Why Do Dogs Yawn?

Why Do Dogs Yawn
Photo by Akshay Madan

Humans yawn five to twenty times a day and are not the only ones who yawn. Mammals, some reptiles, and some birds do too.

Yawning is the same – an involuntary action in which the air is inhaled with the mouth wide open. The common belief is that yawning signifies tiredness or boredom, but why do dogs yawn? 

In addition to tiredness and boredom, there are more reasons why your dog keeps yawning. They could be anxious, afraid, uncomfortable, or just passing a message to another dog in sight.

Perhaps someone has asked you, ‘why does my dog keep yawning?’ Or, you are worried about your dog yawning a lot. This article explains why and what you can do to help. 

There are three reasons why your dog could be yawning.

  1. Yawning as a calming signal
  2. Yawning as a means of communication and 
  3. Yawning because they’ve contacted it.

Yawning As a Calming Signal

Turid Rugaas, a Norwegian behaviorist, describes dogs yawning as a calming signal. It means that dogs yawn when they feel a certain way that should be addressed.

It could be fear, anxiety, stress, or even excitement. They often yawn alongside calming signs like licking their lips and wagging their tail.

So, what to do when your dog yawns for these reasons is to assess the situation and get her away. It could be that someone is hugging in too tightly, or there is a strange face, or she needs rest.

Once you address the situation and the dog feels calmer, the yawn will gradually decrease.

Yawning As a Means of Communication

Even in the cases above, they are still communicating how they feel. But this communication is not to their owner. 

When two dogs see each other, one could signal aggression. The unaggressive dog could yawn to communicate their indisposition to a fight. Once they’ve had this communication, the aggressive dog relaxes.

You have little or no role to play here. Your dog doesn’t need help because it’s good once this communication has happened.

Yawning Because They’ve Contacted It

You’d be quick to spot two people yawning simultaneously just because they are in the same space. It is called social mirroring. It is the same if you smile back because someone smiled at you. 

But did you know that yawning is contagious to dogs too?

However, unlike humans, they just yawn because they have seen anyone yawning. Dogs catch it more with their owners or someone they know. They are five times more likely to yawn just because they have seen their owner yawning.

Studies suggest that it is more than just a physical action. It is one of the ways they empathize with what you are going through. So chances are that if you are so hungry and yawn, your pup might do the same just to say, ‘it’s ok, I know how you feel.’

They will stop if you feel like this is why your dog is yawning. But you can appreciate their empathy by rubbing them or carrying them. You could make any gesture just to show them that you appreciate their kindness. 

Conclusion

Why do dogs yawn? Nobody knows for sure, but there are many things to consider and help them. These reasons are plain, and you can tell if it is any of them.

But if the yawning exceeds five to twenty times per day or you cannot determine why they keep yawning, they could have a disorder. You should see a vet.

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