Humans yawn somewhere between five to 15 times per day. And though we often yawn when we’re tired or see someone else do it, science still doesn’t really understand the behavior. Other animals yawn, too, including birds, cats, monkey, and yes, your four-legged member of the family. But why do dogs yawn?
A Dog’s Yawn: More Complicated Than You Think
Dogs also yawn when they’re tired, but there’s much more behind this particular form of canine communication.
- Yawning stretches the jaw which increases blood flow in your pup’s neck, face, and head.
- During the inhaling phase, a downward flow of spinal fluid and blood from the brain occur. The cooler inhaled air enters the mouth and cools the blood and spinal fluid.
- The cooler blood then makes its way to your dog’s extremities and reduces his body temperature.
The Yawn of Displeasure
You might notice your dog yawns more when being trained, traveling, or taking a walk. It could come as a surprise, though, that it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s tired or bored during those activities. He might actually be less than thrilled about what you’re asking him to do!
Other Reasons for a Dog’s Yawn
Does your pooch yawn a lot when taken to the vet? It could be stress or anxiety, both of which also seem to cause increased yawning in a dog. Dogs also yawn to deflect a threat, signaling they aren’t going to attack and want to avoid conflict. They could use this behavior to communicate the same message to other dogs.
A happier reason for a dog’s yawn is when he wants to signal excitement and anticipation. Active dogs, like those in agility competitions, have been observed to yawn more often. Experts think it’s a way they cope with the excitement of the event. So, when your own pup sees you grab the leash and knows he’s about to go on a walk, don’t mistake his yawn for a sign he’d rather stay home—he can’t wait to go exploring!
A yawn might also be used to tell you he’s impatient or confused. In other words, your pet could be looking to you to communicate what’s expected from him.
Are My Dog’s Yawns Contagious?
The short answer is yes, your dog’s yawn can cause you to yawn in response. Some studies have shown that a particular dog yawn—the one caused by stress—seems to trigger human yawns. Others have concluded it’s a sign of empathy dogs show their pet parents. Anecdotal reports from vets seems to back up that theory and many canine care professionals report seeing it as a sign of emotional connection between dogs and humans.
Can Pet Parents Stop a Dog’s Yawning?
Until more is known about why any animal yawns, we probably have to take canine yawning as it comes. If you’ve ever tried to stifle your own yawns, you know it’s nearly impossible to do so. Since a dog’s yawn rarely indicates a more serious underlying condition, it’s best to embrace the idea that a yawn is, well, just a yawn.