There’s more to that cute head tilt

Pete Keesling

Q: When our dog hears a funny noise, he tips his head sideways to listen. We think it’s adorable, but why does he do this?
Most of us have seen a dog looking cute like this. The RCA Victor Company’s logo made it famous, showing a dog (a pitbull/terrier) tipping his head as he listened to “His Master’s Voice” emanating from the early gramophone.
Many dogs tilt their head to one side or the other when listening to something. It might be a human voice or just some noise. Whatever the case, it appears as though they’re concentrating to better understand what they hear.
Or is there more to it than that? Some people say that by tipping their head to one side, dogs point their ear canal directly towards the sound. That may be true, but I think there’s still another explanation. Our little girl, Ness, does this all the time. And I think she tips her head to gain a different perspective on the sound. It’s almost the same as what we humans do visually. Here’s an example:
Imagine looking at a painting in an art gallery. After a moment or two, you stand back and move to one side or the other. This way, you see the artwork in a different light and angle. It gives you perspective. And I think dogs tilt their head for the same reason when they hear sounds. It gives them a different angle and perspective. And, oh yeah … it also looks very cute.
Q: Can dogs read lips? My friend has a new puppy that is deaf and she wants to train him using mouth commands. I’m not sure she will be able to do this unless her pup is a lip reader. Is that possible?
Interestingly enough, the answer is yes … sort of. I’m convinced that some dogs can lip-read, but it’s easy for them because they also “read” human body language. Think about it. We all use our hands and facial expressions to emphasize things when we speak. And dogs are keenly adept at seeing and interpreting this.
One such dog lives with a local animal chiropractor. Dr. Deb Sell of Next Level Animal Chiropractic recently celebrated the 14th birthday for Echo, her deaf companion dog. Echo lives a charmed life with Dr. Deb. They are very connected and Echo’s eyes are always watching to see what Deb might “say” next. Together, they’re a perfect example of how life can be very normal even for a dog that cannot hear a sound. I hope your friend has the same success with her new pup.
Q: What do you think is better? Should we have more that one cat in our house? We’ve always only had one kitty in our home. Recently, Rufus passed away. He was very old and we had him for a very long time. So we got a kitten from the shelter. One of the workers told us that we should think about getting another kitty to keep him company. He even suggested getting two more! Are cats happier when they live alone? Or is it better when there are more cats in the same house?
I’m often asked this, and it’s a tough question that really has no answer. Each and every cat is a little different. And the same can be said for different families. You had such a good life with your previous kitty-companion and he lived solo with your family. So that worked for you. Maybe there’s no reason why you should get a second (or third) kitty-cat.
But let’s look at this in a different way. There are literally hundreds of healthy kittens and cats in local shelters. If you brought home a playmate for your new family member, I’m sure the two of them would have a great time together. It’s a little more work, managing a multiple cat household. But I can tell you from personal experience it’s well worth the effort. We have three at the moment and they entertain us continually with their horseplay. We love them all.
And yes, our friends tell us that we should have a few more. One even gave us a plaque with a little-known saying, “Every life should have nine cats.” No thanks. For me, three is enough.