We’ve all seen it before. We look down at our dog — or at someone else’s dog — and for no apparent reason, he yawns. Well … for no reason apparent to us, but in the canine world a dog yawn has multiple meanings. To help in understanding what our mutts (mixed breed or otherwise) are saying, here’s a handy list of interesting answers to the question, “Why do dogs yawn?”
- Cool the Brain. Researchers used to feel that yawning was the body’s response to low oxygen levels, but according to Dr. Benjamin Hart, in an article titled, ” Why Do Pets Do That ?…” scientists now feel it may indicate a need to cool the brain. Hart says, “When we, or animals, are inactive the blood flow to the brain slows down and the brain tends to heat up a bit. The brain, like any high-powered computer, works best when cooler. When we, or the pooch, are sleepy, a good yawn revs up the computer and we can put off sleeping awhile. Same thing upon awakening, the brain needs a boost.”
- Anxiety. Thunder, fireworks, the presence of strangers or other situations may create anxiety for our pets. I once saw a dog yawn and then bite. Unfortunately, I was the target of the bite, but the yawn allowed me to react and so the result was a puncture that drew blood instead of a wound that needed stitches.
- Boredom. Like people, dogs often yawn out of boredom. This is the cue to engage Skippy in something interesting, such as a walk, play, or even a job to keep him busy. Better to take the hint now, than to let him become a “boredom barker” in the future.
- Reluctance/Indecision. Our Welsh Corgi, Corky Porky Pie, is a master of the reluctant yawn. Give him a command and he’s liable to yawn and take on an attitude that says, “But I don’t wanna do that!” In some canines, yawning might also be a sign of indecision.
- Empathy. A study titled “Auditory contagious yawning in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): first evidence for social modulation” indicates that dogs may yawn in response to the yawns of people around them. The doggy jury is still out on that, but isn’t it nice to think that whatever we feel — whether our brain needs cooling, or we’re anxious or indecisive — our canine friends might feel empathy for us?
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Other articles by this contributor:
Top Five Cool Sayings Inspired by Bees
Five Dog Myths that Savvy Dog Owners Might Believe
Easy Jobs Your Dog Can Learn to Do