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©Sergey Lavrentev -

When it comes to dogs, not all yawns are the same. Aside from that, the reasons for yawning aren’t fully understood (in dogs or humans). It used to be thought that yawning was a way to replenish the brain’s oxygen supply. However, researchers have not yet found any evidence of this.

Yawning also hasn’t been shown to wake up a tired brain, even though we yawn most when we’re bored or tired. Since yawning is most likely to occur in a warm room, it’s thought that it does have some effect on cooling the brain. However, more studies need to be done on this. Now, it’s thought that yawning is a form of communication. Here are a few reasons why your dog may yawn:

They’re Feeling Stressed

Most trainers and behaviorists will advise owners to watch out for signs of stress in their dogs, and one of these signs is often excessive yawning. This is accurate information, as dogs do seem to yawn when they’re feeling anxious. For example, you might find during an obedience class that dogs feeling stress and displeasure from their owners will often yawn as if to display their understanding that punishment may be coming.

If you’re out on a walk and stop to talk to a neighbor, you might notice your dog yawn a few times. This could be because your dog is uncomfortable with the person. They could also just be anxious to get moving again. After all, a dog excited to go on a walk certainly doesn’t want to stop and sit around for 20 minutes.

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They’re Showing Indifference

Yawning as a sign to communicate indifference has been observed in both domesticated dogs and wild canids. Many times, when a dog is faced with an aggressive dog, they’ll offer a yawn in response to the aggressor. This simply means that the yawning dog is uninterested in conflict. It’s not a sign of submission but rather a sign of pacification.

Yawning can also be seen in dominant dogs and wolves. When confronted with submissive or fearful pack members or strangers, they’ll often yawn to show their lack of concern with the submissive one. This often seems to have a calming effect on the anxious dog or wolf.

German Wirehaired Pointer puppy head portrait yawning.
©Kate -

They’re Yawning in Response

The phenomenon of yawns being contagious is an interesting one, and it isn’t unique to humans. It’s thought to be a learned behavior since infants and preschoolers don’t catch yawns the way older humans do. However, it’s a known observation that yawns are contagious among people. What’s more interesting, is that yawns are contagious to dogs, too. Dogs will yawn in response to another dog yawning. They’ll also yawn in response to humans yawning, especially if it’s a human they know very well. Many believe this is a sign that dogs are empathetic to fellow canines and humans alike.

So the next time your dog yawns, you don’t necessarily have to worry about them feeling stressed or anxious. Although this very well might be the case, it isn’t always. Many times the yawning is a normal part of daily life, just as it is for us humans.

Related article: Expert Tips to Help Soothe Your Dogs Anxiety
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