Visualize your dog yawning as you pet them.
Heads lowered, mouths wide open, teeth bare, ears pulled backward, and squinting eyes.
They must look very funny yawning!
You must be wondering why they do that.
For humans, we know a few reasons such as contagion and tiredness.
But for dogs? What do they convey when they yawn?
In this article, you’ll learn:
- 11 reasons why your dogs yawn.
- What yawns mean in dog language.
- How to deal with stress-related yawns.
- How to trick your dog through yawning.
- If your love and connection with your dog might have something to do with it.
- And this is only the beginning…
Why does my dog yawn when I pet him?
The most common reasons include dogs trying to communicate and calm themselves down. It could also mean that your dog saw you yawn. Other reasons that your dog is trying to convey when they yawn are boredom, stress, transitioning from one activity to another, displacement, and pacification.
11 reasons why your dog yawns when you pet him
#1: Your dog’s nothing but bored
Let’s face it, we, humans, yawn when we’re bored.
Dogs do so as well!
In this state, your dog is trying to rest. They might be sitting or lying down, getting eaten by boredom. They’re not sleeping either…
So, you go up and pet them…
But, why are they bored?
Dogs have a lot (like a lot!) of free time on their hands. They never have to do chores, go to school, or go to work.
It is only likely that they will get bored from time to time.
Unlike them, we have a lot of responsibilities that require our time and effort.
That’s why sometimes, we can only attend to them once we finish those tasks.
How can I know if it’s just boredom?
Well, if you see your dog lying down, not even sleeping, that likely indicates boredom.
Take a little break and pet them! They will yawn after that.
With that, it is evident that your dog’s bored.
If they yawn after you pet them, they may be transitioning to another emotion now.
Your dog receives this petting as a signal to be playful and friendly.
Better get ready for that!
#2: Your dog saw you yawn
Oh, how contagious a yawn is!
That even your dog gets affected by it.
What’s more interesting is that this shows that your dog can empathize with you.
In a 2013 study by Romero T. et al., results showed that the dogs yawned more when the model in the study was their dog parent.
This result indicates that you have a different level of attachment to your dog.
A friend of mine brags about the fact that when she yawns, her dog yawns as well!
She even joked one time by saying, “Well, if your dog doesn’t yawn back at you, he doesn’t love you.”
According to Romero’s study, reciprocity between the bond of pet and owner is evident.
With that said, your dog is more sensitive to your yawn compared to a stranger’s.
I bet you tested it out just now!
But don’t freak out if your dog doesn’t yawn back when you do.
Remember that not all dogs respond the same way.
Maybe your dog responded to you, just not through a yawn.
Despite that, my friend can’t help but continue to brag!
You might also like: Why Does My Dog Howl When I Howl? 7 Surprising Reasons
#3: You tricked them into doing it!
Well, this only applies if you know that you can do this.
When you show your dog that you are yawning, they take it as a cue to relax.
It’s a visual sign that you are calm, and they will feel that they need to calm down as well.
Anna E. Hoff gave an example in her study:
If you notice that your dog is anxious in the veterinarian’s office, you can let go of a dramatic yawn.
Even if you don’t mean it…
Your dog will likely yawn back, meaning they understood what you conveyed.
Because you talked in their language! (See reason #5)
It was mentioned in Vetsplaining, a podcast by Dr. Lisa Pin McFaddin, that dogs are natural empaths.
That even a tiny change in a human’s physiology can make them react in a certain way.
So, next time that your dog is in a stressful situation show them an overemphasized yawn.
With this, your trick is their assurance.
#4: Your dog is trying to calm down
Yawning is often described as the dogs’ calming signal.
Tension gets released when dogs yawn to calm themselves down.
But, putting it as trying to calm down is too general.
There are many situations where dogs need to do this for themselves.
To identify, remember what happened before your dog let go of that yawn.
Also, observe these extra behaviors that go with yawning as a calming signal (According to Anna E. Hoff):
- Play bow.
- Turning away.
- Submissive crouch.
- Nose and muzzle licking.
Anna Hoff recorded some dogs with separation anxiety:
This observation shows that there is an increase in yawning for these dogs before they take a rest.
These dogs have proven that they tried to calm themselves amidst their anxiety.
Continue reading: Why is my dog so calm?
#5: Your dog is communicating
Our dogs can’t communicate with us and their fellow canines verbally so they rely on body language.
According to behaviorists, part of a dog’s visual communication system is yawning.
As stated in the previous reason, yawning is a way for them to calm down.
So, if you see your dog yawning, it means they are trying to release the energy that might make them aggressive.
To reiterate, you must find out what happened that led your dog to communicate this signal.
#6: You pushed your dog too far
I’m sorry to say but, your baby gets tired of you sometimes, too.
But, don’t take it so hard!
This means that your dog is trying to avoid conflict between the two of you…
That they don’t want to be mad at you!
But, as much as they love getting pets from you, your dogs need their own time for themselves.
Dog trainers look out for these types of yawns when dealing with their dogs.
When it happens, these trainers know that they might be pushing the dog too far.
Yawning for such a reason indicates that your dog is trying their best to remain calm…
Even if you have pushed their buttons.
What must I do if this is the case?
The first step is to identify what you were doing when you caused this yawn.
Were you training them?
Then consider a different approach or take a rest for a while.
Were they alone and quiet, then you proceeded to pet them?
Well, leave them alone for a while.
Your dog loves you, but they will sometimes ask for a little me-time.
As a lovable fur parent, understand that your dog has their limits as well.
These limits you must respect for their well-being.
Check out this article: 11 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Sleeps With Its Back To You
#7: Your dog is planning to take a rest
Dogs tend to yawn when they’re sleepy too!
Not only for sleeping!
It can also mean that they’re feeling tired.
With that, dogs yawn to show a transition from activity to rest.
The term for these transitions is “rest yawns”, coined by the same Anna E. Hoff.
Rest yawns are not limited to activity-to-rest, but they can also mean the other way around.
Along with this, your dog’s arousal level transitions as well.
It is best to let your little pooch be for a while if you’ve seen them yawn then rest.
As stated in the previous reason, you have to respect your dog’s boundaries as a dog parent.
You can always wait for the next yawn. Which then indicates that they’re transitioning from rest to activity.
#8: Your dog is transitioning from one task to another
A dog’s yawn that indicates transition is not limited to activity-to-rest and vice versa.
It can also mean they are transitioning from one activity to another.
Anna Hoff has a term for this as well, which is “social yawns”.
For social yawns, an event is being preceded or followed. Thus, it is another type of transition.
The same study by Anna Hoff revealed that dogs yawn more during social interactions.
Like mentioned, yawning is part of your dog’s visual communication system. So, being around other dogs or people will increase social yawns.
Thus, it is best to familiarize yourself with what happens around your dog in a social situation.
#9: Your dog is struggling with stress
If you notice your dog yawning and yawning in a social situation…
They are likely stressed out.
“What should I do?”
Identify your dog’s stressors and extract them from that situation. Or it could also be a person. Or an object they find… weird and stressful.
Also, take note that comforting your dog will be helpful. But, don’t go way overboard on comforting them.
There’s a tendency that your dog will be too pampered.
Other things to do when your dog is experiencing stress:
- Look for a quiet place to take them and relax.
- Train for commands that will distract them in moments of stress.
- Walk around to exercise with them (which is healthy for you, too!).
If your dog is always showing signs of stress, it means it’s time to go to the veterinarian.
Stress on dogs can either have a medical-based explanation or a behavioral explanation. With that, listen to your veterinarian’s suggestion. With that, listen to your veterinarian’s suggestion.
#10: Your dog wants peace among dogs!
When your dog yawns, it could also mean that they are fighting the urge to be aggressive.
This is a dog’s version of walking away from an uncomfortable situation or a shrug.
If you see another dog growling at your own and all they do is yawn in return…what a proud moment for you!
Your dog fought their urge to retaliate.
After yawning, they will show the same behaviors mentioned in reason #4.
Such as nose and lip licking, turning away, stretching, etc.
This occurrence is pacification. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, pacification is also called a treaty of peace.
In the presence of their canine friends, a simple yawn from your dog communicates that they come for peace.
That they do not mean to impose any threat.
That y’all can chill.
According to the same study we’ve mentioned of Anna Hoff, this deed is done to comfort other dogs surrounding them.
They will yawn and convey that…
“It’s all good fellow good boys and girls, I mean no harm…”
Peace among dogs indeed…
#11: Social discomfort
Wait, what? Aren’t dogs social beings?
But there could be circumstances where they feel overwhelmed by their social situation.
Say, there are so many dogs surrounding them at the park…
Then there are the fur parents, too!
It’s a crowded park…so they yawn.
If you see this happen, it may be time for the both of you to go home and let your dog get some rest.
Yawning as a result of social discomfort is a displacement behavior for dogs.
Displacement behaviors show whenever dogs are feeling anxious. It also conveys that they want to do something about it.
Also, some dogs are experiencing social anxiety.
Take notes. Here are things that might happen if your dog’s social anxiety is not declining:
- Fearful behaviors.
- Increased disease frequency.
- Constant panting and drooling.
- Diseases are likely to be severe.
- Overall, it might lead to a shorter lifespan.
That’s why it is important to identify these cues, that is, whether your dog is experiencing anxiety and fear.
To prevent serious social anxiety, make sure to introduce new things to your dogs in a gentle manner.
Show your doggo that they do not have anything to worry about and that you understand them!