Westie Head Tilt: 5 Reasons Westies Tilt Their Heads

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Growing up with a Westie Highland Terrier, one of the things that always managed to put a smile on my face was her peculiar habit of tilting her head to the side whenever she was particularly intrigued or trying to decipher the various sounds around her.

I didn’t know it at the time, but head tilting is so characteristic of her breed that there is a name for it – the “Westie Head Tilt.”

This unique and almost ‘questioning’ tilt of the head is something you’ll surely notice if you spend enough time with a Westie.

This article will delve into the underlying reasons why Westies, and dogs in general, tilt their heads, and why it seems like Westies might just do it a little more than the rest!

So if you’ve ever wondered about this charming quirk, stay tuned as we demystify the Westie Head Tilt.

The Phenomenon of the Westie Head Tilt

If you’ve ever spent time with a West Highland Terrier, you might have noticed a particular quirk that seems to set them apart. When you talk to them, make a peculiar noise, or even when they’re listening intently to the world around them, they often tilt their head to the side.

This signature move, endearingly known as the “Westie Head Tilt,” is one of the many qualities that make this breed particularly fun to be around.

The Westie Head Tilt is more than just a tilt; it’s a full-on angle that seems as if they’re deeply considering or pondering over what they’re hearing or seeing.

Westie Head Tilt gift

It’s as if they’re trying to see the world from a different perspective, quite literally. It’s not a mere glance, it’s a statement, a curiosity-filled, heart-melting look that is just impossible to resist.

While all dogs tilt their heads from time to time, it seems that our Westie friends do it more often and more pronounced. This tilt can be triggered by anything from the sound of your voice, to a new noise they’ve never heard before, or even the sight of their favorite toy.

The Westie Head Tilt isn’t just adorable; it is a window into their innate curiosity and interaction with the world around them. As we’ll discover in the upcoming sections, this quirk is deeply rooted in their senses and communication tactics.

5 Reasons Dogs Tilt Their Heads

To Hear Sound Better

One of the primary reasons that dogs, including Westies, tilt their heads is to improve their hearing. While it’s true that overall, dogs have a much better sense of hearing than humans, there’s one aspect where they’re at a bit of a disadvantage. This lies in their directional hearing.

Westie Tilting Head
Photo courtesy of @mywestiemarley on Instagram

In contrast to humans, who can hear sounds equally well from all directions, dogs need to point their ears towards the sound to hear it most effectively. This difference in hearing is due to the structure of their ears, which is designed to capture sounds from the front more effectively than from the sides.

When your Westie tilts their head, it’s often because they’re trying to align their ear canal with the source of the sound. The head tilt helps them pinpoint the location and nature of the sound, allowing them to understand better what they’re hearing.

Whether it’s the rustling of a treat bag, the distant sound of a dog barking, or your voice calling out to them, the head tilt assists in their auditory perception.

So the next time you notice your Westie doing the head tilt, know that they’re not just being irresistibly cute, they’re also optimizing their ability to hear and understand the sounds in their environment.

To Communicate Interest

Another reason for the iconic Westie Head Tilt is the expression of interest. When your Westie tilts their head while you’re talking or playing with them, it’s their unique way of showing that they’re engrossed and fully involved in the interaction.

Dogs are social creatures by nature, and Westies are no exception. They thrive on communication, whether it’s with their human family members or fellow furry friends.

A tilted head is a universal sign of attentiveness and curiosity among dogs. It’s as if they’re saying, “I’m interested in what you’re doing or saying, and I want to understand more.”

Remember that time when you were telling your Westie about your day, and they tilted their head as if understanding every word? That was their way of showing interest and involvement, a testament to their remarkable ability to connect on an emotional level.

To See Better

Believe it or not, the Westie head tilt also serves a visual purpose. While dogs have a broad field of vision compared to humans, thanks to their peripheral eyesight, their muzzle can sometimes hinder their direct line of sight, especially when they’re trying to focus on something close to their face.

When a dog tilts its head, it could be their way of adjusting their vision to see around their snout. It’s almost like they’re trying to get a better look at you, or perhaps the treat in your hand, by shifting their viewpoint.

So, the next time you witness the classic Westie head tilt, it could be your little buddy trying to get a better look at the world around them.

Because Humans Encourage It

Let’s face it, when our Westie tilts their head, it’s nothing short of adorable. That inquisitive expression, paired with those bright, eager eyes, can melt the heart of even the sternest individual.

And because we find it so endearing, we often, knowingly or unknowingly, encourage the behavior. As a kid, I would intentionally make funny noises to get my Westie to tilt her head.

Positive reinforcement plays a significant role in a dog’s behavior. When your Westie tilts their head, and you respond with affection, praise, or even a treat, they make a positive association with the action.

They learn that a head tilt often results in extra attention and rewards. So, in their intelligent little minds, why wouldn’t they tilt their heads more frequently?

This encouragement isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a part of the communication and bond between you and your Westie.

They enjoy the attention and positive interaction as much as you enjoy their adorable antics. But it’s good to be aware of this feedback loop, as it can lead to them tilting their head more often than they naturally would.

So, if you’ve been guilty of laughing or giving your Westie extra praise when they do the head tilt, you’re not alone.

Possible Sign of an Ear Infection

While the Westie head tilt is often a charming and harmless behavior, it’s important to note that in some cases, it could indicate a health issue, such as an ear infection. And Westies are prone to ear infections.

Ear infections in dogs can cause discomfort and an unusual sensation that might lead to persistent head tilting.

Unlike the curiosity-driven or interest-driven head tilts, a head tilt caused by an ear infection is often accompanied by other signs. These might include scratching at the ear, redness, swelling, or an unusual discharge.

The head tilt might also be more pronounced or persistent, even when there’s no sound or activity to provoke it.

If you notice your Westie tilting their head frequently without any apparent reason or showing any of the other symptoms mentioned, it’s a good idea to consult your vet. Ear infections are usually easily treatable, especially if caught early, but if left untreated, they can lead to more serious problems.

Why Does My Westie Tilt Their Head When I am Talking to Them?

Now, let’s answer a question that’s probably on every Westie owner’s mind: “Why does my Westie tilt their head when I’m talking to them?”

Westie tilting head
Photo courtesy of @thelennyandnellyshow on Instagram

It’s a familiar scene for many of us. We start talking to our Westies, telling them about our day or asking if they’d like to go for a walk, and there it is – the charming Westie head tilt. But what’s going on behind this adorable behavior?

The answer lies in a blend of the reasons we’ve discussed above.

Hearing: When you’re talking, your Westie may tilt their head to direct one ear towards your voice, improving their ability to understand the sounds and nuances of your speech.

Interest: They could also be showing you that they’re interested and engaged in what you’re saying. While they might not understand all the words, dogs are excellent at picking up tone and emotion in our voices. Your Westie is showing you that they’re attentive and invested in the ‘conversation.’

Visual Perspective: If you’re close to them, they might tilt their head to see your face better, moving their muzzle out of the line of sight.

Positive Reinforcement: Lastly, they’ve likely learned that tilting their head when you speak results in positive reactions from you – smiles, affection, and sometimes a treat or two!

So, in short, your Westie tilts their head when you’re talking to them because they’re fully involved in the interaction with you. They’re trying to comprehend what you’re saying, express their interest, see you better, and possibly even get a delightful reward for their adorable action.

Do Westies Tilt Their Heads More Than Other Dogs?

As Westie owners, we might be a little biased, but it often feels like West Highland Terriers tilt their heads more frequently than other breeds.

And while there isn’t a substantial amount of scientific research specifically on head-tilting behaviors in different breeds, the anecdotal evidence does seem to support this observation.

The reason why Westies might tilt their heads more often is likely a combination of their unique breed traits and our interactions with them.

So, while all dogs tilt their heads to some degree, it’s possible that our Westies do it more often. More than anything, it’s a testament to their vibrant personalities and deep connection with their humans.

After all, it’s called the Westie Head Tilt. And I’m not aware of a head tilt named after any other dog breed.


The Westie Head Tilt – it’s a charming idiosyncrasy that’s captured the hearts of many, bringing a smile to our faces every time we see it.

While it may seem like just another adorable trait, it’s a complex behavior serving multiple purposes, from enhancing auditory and visual perception, communicating interest, to acting as a possible signal of health issues.

If there’s one thing we can take away from exploring the reasons behind the head tilt, it’s that Westies, like all dogs, are incredibly intuitive and intelligent creatures. They’re constantly interacting with their environment and us in ways that may not always be immediately apparent.

So, whether your Westie is trying to hear better, see better, express their interest, or even get some extra attention, appreciate the charm of the Westie head tilt. It’s just one of the many things that makes our West Highland Terriers so special, and every tilt is a testament to their boundless curiosity.

In the end, why Westies tilt their heads more than other breeds may remain a mystery, but there’s no denying that each tilt makes them even more endearing in our eyes.

And that’s why we wouldn’t trade our head-tilting Westies for the world.

Kevin William

Kevin grew up with a female West Highland White Terrier named Murphy who was always by his side. Kevin currently lives in New York state with his family including a Labrabull (Labrador Retriever Pit Bull) named Lily.

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