjust the position of their ears and hear better.

They do so to try and pinpoint the source of a sound by the process of triangulation. As they tilt their heads, their brains compare how their ears perceive the sound to assess the distance and location of the source.

To Understand Your Commands Better

German Shepherds may also tilt their heads to understand commands or what their owners are saying better. 

Given that they hear better, they’re much more likely to decode and determine familiar words or tones of which they may associate specific events like mealtimes, walks, or commands like sit and stay.

As A Way To Communicate With You

A German Shepherd’s middle ear muscles are controlled by the same part of the brain, which controls facial expressions and head movement. Thus, they may tilt their heads to say that they’re paying attention and that they are very much engaged with the conversation. 

As highly social dogs, they may also tilt their heads as a means of prolonging conversations or other interactions with their owners.

To Get A Better View Or To See You Clearly

In a study published by Dr. Coren on Psychology Today, it was noted that out of 396 dog owners with dogs that have long and large snouts, 71% reported that their dogs tilt their heads.  And so, Dr. Coren suggests that a dog’s muzzle may obstruct a dog’s vision and that they’d have to tilt their heads to see more clearly.

Given that German Shepherds have large and long snouts, they too may tilt their heads to get a better view. By doing so, they get to better see and understand their owner’s gestures, facial expressions, and body language, which thus results in better communication.

Reinforced Habit

A German Shepherd may also tilt its head due to reinforced habit.

For instance, since head tilts are undeniably adorable and cute, the dog’s owner may have unconsciously rewarded the dog when it did head tilts. What that does is positively associate head tilting with rewards, and will make the dog more likely to make the gesture again in anticipation of treats, praise, or attention.

Ear Infections

On a more serious note, a German Shepherd’s head tilts may also be caused by medical issues such as ear infections. 

If the head tilts repeatedly occur even when there’s no sound or logical cause, or if they’re done to try and rub the ears because of itch, then it may indicate ear infection.

Vertigo And Imbalance

Head tilts may also be caused by vertigo and imbalance associated with issues of the vestibular system, a sensory system located in the inner ear which governs the dog’s sense of balance. 

If a German Shepherd tilts its head to the side and appears to be disoriented by stumbling and even falling over, then it may have vestibular disease.

Should You Be Worried About Your German Shepherd’s Head Tilts

Your German Shepherd’s head tilts are in most cases natural and are generally not worrying. However, if the head tilts are accompanied by other issues and discomforts such as itching, pain, and disorientation, then it may indicate an underlying medical condition. 

In such cases, it would be best to take your German Shepherd to the veterinarian to diagnose and remedy any persisting issues.

The German Shepherd Head Tilt

why do german shepherds tilt their heads

A German Shepherd’s head tilt is more than just a cute and adorable gesture. It allows a German Shepherd to make full use of its senses when communicating or as it explores its environment. 

It may also indicate underlying medical conditions such as vestibular disease and infections that need to be addressed.

Thus, it’s essential that you learn to look beyond the aesthetic of the head tilt and try to understand the meaning behind it. After all, it could mean that your German Shepherd’s experiencing some discomfort and that it requires a visit to the vet.

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