why does my dog yawn so much
By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell Studies have shown that people yawn between 5-15 times per day. Sometimes we find ourselves yawning when we re tired, as a way to release ear pressure, or when we see someone else yawning. However, years of studies on yawning have yet to conclusively prove why we yawn. Humans are not the only species that yawn yawning can be found in a variety of animals including birds, monkeys, cats, and yes, dogs. Why do dogs yawn? We asked some experts to weigh in on this common dog behavior. What is a Yawn? Wayne Hunthausen, DVM at Westwood Animal Hospital in Westwood, Kan. , who is also a animal behavioral consultant and author of The Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat, defines a yawn as extending the jaw with a rapid intake of air that expands the lungs that sometimes is accompanied by vocalization. In humans, it has long been thought that yawning is a sign of boredom. We used to believe that the purpose of a yawn was to gulp down air to wake up a fuzzy brain, says Stanley Coren, professor emeritus in the department of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and author of the book, Do Dogs Dream? Other early studies may have pointed that yawning is a physiological response to being in a warm room and that yawning may cool down the brain, said Hunthausen. The study effectively found that people yawned less in cooler environments, he said. However, he said, modern studies have researchers believing that yawning in both humans and animals may be a sign they are tired for example, your dog may yawn when he wakes up - but it is often more of a psychological and communicative sign. Dog Yawning: A Sign of Stress? Ask any dog trainer and they will tell you that the reason a dog yawns is to communicate that he is in a stressful situation. I see dogs yawn everyday in stressful situations, says Sean Savage, a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant in Kansas City, Mo. Dogs in obedience scenarios that are not responding well to training yawn.
I ve also seen dogs that need to go outside yawn as a way to communicate, he says. Coren explains that dog yawns are not only signals to humans of stress, but can be a form of communication between dogs as well. There have been studies that show that sometimes a passive dog will yawn in response to an aggressive dog, which causes the aggressive dog to break off the interaction, says Coren. Is Yawning Contagious Between Dogs and Your Dog and You? Contagious yawning between humans is well documented, but can dogs catch the yawns from other dogs or from their humans? A 2014 study published in Animal Cognition did conclude that shelter dogs that had a rise in salivary cortisol levels, which is a sign of stress, caught contagious yawns more often than those dogs that didn t have a rise in salivary cortisol levels. This suggests that stress yawns among dogs might be contagious. [i]
Several studies have concluded that yawns are contagious between humans and dogs. One of the most famous studies, which was conducted by researchers at Tokyo and Kyoto universities and published in U. S. science journal PLOS One in 2013, concluded that contagious yawning was a sign of empathy dogs were showing their humans and not a sign of stress. The researchers studied two-dozen dogs and involved humans both familiar and unfamiliar to the dogs. The people involved in the study also made different facial expressions and mouth gestures to determine if dogs could tell the difference. Researchers also monitored the dog s heart rate to rule out yawning as a stress response. The results revealed that dogs yawned contagious yawns more often with familiar humans. Our study suggests that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally connected in a way similar to humans, says Teresa Romero of the University of Tokyo who led the study. [ii] Georgina Lees-Smith, a certified canine behavior consultant near London in the U. K. , who has studied and written about the varying theories about dog yawning for her post graduate degree in psychology and neuroscience, says that her own anecdotal research seems to support that theory.
I ve conducted a study with my own dogs and have found that if you yawn and your dog yawns, it shows a definite social connection with your dog, she says. It really is quite lovely. While we cannot be absolutely sure why dogs yawn when they are not tired, modern studies have suggested that dogs yawn for several reasons, based on the circumstances: [i] [ii] Your dog may occasionally yawn when he is tired. Your dog will also yawn throughout the day when presented with new situations, such as being approached abruptly or startled, having something or someone directly in his face, being picked up, when hugged, or when he s unclear as to what is going on or what s expected. Remember, dogs primarily use language to defuse conflict and tell others about their harmless intentions. They use DogSpeak when they are feeling conflicted or stressed in an attempt to neutralize the situation or calm themselves. The yawn is actually one of the first words dogs display as very young pups. When picked up, most young will let out a yawn as early as one day old. Yawning is definitely one body cue that owners notice. They usually don t understand why their dog is yawning though. When I searched for photos for this article, I started to type, dog yawn, into Google. It gave me a suggested list of 10 search terms. Below are a few: Dawn yawning excessively. Dog yawns a lot. Dog yawn meaning. You can see that many concerned owners have raced to their computer wondering why their dogs seems so sleepy all the time. My own dog, when standing still on as I am chatting away with a neighbor (instead of walking briskly down the road) will let out a few yawns. She s antsy. Perhaps the way my neighbor is speaking or standing makes her uneasy too.
More than likely though, it s that her brain is wrapped around MOVING and she is working to calm herself. I must say, I far prefer her efforts and yawns to my toddlers, who swing on my arms asking, Mommy, can we go?! In group settings, you ll see dogs offer a lot of yawning in obedience classes and obedience trials. They know something should and could be happening, but aren t sure when it will start and work to calm themselves in this setting. Luna is offering a few different body language cues here which is normal. Dogs can offer multiple signals or chain them very tightly together. She s got a yawn and lip lick going on at the same time. The background on this situation: Luna is a bit confused as to why I would place her in a down stay and race to be as close to her as possible, as I am barking out to my husband, Are you ready? My husband is probably barking back, while laying in the grass with a camera pointing directly at Luna. Luna is saying, No one gave me the memo on this photo shoot. Why are you all barking at one another? Mom, why so snuggled up? There s plenty of grass to go play with! Point being, there was a lot going on and all of it was out of context for her. The cute puppy in the video below is clearly love and handled a lot. In the first shot, she was rolled to her back on someone s lap with a camera directly in her face, and in the second shot she s being held with a camera in her face. This puppy goes through a lot of in-your-face love. Remember dogs do not always understand as just that. Being held tightly and rolled onto your back is not viewed as nurturing. The pup simply finds all this love a bit overwhelming. Remember, some dogs are very tolerant and forgiving. It s very likely that this dog will just spend a life time being handled in this way. Sweet pup and sweet owner, but some miscommunication going on. Looking for more ways to better understand and communicate with your dog? Check out
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why does my dog yawn a lot