Petting our dogs is how we show them we love them. What’s peculiar is how this show of affection results in a yawn from our four-legged friends.
The truth is, there are many reasons why your dog yawns when you pet them. Unlike humans, who usually yawn when bored or tired, a dog’s yawn could indicate that they are content, happy, or just plain excited for attention. It could also mean that they are stressed out or confused.
As a pet parent, it is always good to be knowledgeable about your dog’s body language. After all, our dogs can’t speak to us to communicate their needs. This guide will address several reasons why your dog yawns when you pet them to help you understand them better.
What Is a Dog Yawn?
Yawning is a common and involuntary reflex among humans and animals alike. When a dog yawns, they open their mouth wide and stretch their jaws, allowing increased oxygen into the lungs. It also has the effect of bringing blood flow into the head and neck.
Reasons Why Your Dog Yawns
There are many different emotions your dog may be feeling when they yawn, ranging from calm and loving to slightly more serious feelings of anxiety or stress.
Your Dog Is Feeling Calm
One of the most common reasons a dog yawns when you pet them is that they are feeling content and calm.
Dogs who are comfortable around their owners can signal they feel relaxed by yawning. At first, it may feel like your dog is ambivalent. However, this is a positive reaction to your touch and could indicate they want more pets.
Your Dog Is Feeling Excited
Perhaps you notice your dog yawns when you start to pet them after some time apart. If you greet them after work by petting them and your dog yawns, or they see you grab their leash before a walk.
This physiological response is common in dogs and helps their bodies prepare for action and movement.
Your Dog Is Feeling Impatient
Similarly, your dog could be yawning to show they are feeling impatient. If you mention a fun activity, like a walk or a car ride, while petting your dog, their resulting yawn could signal that they are ready to go.
Your Dog is Showing Love and Affection
It is common for dogs to yawn when you pet them as a gesture of love. They show you they are comfortable, happy, and glad to be with you. Dogs cannot directly tell you they are delighted to be on the receiving end of your affection, but a satisfied yawn is a pretty good indicator.
Your Dog Is Confused
You may notice your canine friend yawning more when learning something new, like a trick. They could also be feeling unsure about your motivations or reactions to something they did during playtime.
If you pet your dog in situations like these and you notice them yawning in response, it might just be a sign that they are feeling confused about what is happening or what you are doing together.
Your Dog Is Bored
Believe it or not, dogs can get bored too. If they’ve been stuck inside on a rainy day or they can’t get you to entertain them with toys, they may release a yawn to illustrate their boredom. Chances are, your pet will fall asleep soon after a bored yawn.
Your Dog Is Stressed Out
Sometimes dogs will indicate their distress with a particular situation by yawning. Going to the vet or being in an unfamiliar place are activities we naturally consider stressful, but you can unintentionally stress them out too.
Even if your dog is an affectionate being, they may not always appreciate being cuddled or hugged while you pet them. Tight hugs are not a normal way for dogs to communicate or express their affection. Yawning in this instance is a clear indicator that they are feeling tense or uncomfortable with the contact.
Petting your dog when they show signs of stress can help calm and relax them.
Your Dog Is Avoiding Conflict
If you ever notice your dog yawns while at the dog park or around other dogs, this may signify that your pet is trying to indicate they are not a threat.
When around bigger or more aggressive dogs, your dog may be communicating that they aren’t interested in conflict, which is a common calming signal in dogs, which are non-verbal cues that indicate pacification.
Your Dog Is Tired
Of course, depending on the time of day you find yourself petting your dog, they may be tired.
Dogs can yawn when they wake up after a restful night’s sleep. They can also yawn after a long day playing, exercising with their humans, or running around the dog park. As they transition from wakefulness to sleep or vice versa, your dog may yawn as you pet them.
Scientists aren’t quite sure why this phenomenon occurs. There are theories explaining that yawning in any animal is a way for the body to cool the blood traveling to the brain or, perhaps, increase how much oxygen is in our bloodstream.
Regardless of why, if you notice your dog yawning at a sleepy time of day or night when you pet them, they are most likely just tired and ready for rest.
Your Dog Is Anxious
If you notice that your dog often yawns while you pet them in the waiting room at the vet’s office, surrounded by strangers or small children, they could be experiencing anxiety.
Typically when a dog is anxious, there will be accompanying signs such as a tucked tail, pulled-back ears, or continuously licking its lips.
If you notice these behaviors accompanying repetitive yawning, try to remove the outside stressors to help your dog relax.
Your Dog Is Hyper Aware
If you find yourself in a new place or surrounded by new people, your dog may be on high alert.
Petting them in these situations may offer them comfort, but their resulting yawns can also mean that they are on high alert and taking in all of the new sights and smells.
Your Dog Doesn’t Like Training
You may reward your dog with lots of pets as you train them. While they probably enjoy the pets, and petting can be a positive reinforcement tool, your dog may still yawn. This yawn may mean that your dog is less than thrilled with the training session.
If you find your dog frequently yawning while learning a new trick or skill, it may be time to take a break.
Your Dog is Feeling Afraid
Another possible scenario is that your dog feels afraid when they yawn. Don’t worry. It doesn’t mean it is scared of you. It is more likely your dog is afraid of what is happening around it.
Many dogs that feel fear may yawn in addition to whining or barking as a way to self-soothe. You may notice this during thunderstorms, fireworks shows, or other fear-inducing situations your dog doesn’t like.
When your dog feels afraid, its yawns will be longer and more intense than a regular yawn.
If you notice your dog is exhibiting fearful behaviors, do your best to get them to a quiet place where they can calm down. You can also continue to pet them and offer rewards like treats or toys to distract them.
Your Dog Saw You or Someone Else Yawn
Believe it or not, if you happen to yawn while you pet your dog, you may notice your dog yawns back. Yawns are contagious amongst primates, but the same holds for dogs and people that your dog knows.
Studies have shown that contagious yawning between a dog and its human indicates a high level of empathy. The stronger the emotional bond between you and your dog, the more likely they will answer your yawn with one of their own.
Dogs have also been known to yawn when they witness other dogs around them yawning.
Is It Good That My Dog Yawns When I Pet Him?
It isn’t a bad thing that your dog yawns when you pet them in most cases. Your dog’s yawn often indicates that they are happy, excited, or simply enjoying the affection.
If it’s been a long, active day and the yawns from your pup may indicate that they are sleepy, it may be a good time to leave them be.
Furthermore, if you’re in a situation that your dog finds stressful, such as in the vet’s office or when you’ve surrounded them with a bear hug, their yawns may help you understand they are uncomfortable.
Should I Seek Medical Attention For My Dog’s Yawning?
Dogs yawn for many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with something serious or concerning. As a result, it is unlikely that you will need to seek advice from your veterinarian for yawning.
However, it is necessary to keep an eye on anything out of the ordinary. For example, as discussed above, a series of yawns may indicate that your pet is stressed out. If you notice this frequently happening, especially when you are getting ready to leave the house, it may mean that your dog has separation anxiety.
Many different non-medication tools may help ease your dog’s anxiety, such as leaving them puzzle tools or Kongs stuffed with peanut butter or leaving out clothes that smell like you. Some people also find success with natural, over-the-counter supplements.
You can speak to your vet about prescription medication options in more severe cases.
Yawning is a common, if involuntary, response to various factors, even in your furry friend. If you notice them yawning when you pet them, this most likely means that they are happy and content.
Other reasons for your dog’s yawns may indicate something more serious, like anxiety or stress, in which case you should keep an eye on them or remove them from the stressful situation.
The bond between you and your dog is a special one. As a result, you know your dog best. The yawns you see when you pet them aren’t bothersome in most cases. If you feel apprehensive, you can always make an appointment with your vet to discuss the issue.