When applied to humans, yawning is mostly associated with tiredness or boredom. It’s a sign that our body needs either a good rest or a good amount of oxygen, which increases blood flow to the brain and helps us stay awake. But have you ever wondered, what does it mean when a dog yawns? Why do dogs usually yawn when you pet them?

Contrary to common belief, sleepiness isn’t always the cause of why a dog gape. Depending on the situation the dog is in, yawning can mean different things. So without further ado, let’s check out the meanings to your dog’s yawn, and see what kind of message they’re trying to tell us.

What Exactly Is A Dog’s Yawn?

In terms of definition, a yawn is an involuntary reflex where the mouth opens wide and the lungs take in a big gulp of air. The activity is quite similar between humans and other animals, and there’s no method to control the timing of this reflex. 

Why do dogs yawn when you pet them

Humans aren’t the only species that carry this habit. All vertebrates - which are animals that have a backbone - can display the reflex. However, with the exception of humans, the meaning of the yawns in the animal world remains unclear.

Each animal yawns for different reasons, and it’s hard to determine a conclusive answer that applies to all. We can only based on theories to closely assume the cause, and in this case, the meaning behind a dog’s yawn. Why dogs might yawn when you stroke them, or yawn when you play with them, we might not know for certain. However, by reading the situation and the dog’s reaction, we can closely guess what makes them

What Makes A Dog Yawn? 

Dogs yawn when you pet them because they’re excited

Even if you’re not the most attentive dog owner, you’ll notice that more than often, dogs will yawn when you cuddle with them or talk to them. This is not because they’re bored with you - they’re just so excited that you’re giving them attention.

This may also happen when you’re about to take them on a walk or going for a ride to the dog park. They will constantly yawn to display their enthusiasm to play and spend time with you. 

If dogs yawn when they’re excited, it’s a sign that they feel very safe and happy. Thus, there’s nothing to worry about if your dog yawns when you pet his head.

Why do dogs yawn when you pet them

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Dogs yawn to avoid conflicts

Avoiding dispute and unfavorable situation is also a likely reason for a dog to yawn. 

When meeting with a bigger or more aggressive dog, your pup can yawn to imply that he wants no trouble. It’s also a way to tell the other dogs to stay calm and have a peaceful time together. Yawning or licking the other dog on the nozzle is a submissive gesture to say “I mean no harm to you.” 

This is a response dogs can also display when they did something bad and figure you would reprimand them for the behavior. They yawn as an appeasement signal, showing their willingness to be submissive and hoping to calm the other party. 

When they chew on your rug or broke a houseplant, your pooch can yawn to relieve the tension and try to tell you to take it easy. So don’t be mad thinking that your dog is disrespectful and ignoring your words by yawning. They’re just trying to calm you down.

Why do dogs yawn when you pet them

Dogs yawn when they’re stressed

If you’re thinking “my dog yawns so much” or “my dog yawns all the time”, then you might want to really look into this odd behavior. Excessive yawning can be a prominent sign indicating that your dog is in a stressful situation.

Take notice of the timing and location when your dog starts to yawn constantly. If they repeatedly yawn during a potentially anxious circumstance, then they may be feeling stressed and overwhelmed. This could be meeting new people, arriving at an unfamiliar location, or being left alone at home. 

Dogs yawn when they’re tired or confused

This is probably the most common and obvious reason why dogs yawn, and very much similar to a human’s. They’re simply sleepy after all that playing and having fun. A tired dog means a happy dog, so if you see them yawn then hit the hay, you know they had a wonderful time during the day.

See more: Mystery Debunk: Do Dogs Dream About Their Owners?

Why do dogs yawn when you pet them

At the same time, yawn can signify confusion when you’re giving your dog mixed signals. It can be that you’re giving them commands that they’ve never learned before, or taking away something they don’t know they aren’t supposed to chew on.

Dogs yawn when their human yawn

Finally, do you know that yawning can be contagious? If you see someone else yawn, you’re very likely to follow and yawn as well. According to what a study in 2003 suggested, people who are more contagious to yawning are better at socializing than those who aren’t.

Surprisingly, contagious yawning also develops between dogs and humans. At the same time, dogs who are more likely to catch a yawn from a person or another dog are believed to socialize better as well. They show a good bond with others simply by being contagious to yawns.

Contagious yawning provides a good look to the relationship between humans and canines ever and the progress of domesticating these animals. Dogs’ long history of being man’s best friends may have enabled them to understand our feelings on a high level. They’re the only animals, aside from chimpanzees, that display contagious yawning. When dogs yawn with others, they are sharing their feelings.

Why do dogs yawn when you pet them

Studies also implied that dogs will be less prone to catching a yawn from a stranger. It is possible, but not as frequently as they do if it’s their owner who yawns. This shows that yawning is also a communicating tool for dogs to say that they understand their owner’s feeling and want to respond to it.

Can A Dog Fake Its Yawn?

When a dog opens its mouth wide and takes in a big gulp of air, is it really yawning? Well, this depends on the situation your dog is in.

As we have just discussed the many reasons why a dog can yawn, it’s possible to say that all yawns have certain meanings to them. However, when it comes to yawning without intention, it can be a little different. Your dog is either infected by your yawn, or was accidentally encouraged to ‘fake’ the yawn to get what they want.

For example, you might have given food to them when they yawn. This positive reaction leads the puppy to believe that whenever they yawn, they can get a treat. During other situations such as going for a walk or car ride to the park, the dog might also learn to yawn to get our attention.

How To Know If Yawning Indicates Stress

If you notice that your dog yawns at unusual times and without any obvious reasons, there’s a chance that they might be under stress. 

Excessive yawning means that your dog is trying to calm itself down in a frustrating situation. You can remove him from the stressful environment to see whether the yawning decreases. If this is the case, make sure that the dog feels safe and content again after having the unfavorable experience.

On the other hand, if your dog yawns all the time, it can be a sign of much more serious problems, such as mental instability or separation anxiety. Pay attention to your dog’s body language and other behaviors, and get diagnosis from a professional if needed.

How Do Dogs Communicate With Humans?

Not only do they understand your feelings, dogs also have their own way of communicating with you. Other than yawning when you pet them, there are many other methods dogs can use to get our attention and tell us what they want.

Why do dogs yawn when you pet them

Tail positions

Very commonly, people believe that a wagging tail is a universal sign of happiness in the doggy world. However, you’d be surprised to find out that this isn’t the only message they’re trying to give.

The more intense the wagging is, the stronger the emotion your dog might be feeling. Moreover, different tail positions also indicates various signals:

  • Tail raised straight and high up: your dog is excited or alerted
  • Tail lowered behind their legs: your dog is anxious or scared
  • Tail wagging right: your dog is having a pleasant interaction with a person or animal
  • Tail wagging left: your dog is concerned or feeling uneasy about the situation
  • Tail wagging and broad, gradual strokes: your dog is happy and content

When dogs wag their tails to the right, it will mostly mean a positive reaction. While in contrast, tails wagging to the left can indicate an unfavorable situation, and your dog might be feeling uncomfortable.

Puppy gaze

There’s no way to resist a pair of big, round eyes looking at you as if you mean the world to them. On a regular basis, dogs will raise their brows when you call them, as a way to respond to your voice. This makes their eyes look seemingly bigger and rounder, showing us an expression that’s very similar to a person’s innocent face.

But what most people don’t know is that when dogs show their ‘puppy-eyes” face, both your brain and your dog’s brain release oxytocin - a chemical that’s also released when a mom looks at a baby. This is a way for dogs to bond with you on a deeper level, even though they don’t need to say a word to you. You know you’re already a dog mom when you look into those adorable eyes.

See more: Funny Dog Mom Shirts Every Dog Mama Must Have

If you’re easily moved by that sweet face and constantly reward your dog when they make the expression, it can encourage them to do it more often. This can enhance the bond between you two even more.

Head tilt

Ever wonder what those adorable head tilts mean? It’s a way for dogs to hear your voice better!

Why do dogs yawn when you pet them

A dog’s ears act like its navigation antennas. Sometimes, those antennas need to be adjusted in order for them to work the best. Whenever your dog is surprised by a sudden noise, or hears a sound that they’ve never heard before, they’d tilt their head to figure out what those noises are. This is an instinctive behavior, yet we find it so cute when they do it to us.

Ear Language

Similar to what we see with a dog’s tail, the ear position can pretty much tell us what your pup is feeling.

A pair of perky ears is a sign of a focused and intrigued dog. They are very much interested in what’s happening around them, and are excited to explore. On the contrary, droopy and flattened ears imply fear and submission. Ears that pinned back means that your dog is in a very unpleasant situation, and can become aggressive.

Verbal language

Barking is not always a sign of a badly behaved dog. If your dog feels that non-verbal signs are not effective enough to get your attention, they’ll try the verbal method to communicate with you.

Thus, don’t reprimand your dog whenever they bark - they’ll only do so if they really want to get something done. It could be that they’re super hungry, or need to go outside to do their business. Moreover, a bark is also a sound of alert when a new person or animal is coming. This can either be a sign of excitement or an attempt to scare the intruder away.

Why do dogs yawn when you pet them

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What To Do If Dogs Yawn When You Pet Them

If dogs yawn when you pet them, it’s a signal that they’re comfortable with your touch and feel happy to be given attention. There shouldn’t be much to worry about, as this is a positive reaction. You can show your love back to them by giving them more pets, reward them with treats or take them out for a walk. 

However, if yawning becomes obsessive and your dog seems to yawn too much, then it’s better to take them to the vet. This might be an early sign of stress and anxiety, so you should pay more attention to your dog’s other behavior as well.


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