Why Do Dogs Yawn? 

When we see a dog yawn, it makes sense to assume they’re tired. After all, that’s true for humans: we get tired, we yawn. But dogs are a bit more complicated than that.

A dog’s yawn is a form of communication that can mean multiple things. Some yawns are out of tiredness, but not all yawns. Other times, a dog might yawn because they are feeling stressed or anxious. Dogs will even yawn as a way of calming down another aggressive pooch.

What’s In a Yawn?

Like blinking or sneezing, yawning is a reflex. This means yawning is an innate behavior that we typically are not able to control. You might be able to force yourself to yawn, but it’s much harder to force yourself to stop. This is true for dogs, too. The only difference is that they look a lot cuter doing it.

One myth around yawning is that we yawn to increase oxygen levels in the body. This is not true for dogs nor humans. Yawning does not increase oxygen in the brain or in the bloodstream.

The typical explanation for yawning is that yawns increase alertness. This makes sense, given that we most often yawn when we are tired.

Recent studies propose a new purpose of yawning: temperature regulation. Animals yawn in order to cool down the body. Studies show that temperatures rise before we yawn and cool after a yawn. Additionally, there is a correlation between the temperature of a space and how likely someone is to yawn.

But dogs have some special reasons to yawn.

Stress can lead dogs to yawn. A dog might yawn when they come across someone they dislike or after being scolded.

Dogs also yawn to show indifference to aggression. An aggressive dog might be all up in their face, but they keep it cool and yawn to show that they’re unbothered and hopefully pacify the other dog. Sometimes, people misinterpret this as a sign of submission.

Why Does My Dog Keep Yawning?

Yawning is a perfectly normal behavior. Most yawns are nothing to be concerned about. However, excessive yawning can be an indicator that something is amiss with your dog. The culprit is often stress and anxiety. Watch out for the other symptoms of anxiety and make sure your pup has a safe, comfortable, and quiet place to get plenty of rest. 

Contagious Yawns

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You’ve probably noticed how yawns can be contagious. One person yawns a little and the next thing you know the whole room can’t stop. But did you know that our yawns are contagious to more than each other? That’s right—yawns are contagious to dogs, too.

Unfortunately, the contagious nature of yawns is a mystery. However, there are a few things we do know. Many animals yawn, but very few animals experience contagious yawns. Besides humans, primates and domesticated dogs are the animals known to catch a yawn. Furthermore, humans don’t experience contagious yawns until early childhood, suggesting that this is a social behavior.

Not everyone is affected equally, though. Some dogs (and humans!) constantly catch a yawn, whereas others are immune. Scientists don’t have an explanation for why this variation occurs.

Tyler Kupcho
Author: Tyler Kupcho

Animal lover, proud husky parent. Writing Intern at DogFriendly.com

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