Does Your Boston Terrier Tilt It’s Head? Learn Why & More


Why Do Boston Terriers Tilt Their Head? Illustrations & More

You’re talking to your Boston Terrier, and when you’re at a crucial part of the story, he or she tilts their head. 

If you’re like me, you’ve wondered, does my Boston Terrier understand me? 

Is my Boston Terrier trying to tell me something, do they want a treat, or is the head tilt completely random? 

We’ve all been there wondering this as our cute Boston Terrier gazes up at us, adorable head tilt and all. 

via GIPHY

Why Do Boston Terriers Tilt Their Heads?

There are many theories as to why dogs, especially brachycephalic breeds like Boston Terriers, tilt their heads. 

Boston Terriers are a brachycephalic dog breed which affects the shape of their muzzle. As a result, they have a pretty flat face. 

Things like a dog’s muzzle, head shape, empathy, hearing, and vision are all possible factors. 

What we are covering in the article on why your Boston Terrier tilts its head.

  • Confusion
  • Flat Face
  • Hearing
  • Communication
  • Vision
  • Positive Reinforcement

Let’s jump into the research behind head tilting and how it may affect our Boston Terriers!

Poll: Why Do You Think Boston Terriers Tilt Their Heads

Are Boston Terriers Confused When They Tilt Their Heads?

A common question about head tilting is whether or not the dog is confused about something or lost. 

Research has not shown a link between confusion and head tilting as of writing this article. If you happen to find a piece linking confusion and head tilting, please let me know.

The reason for head tilting in Boston Terrier is far more likely to be related to their anatomy than confusion. 

Do Dogs With Brachycephalic Syndrome Head Tilt More Often?

My first assumption of the reason for Boston Terrier’s head tilting was the shape of their head and muzzle. 

However, a 2013 study by Dr. Stanley Coren found that brachycephalic breeds were categorized 52% of the time as frequent head tilters. 

While, Dr. Coren found that non-brachycephalic breeds, like labs or collies, were categorized 62% of the time as frequent head tilters. 

Why Is There More Head Tilting In Non-Brachycephalic?

Dr. Coren explained the reason for the difference by saying that brachycephalic breeds have a shorter muzzle and would be less visually impaired than dogs with longer muzzles. 

He says this is why the non-brachycephalic were reported to tilt their heads more often.

Overall, his research shows that head and muzzle shape can significantly affect how often a dog tilts their head. 

However, with 52% of brachycephalic dogs reported as frequent head tilters, there is probably more than just the length of the muzzle going on here.

Do Boston Terriers Tilt Their Head To Hear Better?

Head tilting is heavily thought to be done by dogs to improve their hearing. You may be thinking, wait, don’t dogs have better hearing than humans? 

While it’s true that dogs hear and pick up sound better than us humans, dogs lack the directional hearing that we have. 

According to Lynn Buzhardt DVM, dogs lack the directional hearing humans have, and this could be the reason for their head tilt.

Boston Terriers are still able to hear a more considerable amount of frequencies than humans, but we can localize sound better.

Humans Have Better Directional Sound Abilities

Humans have a stronger ability to identify what direction a sound is coming from without having to turn our heads. For example, you hear someone walking towards you. 

When you hear them, you’ve likely already identified which way they are approaching. 

Dogs are unable to do this. This is partly because their ear flaps cover part of their ear canals. To make up for this, they have to adjust their position. 

Boston Terrier Listening
Bella in her t-shirt…Dad did you say something?

How Does Head Tilting Help Boston Terriers Hear Better?

Tilting Of The Head Can Help Expose The Ear Canal

Head tilting may help Boston Terriers hear better by partially exposing their ear canals, which are usually covered by their ear flaps. 

Changing the position of their ears by tilting their head may help them to hear better and more accurately. 

Tilting Of The Head Can Help Dogs Better Hear Voice Inflections

Another reason that head tilting may help dogs hear better is them being able to understand the inflections in our voice. 

Many of us use a higher-pitched, baby talk voice with our Boston Terriers. They want to pick up on this and figure out the general meaning of what we’re saying to them. 

Are we happy or upset? 

According to the American Kennel Club, a Boston Terrier may tilt their head to pick up on our tone of voice and pitch when they are sitting in front of us. 

If we are directly in front of our Boston Terriers, they can already localize the noise and hear us. Still, they may be trying to determine even more specific details about our voice. 

Is My Boston Terrier Trying To Tell Me Something With A Head Tilt?

When you’re talking to your Boston Terrier, and they tilt their head, it’s unlikely to be because they can’t hear you.

They may be trying to pick up inflections in your tone of voice, but are there other reasons that they’re tilting their head towards you?

According to the Veterinary Centers Of America, social dogs are especially prone to head tilts because they want us to continue conversing with them. 

Social dogs, like Boston Terriers, want to be around us and be “chatting” with us. A head tilt may be a way that they communicate this with us.

This is akin to a human nodding during a conversation to let us know that they are engaged and listening. 

Our Boston Terriers taking the time to “chat” with us is very flattering. And this shows us they genuinely care to concentrate and listen, even when we are casually speaking to them. 

Do Boston Terriers Tilt Their Heads To See Better?

Boston Terrier with glasses

Some researchers favor the theory that dogs tilt their heads to improve their vision, not their hearing. 

This is widely debated with no conclusive answer yet, but here are the main reasons that a head tilt could improve a dog’s vision. 

Like Boston Terriers, humans have flat faces. This may make it harder for our much shorter dogs to see our expressions when we are talking to them. 

Is It Really Hard To Read A Human’s Facial Expression?

It might not seem hard to read a human’s flat face, but Dr. Coren paints an excellent visual for us humans to try.

Imagine your fist is an extension of your nose and try looking around. 

Your fist dramatically cuts off your field of vision, so you can see why this would interfere with our social dogs trying to understand our face. 

Boston Terriers may tilt their head to gain a better view of the bottom of our faces where they can read if we are happy or angry.

Could Aging Eyes Be A Reason For Head Tilting?

Another factor in the relationship between vision and head-tilting is age. Research on head tilting in primates has shown a correlation with vision. 

It’s thought that dogs may tilt their heads more as puppies, when their eyes are not fully developed, and again as they grow old when their vision declines. 

None of this is fully confirmed, but research is underway to continue finding answers about head tilting in animals.

Is My Boston Terrier Trying To Get Treats With A Cute Head Tilt?

Others are a fan of the theory that head tilting is a result of social engagement.

Our Boston Terriers could be tilting their head to try and look even cuter (if that’s possible!) to sway us into giving them treats and more attention. 

Ask yourself if you’ve ever oohed or aahed after your Boston Terrier tilted their head.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this! 

Study Finds We Have More Affection Toward Dogs With A Head Tilt

Dr. Stanley Coren did a followup study in 2018 on dog head tilting and social affections. 

The study was conducted by going through Flickr’s online photo gallery and examining the number of favorite clicks a photo had. 

Dr. Coren concluded that head tilting was favored over dogs with their head upright. 

Puppies Were Excluded From The Affection Study

To ensure there wasn’t a bias towards puppies, who doesn’t love puppies? 

Coren excluded puppy photos, as those are so widely liked, and compared 125 pictures of each category to each other. 

Head tilt photos had an average of 14.1 favorites compared to the upright head dog photos with an average of 9.5 favorites. 

This is a clear example that we tend to favor head tilts, and it’s not unlikely that we reward this behavior in our own Boston Terriers.

Boston Terriers are very sharp and are likely to pick up on things we reinforce, like head tilting, so there may be something to the social affections theory!

Does My Boston Terrier Tilt Its Head Because Of A Health Issue?

It’s unlikely, but still worth mentioning that your Boston Terrier’s head tilting could be a health problem. 

Boston Terriers have sensitive ears, and we must watch out for them.

If your Boston Terrier shows any of the following symptoms contact your veterinarian immediately:

  • Shaking their head vigorously and/or frequently
  • Scratching at or showing signs that their ears are bothering them
  • Frequent head tilting when there is no communication or new noise.
  • Holding their head to the side for long periods 

These symptoms could be signs for ear infections, vertigo, neurological abnormalities, and more. 

Check with your veterinarian right away if these symptoms show up in your Boston Terrier.

Final Thoughts…

Head tilting is an adorable look for our Boston Terriers. It could be related to many things from hearing, vision, and muzzle problems, to them, merely wanting to talk to us or get a treat. 

Either way, we are fortunate to have these fantastic, empathetic dogs in our lives who would take the time to listen to us without judgment! 

The next time your Boston Terrier tilts their head be sure to encourage the behavior with a treat. And some of that higher-pitched baby talk that they may be trying to hear better. 

A Boston Terrier head tilt is about as cute as it gets!

Join The Boston Terrier Society’s Community

If you liked this article and want to learn more about Boston Terriers, Join The Boston Terrier Society Community on Facebook. 

Join By Clicking Here, Boston Terrier Society Facebook Group

There are thousands of Boston Terrier owners who would love to help answer questions and share cute photos.

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Donnie Gardner

Donnie Gardner is the owner of the Boston Terrier Society. He has been raising Bella the Boston since 2010. He resides in Kansas with his wife, daughter, and Bella. His favorite activities are hanging out with family, traveling, running (but has bad knees), and reading non-fiction books.

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