Why do dogs yawn a lot? We often associate yawning with being tired or bored, right? Well, in humans, that is definitely the case! But, for our canine companions, yawning can mean more than simply being bored or tired!
Simply calming down can definitely be a reason your pooch gives out a long yawn, as they stretch their paws forward and seem to bend their backs in ways only a gymnast could handle! But being stressed or even showing empathy have been contributors to this commonplace, yet mysterious, behavior! Let’s explore all of these reasons and more!
Dogs Yawning… It’s Normal!
If your dog yawns, there could be a few factors to consider. First off, though, yawning is completely normal and a habit known to be seen in many species! But let’s dive into some of the most common reasons a dog may yawn a lot! I’ll also share what to look for if your dog’s yawning may be a sign that you can lend them a paw and help them out!
Dogs Yawn to Transition from One State to Another
This could mean a few things!
Simply speaking, if your dog is waking or heading out for a nap, they will often yawn as they transition from being awake to asleep, or vice versa. They may also yawn as they enter a state of calm or even indifference, according to the AKC.
A dog may encounter another dog that they consider to be a threat, to dissipate the tension, a dog may yawn to show the other canine that they mean no harm or conflict. Pack leaders may also yawn in the presence of another dog they observe as nervous, this is a sign that may calm the anxious pup.
A Stressed Dog Yawns A Lot!
Believe it or not, frequent yawning is a tell- ‘tail’ (see what I did there…) sign that your pooch is stressed! Who knew!?
A dog will use yawning as a self-calming mechanism when they feel anxious. Some of the most common reasons that your dog may feel nervous could be a trip to the vet, feeling trapped or being held tightly, in particular, by a child, and being cornered or in the presence of a stranger or someone they sense could hurt them.
A 2020 AVMA journal article highlights the connection between increased yawning and the effects of an owner being present during a veterinary exam. When their owners were present, dogs had fewer vocalizations, a lower temperature and a high rate of calming yawning! The study concluded that it is in the dogs’ best interest for their owners to stay with them during a veterinary exam.
There are other situations, though, that could lead to nervousness or anxiety in your dog. Keeping an eye out for those behaviors (i.e. shaking, ears tilted backward, wide eyes, cowering down) is really important.
So we should ask ourselves, if we see these or frequent, self-calming yawning, what can we do to help?
How can we help our beloved pooch?
If your dog feels forced or stuck in a situation they are uncomfortable with, this can lead to a lot of stress! Try not to force your little guy or gal to be part of a situation. They may be nervous about a stranger, a child, or even another dog. Give them the option to leave and regain their own space.
Also, as much as we want to bring our pup to all the things we can, sometimes, it is best if they stay home! Fireworks, loud music shows or huge crowds can cause some dogs lots of anxiety. We may miss them, but they will feel much more relaxed in their bed in the living room.
Speaking of living room, some dogs may need their own space, even within the home, especially with young children around. We have found this to be particularly helpful! Our little guy loves our toddler, but sometimes, he needs a break!
We have several dog beds with his favorite soft blankets scattered about the house (even though we live in our less than 300-square-foot RV!). He always has a spot to go to be alone and get some space.
Overall, you know your dog! If you notice signs of stress, along with a lot of yawning, your pup may need a hand in feeling more calm. Give them some extra pats and soft words and they will feel much better!
Related: Best CBD Dog Treats of 2023 (for Anxiety, Pain, and More)
Can a Dog Catch a Yawn?
Yes! Dogs will yawn contagiously, just like humans!
What does this mean…?
Findings from a PLOS ONE study of the physiological responses to the contagious yawning by dogs support a link to empathy. Yes, I was just as intrigued as you! I had to dig a little more here! Most dog owners do not need much convincing about their connection with their beloved pooch, but this was fantastic to read!
Our little guys and gals are so in tune with us that it is believed that they are able to connect with us on an empathetic level. A second study by The Royal Society Publishing also supports this claim.
In both cases, dogs were exposed to their owners yawning. More times than not, the dogs yawned contagiously! It was also observed that the dogs yawned less when they observed a stranger yawn, as well as if their owner only just opened and closed their mouth, creating a fake yawn, so to speak.
The dogs’ behavior of contagiously yawning exhibits their ability to connect with their owner on a deeper level, showing a social bond that can indicate empathy. Our pups have the ability to empathize with us, their beloved owners.
This was a trait previously only associated with primates. This finding, though, shows that our best friends are, indeed, self-aware and capable of understanding the fact that others, as well as themselves, have feelings. This is just the coolest thing to this dog lover over here!
Yawning… Normal and, Really, Quite Interesting!
Am I boring you yet? I hope you are as intrigued as I was! To learn that my pup may be using yawning as a self-calming behavior was eye-opening to me! I have definitely become more aware of this behavior and tried to observe if our little guy may be trying to self-soothe, and, if so, how can I help him??
And the fact that science backs up such a fantastic emotional connection between our furry best friends and ourselves, on a deeper level, just reiterates what we dog lovers already know… the bond we share with our dogs is more than just owner and pet, they are family and connected to us on such an intimate level.
Who knew that such a commonplace, yet mysterious behavior, could share so much about our pups?
Why do you think your dogs yawn a lot? Share your thoughts below!