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Why Do Dogs Yawn? A Dog's Point of View!

Written by Adaptil, published on 12 January 2022

Yawn, stretch… I sure am ready for a good nap. My bed looks all cosy and I’ve had my morning walk, so it’s the perfect time to snuggle up and catch a few winks.

But yawning doesn’t always mean I’m tired. And I certainly can’t control it - just like you humans can’t.

I wonder if it is difficult for humans to understand all the reasons for dogs yawning. After all, I’ve seen humans yawn but only when they are tired. That’s not always the reason for dogs yawning though!

dog yawn with owner in meadow

We might yawn whenever:

We are confused

Sometimes dogs yawn if we’re not sure what is going on, or what we’re being asked to do.  For example, at our training classes last week, the lovely Labrador Lilly was yawning a lot! I think she was struggling a bit with the lessons! Her human parent was not being very clear with his training instructions and she was confused so started yawning.

After a little while, they learned together and tried something different, Lily understood what to do then!

We’re showing we don’t want conflict!

I was a little uncertain when I met Henry the Hound at the park. He sniffed around me a lot! Hounds are like that - all dogs sniff - but hounds really sniff.

I didn’t know what to make of him, but after a while, he yawned so I knew he wasn’t going to be unfriendly. Yawning at me was just his way of saying Hello, I’m not sure about you”, so I gave him some space!

When dogs meet each other there are a number of canine calming signals that we use, just to let each other know that we ‘come in peace!’ Yawning is one of them.  If you look closely, you might also see us:

  • Turning our head away from each other
  • Licking our lips
  • Blinking
  • Averting our gaze

So, when we are yawning at these times, we’re not tired, we are just checking each other out.

dog on comfy sofa yawning

We are stressed

If you see your pooch having a string of yawns, one after the other, it might be because we are feeling anxious or stressed. I know that humans like fireworks; but I can’t understand it - those bangs really make me feel anxious - and that's why I yawn a lot when I hear them!  I will also pace around the house and try to find somewhere to hide.

My human seems to know when there will be lots of fireworks around, and he does his best to make me feel safe.

He always uses an ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser, which really helps me to feel secure, particularly around firework celebrations. You should try it!  ADAPTIL comes in some different formats that can be used around the home, when we go in the car, and there’s even a collar to help us feel safe and calm when we go out!

Is yawning contagious between humans and dogs?

I’ve seen my family sitting around chatting and if one of them starts yawning, then it’s not long before others start yawning too! I don’t know why it happens, but l find myself doing it too sometimes!

Humans are still trying to work out if yawning is contagious between humans and dogs. In 2008, a Science Reporter for the BBC reported that students at Birkbeck College, University of London had done a small study to try to find out; and they found that 21 out of 29 dogs yawned after they had seen a human yawn - that’s 72%, which is quite a percentage in my doggie maths!  

Whether we yawn together or not, we dogs love our humans and have grown very close to them over the centuries; they have taught us lots of tricks, we love to play with them and they’re our best friends.

White puppies outside one yawning

It’s important that humans can work out why we are yawning.  It could be because we are excited, stressed, confused or even because you are yawning -  so why not see how well you know your dog’s body language?

Adaptil Calm Diffuser 

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