Dog Tilting Head to One Side, Shaking Head and Losing Balance

Dog tilting head

Explored herein are the causes of dog tilting head and associated solutions. We also find out why, in addition to your dog tilting their head, why it may be happening on one side, shaking their head and why they could also be suffering a loss of balance.

Dog Tilting Head

Our canine friends are such great companions. As soon as they join our homes they become part of the family. So attached to them do humans become that their sickness or loss becomes shared. In the same way, dogs learn to pick up their owners’ moods and can pick cues from the tone of the voice when being talked to.  As they grow, dogs pick up gestures and actions directed at them and react in different ways. One of these could be a dog tilting head.

While the tilting of a dog’s head may be something adapted to react to their owner’s speech, it could also be caused by environmental factors such as when they are trying to listen better or where they have a muzzle on and can’t see properly. Additionally, the bending could be caused by a vestibular disease. Below are various causes of your


1.      To Listen Better

Dogs are known to hear frequencies that humans may not be in a position to pick up. However, humans are better in finding out where sounds are coming from than dogs. When a dog has their head tilted, the ears are more exposed resulting in better audibility of surrounding sounds. In addition, a dog tilting its head may be its efforts in trying to find out where the noise is coming from. By tilting the head, they are trying to detect where specific sounds are coming from.

2.      Improve their Visual Ability

Dogs too are curious creatures. They will want to see more, see where a sound is coming from as well as follow something that is getting out of sight. They will tilt their heads to be in a position to see well. This is more so in cases where a muzzle could be obstructing their view of the surrounding. They will bend the head so as to see things as well as look at faces so they can pick the body language and other expressions.

3.      To show Empathy

Dogs are good at associating various sounds with specific emotions. They may, therefore, tilt their head to show empathy. They will be affirming that they are engaged and listening to your conversation and that they understand. In the same way, they will tell when you are sad and may tilt their head to show they care. notes that empathetic dogs are more likely to tilt their heads than their socially apprehensive counterparts.

4.      To Filter Speech

Another instance where dogs may tilt their heads is so as to pick additional cues from the speech. They will pick the tone of your voice and find the source of any danger as with their head tilted they can hear better than when in an upright position.

5.      Attention Seeking

When a dog notices that specific behaviors earn them a reward or attention, they will use it to seek attention from their owner in the future. The rewards that you could be giving your dog unconsciously when they tilt their head could be verbal praises, petting and soothing as well as treats. They tilt their head so they can earn the lovable attention offered to them.

Where this becomes a problem, you may have to ignore your dog whenever they tilt the head since rewarding them only reinforces the behavior.

6.      Vestibular System Problems

The vestibular system includes portions of the inner ear, brain, and nerves. It helps to maintain balance in dogs. Idiopathic vestibular involves symptoms such as dog tilting head and losing balance. The head remains tilted to one side as opposed to its normal orientation with the limbs and trunk. The one side tilting can help distinguish this condition from the above causes.

According to Pet Education, a middle or inner ear infection is the most common cause of a head tilt. Other additional causes include:

  • Congenital disorders
  • Cancer
  • Side effects of some toxic antibiotics
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Nerve injuries

Dog Tilting Head to One Side and Shaking Head

When the head tilt is out of intrigue or some attention seeking behavior, it will vary from one side to the other. As soon as the stimuli responsible for triggering the tilt is over, the dog tilting head behavior ends.

If you notice your dog tilting their head to one side, you should pay more attention as this indicates that something is wrong. It could be caused by a general loss of balance.

Additionally, the tilt may be accompanied by a dog shaking head. In such cases, the cause could be severe ear infections. A closer inspection on the ears could reveal if this is the case. If you notice any kind of discharge, have them checked as untreated ear infections could see your dog suffer a loss of hearing ability.

Other additional symptoms that may be associated with one-sided head tilt may include walking in circles, discomfort, and pain. These could be caused by tick bites in the ears as well as deer fly bites.

As soon as the problem is resolved, your dog should go back to normal head orientation and posture.

Dog Tilting Head and Walking Sideways or Losing Balance

When your dog’s head appears tilted and your pooch is losing balance, the cause is likely to be an idiopathic vestibular disease. With idiopathic vestibular syndrome, the cause is unknown. It, however, goes away on its own.

Since the vestibular system is in charge of body balance in a dog, when there is a problem with it, the dog will have a head tilt, loose balance and adopt an unsteady gait. In some cases, the loss of balance may be so severe the dog falls over. Additionally, the dog may be seen walking in circles.

While these symptoms are quite common in this condition, they are not unique to it. The same could be present when your dog suffers a brain tumor, inflammatory disease, inner ear infection or sudden bleeding in the brain. Visit your veterinarian for further analysis and proper diagnosis.


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