Why Do Dogs Yawn? … and What It Really Means

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It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume that many of us wish our dogs were able to talk. We could even argue that we already have deeper conversations with our furry friends than our partners. It may be surprising to know that dogs talk to us all the time, through body language. An important aspect of dog body language is yawning. So, why do dogs yawn?

Well, the obvious reason for dogs yawning is tiredness. Yawning stretches the dog’s facial muscles and can help them stay awake. This is a very similar reason to why we humans yawn.

But that is only half the story, there are much more subtle meanings to why dogs yawn. Some of those reasons could actually surprise you.

In this article, we’ll reveal the hidden language behind your dogs yawning, and how to recognize what it means.

Why Do Dogs Yawn?

Tiredness is the most well-known reason for a yawning dog, it helps them to stay conscious and alert.

According to Dr. Katy Nelson, senior veterinarian at ChewyYawning stretches the jaw and increases blood flow in the head, neck, and face”.  So, when dogs get tired or bored, a yawn can help them wake up. The air that the dog breaths in for a yawn are far more than a regular breath, this creates enough pressure to force the flow of blood and spinal fluid away from the dogs brain, cooling it down and livening the dog up.

WHY DO DOGS YAWN - image of a big dog with light brown fur yawning

But that’s just the start of understanding why dogs yawn. Dogs are complex animals and by recognizing the true reasons behind a seemingly simple yawn, can unlock a better understanding of your dog. This valuable knowledge can even identify any unnoticed psychological issues that might be affecting your furry best friend.

When Dogs Yawn What Does It Mean?

Dogs can’t talk in the same way we do, their ability to vocalize isn’t as sophisticated as ours. Communication for dogs is through a series of gestures, and yawning is a major form of that communication. Here are four of the most common reasons why dogs yawn so much:

  1. Dog Yawn

Dogs will yawn as a calming signal when they see other dogs, it’s to show that they are non-threatening. 

Calming signals are not just aimed at other dogs, humans get the same treatment too. Think of it as a friendly greeting from your dog.

These behaviors are ingrained from birth and are not learned. That is why you will see young puppies instinctively yawn to show trust, it simply means that they are friendly and want to avoid trouble. It’s quite a useful social tool when you live in a pack.

WHY DO DOGS YAWN - Puppy sitting and yawning outside

Another thing to note is that when a dog uses yawning as a calming signal, it doesn’t necessarily mean a sign of submissiveness. Dominant dogs have also been recorded yawning at submissive dogs to show that they are not interested in fighting.

Dog Stress Yawn – Is Your Dog Anxious?

Another reason your dog may be yawning is that he is stressed or anxious. This behavior will be illustrated in a more obvious way as the dog trains. Training your dog to do something new can be just as stressful dog as it can be for you the trainer.

Negative emotions such anxiety and stress are sometimes shown by a group of signals along with yawning, for example, a pacing dog keeps licking lips and yawning with his tail low and ears flattened is a good indicator that the dog is feeling stressed.

Here are examples of the signals that can be clustered with a dog yawn:

  • Ear flattened
  • Low tail
  • Tail between legs
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Tense muscles
  • Wide eyes.
  • Licking lips

Some or all of these signals can be a clear indication that a break from training is needed, there’s no point in stressing your dog any further than necessary.

Remember, dogs respond better to positive experiences than negative ones, so it’s always a good idea to make training a fun, stress free activity.

WHY DO DOGS YAWN? – Happy and excited

Yawning is not all doom and gloom in the dog world. Dogs yawning can also mean they’re happy and excited. Yawning increases blood flow to your dog’s head and increases air flow into their lungs. When your dog is very happy, yawning also increases his heart rate.

All these actions from a simple yawn prepares your fluffy friend for the excitement about to come.

Dog yawning - about to go for a walk

Next time you do something fun like take your furry best friend for a walk, you’ll be able to understand why your dog is yawning, even though he’s wide awake and bounding with excitement.

A noisy dog yawn, sometimes referred to as a howl-yawn is yet another more noticeable sign of enthusiasm. If you hear your dog do this type of yawn, it’s a sure-fire sign that your dog is extremely happy about whatever is about to happen.

WHY DO DOGS YAWN – Confused DoG

Confusion yet is another reason that your dog will yawn. You may have noticed that your furry friend will do this if he comes baffled about an object or situation. If you train your dog to do something new, you may see him yawn if he’s uncertain about what’s expected of him.

Yawning during these moments of confusion takes some pressure off the situation for your dog. If you see your dog yawning during training, you now know what your dog is telling you. Maybe it’s time to change your approach to make your commands clearer, and put an end your dog’s bewilderment.

Are Dog Yawns Contagious?

It is a widely known phenomenon that when a person yawns, someone else in the room yawns too. Yawns are quite contagious.

So, what about dog yawning, are they contagious for other dogs? The answer is a resounding, yes.

This phenomenon is quite interesting, as researchers have found that dogs will indeed yawn when they see another dog yawn, but dogs will also yawn if they can only hear the sound of yawning. The researchers concluded that this is because dogs have the ability to empathize with the yawner.

For both dogs and humans, yawning is a way of expressing your vulnerability to someone else. Like us, dogs yawn when relaxed enough to feel safe to take a nap in the presence of someone else. When both dog and owner sleep in the company of each other, it establishes a strong sense of mutual trust.

Both humans and dogs have evolved our yawns to be super contagious. And this expression of trust even transfers between humans and dogs. So, next time you yawn, your dog might yawn back at you.

Should You Be Worried If Your Dog Is Yawning Too Much?

Yawning is nothing to be concerned about, there can be many reasons why dogs yawn.

dog lying down and yawning in an outdoor cafe

Your dog may be yawning because of anxiety or stress. But also, it could be a way of letting you know they are excited, confused or relaxed.

Or if you see a dog stretching and yawning, it might be because he’s really, really tired.

There is nothing to worry about when you see your dog yawning. What is more important is the ability to interpret the yawn and see it in its proper perspective.

Conclusion

Yawning for dogs is not always a sign of tiredness, it’s a sophisticated way to let you know everything from anxiety to excitement. When you combine yawning with clusters of other examples of body language and behaviors, it can be a very informative language. A dog yawning and panting means something completely different than if another dog yelps when yawning.

Dogs are far more complex creatures than many people realize. As dog owners, we know this already, so it’s in our own interest to learn their language to better understand their wants and needs.

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puppy siting and yawning, there's a yellow background

Sources

https://www.petmd.com/author/dr-katy-nelson

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