Humans yawn when they're tired, but dogs yawn when they're in all sorts of moods! In this guide, you’ll discover why dogs yawn as a loving sign, a calming signal, or to say they’re tired and ready for a nap.
Is there anything cuter than a dog stretching and yawning after a big nap? That was rhetorical, because of course there isn't!
But maybe you've noticed your dog yawning on other occasions. Sometimes, you'll see your dog yawning excessively – you may even see a dog yawning and panting in a particularly stressful situation.
Dogs communicate with us using their facial expressions, eyes, and voice. Though a yawn is silent (or accompanied by that tiny yawn-squeak), our dogs may very well be trying to tell us something when they yawn.
We’re here to answer the question, “Why does my dog keep yawning, and how much is too much when it comes to dog yawns?”
Here’s what a yawning dog may be telling you.
What is a dog yawn?
When a dog yawns, it looks very similar to a human yawn. The dog's mouth reflexively opens wide, and lungs take a deep inhalation.
Why do dogs yawn?
In general, a yawn stretches the jaw muscles, increasing blood flow into the neck, head, and face. The big inhalation of air increases pressure on spinal fluid and blood in the brain, causing these fluids to flow downward to "cool" the brain.
The stretching and associated blood helps to stretch and refresh the facial muscles with more blood flow to re-energize a tired pup.
4 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Yawning
Beyond a simple physical need, there are several reasons why a dog may be yawning to tell you something. If you see your sweet dog yawning a lot, it might be for one of the common reasons below.
Yawning Reason #1: Your dog is tired.
The most obvious and simple conclusion you might draw when you see your dog yawning is that they're ready for sleep or they’re just waking up.
Scientists don't understand why dogs (or people) yawn before bed, as the movement is supposed to pull oxygenated blood to the brain to help them wake up.
Some suggest that it may be because yawning has a cooling effect on brain blood or that it's a non-verbal communication to other dogs and people around that it's the pack's bedtime.
If your dog has an occasional yawn before or after bedtime and naps, chances are their yawns are all sleep-related.
Yawning Reason #2: Your dog is stressed.
Sometimes, you may see your dog yawning without naptime anywhere in sight – they might even be full of energy when it happens!
Often, a dog yawns when they're stressed or anxious about something. The easiest way to tell a stressed yawn from a tired yawn is by reading the situation.
If you're at the dog park and another dog is approaching, your dog may yawn nervously. If your doggo is afraid of the vacuum, it may give off some extra-dramatic yawns while you run it. Yawns that happen in rapid succession are a surefire sign that your dog feels uncomfortable in its current situation.
Watch closely for your dog's body language to know the difference between fear and tiredness. If your dog keeps licking lips and yawning, they’re likely nervous and confused. If you see dog teeth chattering after yawning, they're likely stressed out.
Look for yawning in connection with other stress-related behaviors, including:
- Paw lifting
- Nose lick and dog smacking lips
- Panting heavily
- Lowered ears
- Hiding or attempting to hide
- Lowered tail and cowering
- Jumping up at walls and people
- Nervous pacing
Yawning Reason #3: A yawn is contagious.
Just like humans, dogs often yawn after they see another dog or human yawning. It's completely reflexive, and though scientists don't understand exactly why it happens, the phenomenon seems to be a common behavior among all sorts of mammals.
Strangely enough, a few studies found that dogs are more likely to "catch" a yawn from a familiar person rather than a stranger, which may connect the behavior to a dog's feelings of empathy.
Our yawning makes our dogs yawn because they love us and feel bonded to us.
Reason #4: Indifference
Both wild and domesticated dogs yawn to show indifference when approached by aggressive dogs they have no interest in engaging with.
This yawn isn't a sign of submission, but pacification, which often seems to calm the aggressor significantly.
Why Does My Dog Yawn So Much?
If you're noticing your dog yawns excessively and worry something is wrong, no evidence links excessive yawning with any canine diseases.
The likely reason your dog is yawning too much is excessive stress. If you have an overly anxious pup, they're likely a big yawner. To help with the yawning, look into anxiety-soothing techniques like exercise, soothing touch, massage, and alternative therapies that can help.
When your dog yawns, take a look at the current scene: what's happening around them that may be setting them off? Finding ways to manage the stimuli or re-train your dog's feelings about it may go a long way to curb their anxieties.
If you're unsure how to proceed with anxiety management, consult your vet or a professional trainer to give you more information and teach you practical techniques.
Why Do Dogs Yawn When You Cuddle Them?
While you might think your dog loves a good cuddle, chances are they're yawning while cuddling because they feel uncomfortable.
Though most dogs enjoy the loving touch of their owner, grabbing your dog for a hug is a human snuggling tactic, not a dog's. Dogs don't understand hugging and often get uncomfortable when hugged or cuddled down at their level.
The confusing body language can make a dog tense, causing shaking and yawning to release their emotional tension.
If you notice your dog seems stressed by your hugs, try waiting and letting your dog approach you for cuddles – they'll show you which types of hugging makes them comfortable when they're in control of the interaction!
Final Notes on Dog Yawns
Hopefully, this information has helped you decode what your dog's yawns really mean.
And the next time your pup is yawning at bedtime, grab a bed ramp for dogs to help him put himself to sleep in his favorite spot!