Is your dog yawning at you every time you give it a command? Perhaps they are yawning when they are just laying around, or are playing with their dog toys. A dog’s yawn can tell you more about their current state than you might think.
Though a human’s yawn tends to point to boredom or exhaustion, a yawning pup may be trying to tell you something more. So why do dogs yawn, and what does it mean?
By learning what these signs point to, you can use them to identify what your pup might be trying to tell you. In this article, we’ll discuss the details of yawning in our furry friends. This will help you better understand the behavior going forward!
What Is A Yawn Anyway?
Before we dive into the possible reasons behind yawning in dogs, it’s important that we understand what yawning is in the first place. The action of yawning is the same in our furry friends as it is in you and me. A dog’s yawn is a mostly involuntary reflex that involves the wide opening of the mouth, and taking a deep inhale to fill the lungs with air.
Though every single person and most vertebrate animals yawn, it is still a huge mystery in the scientific community. Yawning has been linked to tiredness and temperature changes in humans, but there is no exact cause behind this involuntary reflex. It’s not often that we share such a mysterious behavior with our canine companions!
So Why Do Dogs Yawn?
The exact reason behind the dog yawn may be unknown, but we have studied our canine friends enough to come up with a few possible causes. Most of the time, these reasons aren’t anything to be worried about. To help you better understand your pup’s behavior, let’s discuss the most common theories below.
They Are Tired
Let’s start with the most commonly understood reason behind canine yawning: tiredness. Just like you and I, our dogs may simply yawn because they are tired. Our pups can experience grogginess throughout the day, exhaustion at the end of a long day, and every sleepy spell laying at your feet.
An occasional yawn around these times may simply point to them needing a nap, and may end once they are well-rested. If your pup yawns around their standard bedtime, this may just be their way of telling you they are ready to curl up and go to sleep!
They Are Stressed
If your dog experiences excessive yawning, it could be a sign of stress. Dogs that are stressed can react in many different ways. Yawning around bedtime may be extremely normal for your furry friend, but any increase in frequency may be their way of telling you they are nervous. Some humans even experience yawning as a symptom of their anxiety, and dogs are no different.
Determining if yawning is due to stress or not will require you to pay attention to when the behavior occurs. For example, if your dog seems to yawn excessively when they are in the car and heading to the vet, it’s safe to say they may be yawning due to nervousness or anxiety. This also stands true for excitement in our furry friends, as our dogs may yawn when anticipating an activity they enjoy.
If you think your dog yawns due to stress, it may be their way of telling you they need a break. Try your best to either take a breather from the current activity, or even take them for a private walk outside. If anxiety is the true cause of their yawning, it should come to an end once they calm down.
There are more active ways that dogs communicate, but behavior can be a form of involuntary communication. If your pup experiences experiencing excessive yawning at all times, it may be best to contact a professional trainer or veterinarian to address their chronic anxiety.
They Are Showing Empathy
Have you ever noticed that yawns seem to be contagious? A friend yawning next to you might cause you to yawn yourself. This might lead you to believe that yawns can be passed on. Not only is this a common occurrence in humans, but dogs seem to catch on as well. So what can this mean? A recent study thinks it’s just a sign of our dogs trying to bind with us.
While it’s challenging to measure empathy in our furry friends, our dogs participate in many behaviors that show how much they care for us. This stands true when they follow us around the house, sitting next to us when we are sad, and even matching our yawns. The next time your dog mimics your yawn, it may be their way of saying they love you.
They Are Being Submissive
If your dog seems to yawn excessively around other dogs, it may be their way of avoiding conflict. Yawning can be a sign of submission to other dogs, meaning a dog may yawn if they are trying to appear passive or non-threatening. This can occur when a dog is first meeting a new dog, or if their playtime has become too rough.
The next time your pup meets or plays with a new furry friend, watch out for any yawning during their interaction. This can be an interesting way to determine their limits when playing with others, and help you understand their social behaviors a bit more.
They Are Excited
Similar to yawning in stressful situations, your pup may also yawn when they are excited. Overwhelming excitement can be challenging for a dog to manage, causing them to bubble over in some situations. Though excitement is a wonderful thing for our pups, it can lead to common signs of anxiety if they become extremely overworked.
For example, if you play a long game of fetch when you get home each day, they may be thrilled the moment you walk in the door. You may see them circling and pacing with happiness, and even yawning from time to time. This is a normal reaction in our canine friends, and should subside once they engage in the activity they are awaiting.
They Are Confused
Just like humans, dogs can get confused. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a dog yawn when they are going through certain types of obedience training. When you are issuing a new command, often times they don’t fully understand what’s being asked of them. It takes repetition before they actually learn what you are telling them that you want them to do.
As a result, you might see yawning behavior. This isn’t necessarily frustration, but just being a little confused about the new command. Once you’ve gone through the appropriate steps, your dog should stop this behavior and start executing the commands instead. For dogs that are stubborn, or considered of lower intelligence, it may take a few more repetitions to learn commands.
Should You Be Concerned?
Yawning is a normal behavior that you see in both humans and dogs. An occasional yawn when your pup is tired is to be expected, and shouldn’t warrant any concern. It’s completely normal for your dog to yawn. But there are some situations that should cause you to think twice.
If you notice that excessive yawning in any situation, it may be a sign that they need to step away and calm down. While this can be curative for dogs with situational anxiety, it becomes more challenging when this occurs in your home. If you find your pup yawning in rapid succession in the comfort of your home, it may be time to assess your home for any potential triggers.
Stress in dogs can be triggered by a sudden change of environment, new pets in the home, the sudden absence of a loved one, and more. Identifying the source of your dog’s anxiety may help you bring your pup comfort. It can also help put an end to frequent yawning. If you cannot determine the cause of their stress, it may be time to contact a professional trainer or veterinarian for guidance.
Are Yawns Contagious From Dog to Dog?
We mentioned above that dogs can mirror their owners when yawning, but can dogs mirror other dogs as well? Studies show that dogs will yawn after their owners do in effort to show empathy, but many wonder if they do the same for their furry friends. While it is difficult to know for sure, evidence shows that they may.
A recent study showed that contagious yawns among dogs were more common in stressful situations. The shelter dogs in the study were often catching contagious yawns from each other. Dogs in a calm situation were not. This study suggests that when dogs mirror each other’s yawns, it may be an effort to sympathize with each other. However, the yawning may just be a result of heightened stress among each dog.
Yawning is a strange behavior that we may never fully understand. Though research helps us develop potential causes behind yawning, it is still a mystery for both humans and animals.
Yawning is a normal canine behavior that can have multiple causes. In most circumstances, it’s not something that you need to be concerned about. It’s usually not a direct correlation with any type of medical issue, and is considered more of a social or behavioral action.
By understanding the information we discussed above, you can better understand your canine companion going forward. Remember, if your pup is yawning during training exercises, you’ll need to ensure you’ve given them enough repetition.