Why Do Boston Terriers Tilt Their Heads



The canine head tilt… we know it, we love it, and we always want more of it. It happens to all dog breeds, but one of them has made a trademark out of it… the Boston Terrier. Whenever they put on the upward turned face, curious eyes and perky ears, our hearts melt a little bit more. Is there a scientific explanation behind this adorable doggie posture or do they simply do it out of confusion? There are a couple of theories that could explain the reason behind their cute gesture, however, most owners don’t pay a lot of attention to them and would much rather enjoy the moment by capturing it on camera. Is that ok or should they have something to worry about? Let’s find out more…

The Root of the Behavior

Whenever your little Boston Terrier tilts his head to one side, you can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy. Your immediate reaction is to give him a hug or a special treat to let him know just how amazing and adorable he really is. So where does the behavior come from? The most common explanation is that Boston Terriers generally tilt their head in order to hear better. Although dogs have a keener sense of hearing than people do, their directional hearing is more limited. This means that your dog’s hearing is biologically engineered to pick up sound efficiently, only when they change their position to optimize it. The reason is that dogs have ear flaps that partially or completely cover the ear canal, so your little pup needs to make the necessary adjustments in order to detect where the sound is coming from. 

Another reason would be that they are simply trying to communicate with you or with other dogs. By cocking his head, your pup will try to hear your words, understand what you are saying, and let you know that he is concentrating on you. As Boston Terriers are naturally more sensitive and have a close emotional bond with their owners, they could use the head tilt as a special way to prolong the human contact. Some dogs will tilt their heads to improve their visual perspective. This helps broaden their range of vision and allows them to see a person’s face more clearly, which in return improves communication. In some rare cases, a consistent head tilt that is not associated with communication may indicate a medical problem, such as infection of the external ear canal or neurological abnormalities. However, this type of head tilting looks very different from a normal head tilt and usually happens when there is no auditory stimulation present.

Encouraging the Behavior

One of the reasons that your Boston Terrier likes to tilt his head to one side is because… you train him that way. Dogs tend to repeat behaviors that are positively reinforced, so don’t be so surprised when you see him act like that more than usual. In most cases, it is all about the extra food and attention they are getting as a result. It’s in our human nature to respond to the “cuteness” and in all fairness… who could resist it? So the more you praise them for it, the more they repeat it and the more you get to enjoy it. 

Whether it’s the baby talk, the gentle kisses, the smiles or, last but not least, the treats, our response to the head tilt encourages repetition. Whether they want to hear or see us better, our reaction will unanimously be the same. That is because head tilting is also part of the human body language lexicon. We also do it subconsciously when we’re confused or pondering a difficult problem. In a way, we are reacting to a behavior that we recognize as pertaining to us. Whatever the science behind it, we always look forward to the adorable head tilt.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Although not that common, some head tilts may indicate a medical problem such as a vestibular disease that may cause your dog to have trouble balancing. Composed of portions of the brain and ear, the vestibular system governs an animal’s sense of balance. It’s more prevalent in older dogs and looks very different from a normal head tilt. A dog with a vestibular disorder has one ear closer to the ground on a regular basis, not in response to the usual stimuli. If you notice anything out of the ordinary with your Boston Terrier, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinary provider, who can perform a complete physical exam on your precious pup and prescribe the right kind of treatment.


Your dog’s head tilt is as adorable as it gets. You see it when you use words like walk, meal, or toy or when you put on their favorite TV show. Whether it’s in response to sounds or vision, there is nothing quite as photogenic and heartwarming as a Boston Terrier’s head tilt to the side. As long as they are in good health and condition… let them strike a pose.