Why Do German Shepherds Tilt Their Heads? (6 Reasons)

Categorized as German Shepherd
why do German Shepherds tilt their heads?

German shepherds are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and playful nature. Many dog owners love to share funny stories about the antics of their German shepherd. But what is it that has people so intrigued with this breed? One thing that sets them apart from other breeds is the adorable way in which they tilt their heads to the side.

Why Does My German Shepherd Tilt Their Heads?

So what is the reason your German Shepherd tilts their head? They might do it to locate the source of a sound or figure something out, but sometimes it can be because they have ear infections or other medical issues that cause discomfort.

As the American Kennel Club explains, head tilting behavior is not a characteristic unique to German shepherds and is quite common in many different breeds. But this behavior is more noticeable in large dogs like GSD due to their larger, muscular head.

Let’s take a look at each common reason behind German Shepherd head tilts.

German Shepherd Head Tilt Video

Most Common Reasons Why German Shepherds Tilt Their Head

1. Locating Sounds

One common reason behind a German Shepherd’s head tilt is that they might be trying to figure out where certain sounds are coming from. Scientists have found that German Shepherds tend to have a wider range of hearing than humans or some dog breeds, so your German shepherd might be able to hear a squeak from across the room or even down the hallway.

How do they figure out the source of the sound? The German Shepherd’s ears perk up when they are trying to locate a sound. To improve their hearing, German shepherds will also tilt their heads to the side so that it is in line with where they think the sound is coming from. When their ears and head are moving in tandem, this is one way you can tell that your dog is focusing on something.

So don’t be surprised if you are outside playing with your dog, and the next thing you know, they are tilting their head towards something in the distance. It is just them trying to figure out what that odd sound is!

2. Trying to Understand What You’re Saying

Not only German Shepherds, but all dogs tilt their heads to the side to try and understand what their owners are saying. It’s been scientifically proven that dogs do understand specific words and commands. So if you say a command, but your German shepherd doesn’t understand because it is something that isn’t familiar to them, they will likely tilt their head in confusion.

3. Communicating with You

Tilting their heads can also be a way for dogs to communicate with you. Since dogs can’t talk with us in words, they will use body language. So when your dog tilts their head, it could be a way for them to ask if they can go outside, or maybe they are hungry and want you to fill up their water bowl. Sometimes it’s just a friendly way for them to say hi! So pay attention to your dog when they do this and see if there is something else they want or need.

4. Playful Tilting

If you ever find your German shepherd tilting their head when they’re looking at you in a playful manner, it’s easy to notice that they’re probably feeling affectionate towards you.

The reason for playful tilting is that the dog might be trying to elicit a response from you. If they see something on your face and make this gesture, then look back up at you briefly after, it’s because they want to play with you. Dogs will often tilt their heads this way at people when they are playing with them because it works!

Most dog owners will quickly respond to this gesture because it’s so endearing and cute. Once they notice their head tilt is working, it won’t be long before they start to do this gesture over and over again.

5. Trying to See Better

Dogs will also tilt their heads when they are trying to get a better look at something that caught their attention.

So if you notice your dog is tilting their head in the direction of another animal or object, it’s because they want to check them out! Just like us, they are curious to see if something is a threat or not.

6. Head Tilting Due to Medical Issue

Tilting their head to the side repeatedly can indicate that your dog is in pain, or there might be some other underlying medical reason for them to make this gesture, such as ear infections or damaged nerves.

If you notice that your dog tilts their head more than usual, it’s a good idea to take them to your vet so that they can investigate why this is happening.

Here are some other symptoms to watch out for if you think something might be wrong:

  • Drooling
  • Vocalization
  • Unexplained scratching
  • Licking or pawing at the head region
  • Lameness
  • Loss of balance
  • Collapsing
  • Involuntary urination or defecation

Some Common Medical Conditions That Could Cause Head Tilting

Ear Infection

There are many conditions that can cause head tilting or the feeling of ear pain. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort, such as restlessness, then it could be a sign of an inner ear infection. This will generally cause your dog’s ears to have a foul odor and an overall feeling of pain. They might tilt their head to the side because it’s too painful for them to keep them upright.

One of the most common causes of this medical condition is ear mite infestations. Ear mites are tiny, microscopic bugs that live in your dog’s ear canal and feed on their blood. They can cause an intense itching sensation, which will make your dog tilt their head to the side in discomfort. They can also produce wax and irritation so that your dog’s ears may appear reddish or inflamed.

If you suspect your dog has ear mites, do not try to treat them yourself by cleaning their ears! Instead of helping the situation and rinsing out the bugs, you will just make it worse by forcing them further into the ear canal. It’s best to visit a vet so that they can give your dog proper medication.

Diseases Causing Vestibular Disease or Brain Damage

Another reason why your dog might tilt their head is that they are having difficulty processing an external stimulus. If this is the case, then it’s usually due to some form of brain damage or a disease such as vestibular disease.

Vestibular disease can affect any breed of dog and is commonly seen in old dogs. If your dog suffers from a vestibular disease or some other type of brain damage, they might walk around in circles and lose coordination. It will also cause your dog to have a hard time concentrating, so they might tilt their head repeatedly in confusion as they try to figure out where they are going.

When You Should Be Worried

In most cases, you should not be concerned if your dog tilts their head. It might indicate that they are trying to understand something, or they simply want you to pet them more! However, if you notice that your dog is tilting their head frequently and they have any of the above symptoms, then there might be an underlying problem that needs attention. Any time your dog shows unusual behaviors and/or exhibits pain, it is important to have them checked out by a vet.


Hopefully, this blog post shed some light on the “Why Do German Shepherds Tilt Their Heads” topic for you. Next time you see your dog tilting their head, try to determine why they are doing it and what it might mean. 

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