Yawning is an important part of canine communication. Animals yawn when they are tired, anxious, or stressed. Some scientists also believe that our four-legged friends begin to yawn because they see or hear their fellow dogs or humans yawning. However, this is still a controversial hypothesis at the forefront of our understanding.
Why do dogs yawn?
Dogs never try to suppress a yawn or worry about hiding it behind their paw out of politeness. It’s hard not to be jealous! But did you know that pets can use their yawns to send us messages about their well-being? Let’s take a closer look at these messages.
Reason #1: “I’m tired!”
As in our case, dogs yawn before falling asleep and immediately after waking up. But paradoxically, experts still don’t know exactly why we yawn when we are tired.
Contrary to popular belief, yawning probably has nothing to do with oxygenation of our blood. It may have something to do with the cooling of the blood circulating in our brains, or it may have arisen as a way of nonverbal communication. But in any case, fatigue is only one reason for the yawning that is characteristic of many mammals.
Reason #2: “I’m anxious.”
Yawning is one way to express your anxiety or nervousness. Sometimes the cause of your pet’s stress is obvious – such as being in the kennel or in the emergency room at the vet. Other times, you may have to observe the environment a little more closely to determine the cause of your dog’s nervous breakdown – it could be a new person, a foreign vehicle, or an extraneous noise.
You should also pay close attention to other symptoms of stress, such as:
- licking his lips and nose;
- heavy breathing;
- drooping ears and tail;
- Trying to hide;
- jumping on walls and people.
Yawning in combination with any of these signs indicates that the pet is worried (but you still have to find out why).
Reason #3: “I saw another dog yawning.”
You’ve probably noticed how when you see someone yawning, you can’t stop yourself from yawning. This is called “reflexive” or “contagious” yawning. The same behavior is common to many other mammals, including primates, parrots, wolves, and dogs.
So, if you have more than one dog living in your house or your pet interacts frequently with other dogs, he may be starting to yawn because he saw another dog doing it.
Reason #4: “I saw a human yawn.”
One of the most entertaining and hotly debated areas of canine yawn research at the moment is whether dogs can “pick up” yawns from humans.
The first experiment showed that the dogs in the study did indeed yawn after humans. Later studies confirmed these results and even supplemented them by excluding factors such as situational stress.
Portuguese and Japanese researchers went even further and proved that dogs are more likely to “pick up” yawns from people they know than from strangers. So dogs are capable of a rudimentary form of empathy.
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Why does my dog yawn all the time?
At times, excessive yawning can be a symptom of some disease in humans, such as multiple sclerosis. However, no evidence has yet been given that frequent yawning is a symptom of any disease in dogs.
A dog that yawns frequently is most likely experiencing prolonged stress. Observe your pet for other signs of restlessness, and also keep an eye on what is going on around him. You may notice something specific happening just before each yawn – this is probably what is causing your pet to be anxious.
Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Pet Him?
Dogs yawn when you pet him because they feel uncomfortable. It’s their way of letting you know that they don’t like your gusto.
Many dogs like to snuggle with humans, especially when they want to nap or relax. But if you initiate a cuddle, you may notice that the pet shakes or yawns right afterward. That’s because hand hugs are not a normal part of canine communication. And being hugged makes them nervous. Shaking and yawning help them relieve the tension.
When your dog yawns a lot, it may be because he is tired, excited, or has seen a dog or person yawning. If your pet continues to yawn excessively and it bothers you, ask a professional behaviorist to observe her and help you identify the trigger.