Do Dogs Only Yawn When They Are Stressed?

by Naomi Millburn
    Let's not fight. I want to be your buddy!

    Let's not fight. I want to be your buddy!

    Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    When you find yourself yawning in the middle of the day, it's often a clue that you spent a little too much time caught up in a riveting suspense novel the night before. Your dog's yawn, however, frequently indicates something totally different than too little sleep: think stress. Stress isn't the only cause of canine yawning, however.

    Anxiety and Apprehension

    When dogs yawn, it often denotes that they're feeling anxious about something -- perhaps a trip to the groomer or the sight of the next-door neighbor's cat. By yawning, they're trying to comfort themselves. If your yawning dog is stressed out about something, you might notice other cues that indicate his emotional state: Stressed out dogs often avoid eye contact with others, lick their lips and cower. All of these things denote a pooch who isn't feeling too serene about his situation. Yawning in dogs sometimes is a sign of a combination of stress and jittery anticipation, too. If a dog simply is thrilled about something, he might yawn to energize himself.

    Yawning and Defense Mode

    Yawning can signify that a dog is feeling uneasy about what's going on at the moment -- to the point that he's considering defending himself by biting. If you sense that a dog is in defense mode, avoid going close to him. Other common indications of defensiveness in dogs include tight postures, fixed gazes and rigid tails. Always keep children far away from dogs showing such behavior.

    Soothing Yawning

    Some dogs yawn as a way of soothing other canines. If a pooch is intimidated by a larger dog, he might yawn as a means of conveying that he has no desire to fight, according to Stanley Coren, author of "How to Speak Dog." Some dogs with high social status yawn to reassure canines that are lower on the totem pole, too. If a meek dog is afraid that an alpha dog is going to steal his coveted sleeping spot, a yawn from the tougher specimen might be all it takes to eliminate his nerves.

    Sleepy Yawning

    While yawning in dogs frequently points to stress and other emotions, it sometimes can mean simple sleepiness, too. Some dogs yawn because they want to go to sleep or because they need a rest period from exercise or play. Single yawns can signify a tired dog, says dog trainer and writer Liz Palika. Multiple yawns, however, often express something else entirely. If a dog yawns repeatedly, it usually means he's feeling unsettled about something, whether nervousness or defensiveness. Note that your dog might also yawn just because he saw you doing so. Canines are big on replicating humans' expressions, according to Steven Kotler, author of "A Small Furry Prayer."

    Photo Credits

    • Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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