It doesn’t get much cuter than a pug tilting its head. But it might get you wondering—why do pugs tilt their heads? Is there ever a time when it means that something is wrong with them?
There are many reasons why your pug may be tilting their head. Researchers have many hypotheses, and more often than not, your pug tilts their head for several reasons.
We’ll share five of the most common reasons that your pug is likely giving you the famous pug head tilt. But first, rest easy—it’s unlikely your pug is tilting their head for health reasons.
Letting information sink in
If you believe that your pug can speak through their eyes and head tilt, a recent study shows you might be onto something.
Researchers took 40 dogs of varying breeds and observed their behavior when someone asked them to fetch a toy they knew. The findings showed that dogs who knew the toy’s name had a measurably higher rate of head tilts than dogs whose owners asked them to fetch an unfamiliar toy.
As a result, the researchers believe that dogs may tilt their heads when processing information with a familiar stimulus.
The sound and tone owners use when asking their dog to fetch a toy may also impact the frequency of the pug head tilt.
If you notice that your pug perks up its ears at the same time they tilt their head, it’s an indication that they may be reacting to the tone of your voice as much as the object you’re asking them to find.
Going along with the sound theme, your pug may tilt their head to hear better.
Unlike humans, pugs have a lot of hair and a flap over their ear that can distort how they process sound. Therefore, they may tilt their head to better determine the direction a noise is coming from so they can hear it better.
Here’s the catch—you may not always know that your pug is tilting their head because of something they hear.
That’s because dogs can hear a greater frequency range of sounds than humans.
So, while you might feel inclined to think that your pug is putting on a cute show for you when they tilt their head, it could be that they’re trying to listen to a noise that’s undetectable to you.
Furthermore, your pug might be tilting their head not only to improve their hearing but to help them focus on the information relayed.
Getting a better view
A pug’s brachycephalic makeup means that deeply set eyes and a long nose won’t obstruct their view the same way it may for other dog breeds. Nevertheless, a pug’s bulging eyes can lead to its own set of health problems that can obscure its vision.
Therefore, they may do the pug head tilt to see you—or whatever they’re tilting their head at—better.
As a pug owner, you probably already sense that your pooch tries to communicate with you by looking you in the eye. But if you have any doubts, there’s research to back it up.
Japan scientist Takefumi Kikusui found that dogs produce oxytocin when they stare their owner in the eye, similar to parents bonding with their children.
Similarly, another study that Kikusui participated in showed that a dog owner’s urinary oxytocin increased after they spent time staring their dog in the eye.
Needless to say, your pug might be tilting their head because they want to see you better for getting a boost of natural oxytocin. And you’ll benefit from that boost, too.
Why do pugs tilt their heads during specific stimuli? It’s a common question, and the answer will likely surprise you—an owner can unknowingly train their pug to tilt their head.
Research shows that positive reinforcement training techniques can improve how quickly a dog will learn whatever you’re trying to teach them.
So, if you’re about to give your pug a treat and they happen to tilt their head—whether it’s to see or hear you better, or any other reason—your dog may correspond tilting their head with getting a treat.
Similarly, if you ooh and ahh over how cute your pug is when they tilt their head even when you don’t have a treat in hand, they may start to recognize the extra attention.
Therefore, they might begin tilting their head more frequently with the hope of getting some extra stomach rubs. Or, they may want to grab your attention when they feel unseen.
More likely than not, your pug tilts their head for entirely normal, non-medical-related reasons. However, ears serve as a balance through the vestibular system.
Therefore, if this system is malfunctioning, your pug may tilt their head. That’s most often the case when there’s inflammation.
A head injury can also cause your pug to tilt their head. So whether you watched your pug slam head-first into a tree when chasing a tennis ball or their equilibrium suddenly seems off, it’s wise to bring them to the vet.
Yet another medical reason for head tilting in pugs is an ear infection. Because pugs don’t have large floppy ears, ear infections aren’t as common in their breed. Nevertheless, they’re painful when they happen.
If you notice your pug shaking their head as they tilt it or pawing at the inside of their ear, these are signs they may have an ear infection. Luckily, treatment is easy with the help of medication from your vet.
Conclusion – Why Do Pugs Tilt Their Heads?
So, why do pugs tilt their heads?
It might be to get a reaction out of you. But it could also be because they’re trying to improve their hearing or vision.
More often than not, your pug tilts their head for various reasons throughout the day, which is completely normal.
However, if you notice that your pug shakes their head when they tilt it or shows other signs of discomfort, it’s best to take a trip to the vet to ensure they don’t have a medical issue.