Why do dogs yawn: Is your pet stressed out or just tired?

When a dog yawns, many owners will think their pet is tired or perhaps a little bored. The truth is, however, a little more complicated. Let's take a look at why dogs yawn so often.

There are many reasons why dogs yawn.
There are many reasons why dogs yawn.  © 123RF / Fellowneko

When tiredness sets its sights on you, it's totally normal to yawn.

This behavior supplies a great deal of oxygen to the brain, countering fatigue and sharpening your attention.

While this is also the case for our beloved doggos, there is more than one explanation behind why a dog might yawn.

Dog has TikTok giggling over how he helped himself to his owner's chicken
Dogs Dog has TikTok giggling over how he helped himself to his owner's chicken

In our trusty dog guide, TAG24 will look into why dogs yawn so regularly. We consider exhaustion, stress, and excitement, presenting you with everything you could possibly need to know about this pet particularity.

Why do dogs yawn so much?

Dogs aren't as simple as humans. Well, at least in the yawning department. Ultimately, humans yawn out of tiredness, as a physiological response that wakes us up. Our canine friends also do this, but will also yawn for a variety of other reasons as well.

Is your canine companion stressed out or suffering from separation anxiety? Is it sick in some way? Or is your dog just yawning because it's a little tired? Let's find out!

A dog will yawn when tired

Dogs, of course, also get tired, even if they seem like continuous sources of frantic energy. If you've done some heavy-duty agility training with them, taken them for a long-as-heck walk, or just simply played with them a little too much, they're going to yawn.

This is the usual reason why people think their dog is yawning, as it's a natural behavior that we also share. In such a situation, simply allow your doggo to rest. Provide a comfortable spot to sleep, give it a good cuddle, and let it chill out.

Dog yawning to communicate with other dogs

When your dog meets a fellow pooch, there are a number of behaviors that it will exert. Some doggos will get humpin', some will get scared, and some will communicate differently. One of those communication methods is similar to yawning.

In the case of a playful interaction, some dogs will tilt their heads to the side and look like they're yawning. This signal is used to appease and calm the other dog, showing their friendliness and indicating that they're all-in for a chilled-out hang.

Some dogs yawn to help them deal with excitement or stress.
Some dogs yawn to help them deal with excitement or stress.  © 123RF / Slasta

Dogs yawn when excited

Dogs use their yawning reflex to actively calm themselves down when they become a little bit too anxious or stressed. Yawning helps, again due to the increased oxygen supply, relieve symptoms often associated with these afflictions. This applies to humans too, by the way!

As a dog owner, you have to be mindful that your energy can sometimes transfer over to your doggo. Excessive patting and praise can upset, agitate, and excite your canine companion, so be careful!

In other words, a yawning dog could be stressed due to over-excitement and over-stimulation, so calm everything down and give your doggo some love.

Dogs yawn when stressed

Yawning can be a symptom that indicates dog anxiety, something that you should certainly get checked out by the veterinarian.

Possibly stressful situations that could trigger your dog's anxiety include:

  • Car rides
  • Moving houses
  • Renovations
  • Veterinarian visits
  • Claw care and trimming
  • Strange visitors
  • Sudden or unfamiliar noises

You might find that if your doggo is overwhelmed, it'll start to widen its mouth as if it's yawning. Overload can be quite an issue, so try to limit your dog's stimulation if it starts to display symptoms such as these.

If your dog is yawning excessively, give it a bit of a break, step back, and relax. If you are clicker training, put it away and wait until tomorrow.

Remember: This list is far from exhaustive. There could be other worrying reasons behind your dog's stress. See the vet to rule them all out.

Dogs will often yawn when you are yawning, as a sign of empathy.
Dogs will often yawn when you are yawning, as a sign of empathy.  © 123RF / iakovenko

Your dog might be empathizing

Are you feeling a little tired? Maybe even yawning a lot yourself? If the answer is yes, then you might not be alone: your faithful four-legged friend might be copying you, trying to empathize.

It seems odd, but a 2013 study actually showed that dogs generally yawned more often in the presence of yawning humans. This behavior has been identified as empathy because their heart rates did not indicate heightened stress.

Dogs don't only yawn when they wake up

Most dogs won't yawn purely because they are tired. Well, they will, but that's not the only reason why they might be doing so. A tired dog is more likely to express its tiredness via sleep. If your dog is over-yawning, there could be more going on there.

Remember that if you ever have an issue with your dog that you're concerned about, it's probably a good idea to take it to the vet. Don't take any chances, folks!

Cover photo: 123RF / Fellowneko

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