Ever wondered why your dog yawns? Just because a dog’s yawn looks same to that of a human’s it doesn’t always mean it depicts the same thing. When a dog opens his jaw and takes a deep breath, it is more like a communication behavior. We all know humans yawn when tired or bored. Listed below are relevant facts to sum up your dog’s yawning, also a form of dog body language.
- Stress in Dogs: Dog trainers believe that dogs yawn to communicate that they are in a stress inducing situation. Sean Savage, a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant in Kansas city shares his observation on dogs yawning during obedience training when they are not able to respond properly to the lesson. With this type of yawning you will notice your dog projecting some other signs that communicate stress.
- Avoiding conflict with other dogs and appear non-threatening: Adog will look the other way and yawn to a human or a canine approaching it to communicate that it feels threatened/anxious but will not attack. Stanley Coren the author of ‘Do Dogs Dream?’ has shed light on the reason behind a passive dog’s yawning, it is a response to an aggressive dog and the yawn causes the aggressive dog to end the interaction. Therefore yawn is a calming signal and dogs use this form of communication with one another to appear nonthreatening.
- Excitement: A dog will yawn when it is really happy with what its doing or excited about what it will be doing next. When a dog is about to be taken for a walk, it may yawn to show its exhilaration on the prospect of exploring the outdoors filled with new scents and sights.
- Your dog’s yawn could mean Confusion not boredom: Sometimes a dog fails to understand how to react to a command by its owner. Its yawn is an expression of its confused state of mind. Repetition of the command confuses the dog all the more. During training sessions a dog might seem lost due to inability to respond to commands. This situation can be seen as creating stress/pressure on the pooch. To ease the pressure in such a scenario owners can switch to command/s understood well by the canine.
- Yawning can be Contagious between a dog & its human as well as other canines: Many studies have been conducted that talk about yawning being contagious between humans & canines. Researchers at Tokyo and Kyoto universities carried a famous study that involved two dozen dogs that were teamed with familiar as well as unfamiliar humans. The result of the research showed that yawning spread from humans to dogs and this action was seen as empathy projected by the dogs for their humans. There were no signs of stress and dogs were seen letting out more contagious yawns to humans previously known to them.
Talking about yawns spreading between dogs, a 2014 study published in Animal Cognition concluded that stress yawns in dogs are contagious. A sign of stress is a rise in salivary cortisol levels and it was observed that shelter dogs that experienced this rise caught yawns more often compared to dogs that didn’t face this rise.
A dog’s yawn isn’t always a signal of boredom or exhaustion. Studies carried out in recent years put forth the different meanings a dog’s yawn can hold depending upon its current circumstance/environment. Keeping a close eye on your dog can also help to alleviate its stress by removing it from a negative situation.
Originally a dentist, Anna Strout has written for three years for pet and animal publications. Anna is also a historian who studies dog breed progression throughout the world, dabbles in animal law issues, and collects dog tales while traveling across the country with her husband and German Shepherd Dog, Luna. Anna kicks dust up dancing with Luna at home in Houston, Texas, where she teaches her obedience and tricks.