Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Pet Him

Usually, when humans yawn, it’s because they’re tired or bored. Dogs yawn when tired or bored, but there are many other reasons for their toothy display. Your dog yawns when you pet it or ask if it wants to go outside, which might make you wonder why your dog is tired despite sleeping throughout the day.

Depending on the situation, a dog’s yawn has many meanings.

Once you understand your dog’s body language, their yawns will make more sense. There are many things your dog is trying to tell you when it yawns.

What Is A Dog Yawn?

A dog yawn is similar to a human yawn. It is an involuntary reflex where your dog opens its mouth wide and inhales deeply. Just like a human yawn, a dog’s yawn is also involuntary. When a yawn happens, how much air a dog takes in and how long it lasts is out of the dog’s control. Scientists don’t have any definitive answers about why humans or dogs yawn. However, some interesting theories suggest various reasons for yawning. For example, some theories suggest that we yawn because we are tired or bored.

Why Dogs Yawn When You Pet Them

There are many reasons your dog yawns when you pet him. It could be due to excitement or tiredness. Many dogs also yawn when under stress or as an appeasement gesture to other dogs.


If your dog yawns when you pet him, it might be out of excitement. It’s not because he feels relaxed, but he is excited you are giving him attention. Dogs might assume the attention means they are about to play or go for a walk. If you notice your dog yawning when you get his leash and your jacket, it is probably out of excitement. Dogs might even yawn when you grab their favorite toy or go to the cupboard where you keep their treats. You will notice your dog yawn when he is excited in multiple scenarios. Whether he is running through the sprinklers, getting ready to play fetch,

If you take your time to get ready before engaging in a fun activity with your dog, he might even start yawning out of impatience. Dogs don’t yawn before these activities because they are tired. They are trying to take in more oxygen by inhaling deeply, making them feel more active by increasing their heart rate. Active dogs tend to yawn much more.


Another reason your dog yawns when you pet him is due to affection. Dogs can mimic human behavior to signify a bond with their human counterparts. Researchers conducted a study to see how dogs responded to the yawns of familiar and unfamiliar people. They also studied the dogs to see if they mimicked odd mouth gestures and yawns. The results showed that dogs mimicked yawning more often than the odd mouth gestures.

They also found that dogs replicated a yawn more often when a familiar person yawned. These results could indicate that dog yawns can indicate a bond with their human counterparts. The researchers also observed other species for contagious yawning. Many animals yawn, but contagious yawning only occurs in humans, chimps, baboons, and dogs.

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Next time you pet your dog and he yawns, don’t worry that it could be something serious. He is probably just trying to show you affection through yawning.


Dogs also yawn in response to stress. In a stressful situation like visiting the veterinarian, your dog might yawn to release stress. A stressful yawn is generally longer and more intense than a regular yawn. You will also notice other signs if your dog is yawning due to stress. Dogs in a stressful situation may appear agitated and whine, lick, yawn and drool. Stress can cause anxiety, which leads to your dog feeling agitated.

Your dog could also be yawning in response to a panic attack. Dogs can also experience panic attacks, where the heart rate becomes elevated, and breathing is difficult, leading your dog to yawn for more air. A yawn involves deeper inhalation, which could help your dog calm down more easily.

If your dog seems to be yawning due to stress, it is best to remove them from the stressful situation. A dog might appear stressed during a training session. To stop stress yawning, ask the instructor for a break and pet or treat your dog to help them calm down. If your dog suffers from chronic stress, you can consult a canine behaviorist about the best way to approach this issue.

Calming Signals

Turid Rugaas, a Norwegian dog trainer and behaviorist, termed certain appeasement gestures dogs make “calming signals.” Some dogs are naturally shy, timid, and fearful of other dogs. For example, the Chihuahua breed, also one of the smallest dogs in the world, can be fearful of larger dogs. To “appease” the larger dog or indicate that they are not a threat, dogs may yawn or show other behaviors such as licking the lips.

If you notice your dog yawning around other dogs at the dog park, this situation could be stressful for him. Dogs can also use appeasement gestures to calm a situation and avoid getting in trouble. If you catch your dog digging in the yard, he might yawn to act submissive around you.

If your dog is yawning because he is scared of other dogs, you will also notice it in his body language. Along with yawning, your dog’s ears could be droopy, his tail would be between his legs, and he won’t maintain eye contact with other dogs. In this situation, it is best to take your dog away and walk him on the other side of the street.

Tiredness And Boredom

A common reason dogs and humans yawn is being tired or bored. Your dog might have had a long day full of activities and wants to go for a nap right now. Or he might even be bored because you are not playing with him. Dogs need exercise and attention to thrive. A dog alone for too long can develop destructive habits to entertain itself. Dogs need physical and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. If you think your dog is yawning out of boredom, take him for a walk or play with him.

Temperature Regulation

Humans and dogs yawn to regulate their temperature, especially in warmer climates. The logic behind this theory is that a higher temperature can increase your brain’s temperature. To cool down your brain, you inhale larger amounts of air. This is especially true of dogs, who don’t have sweat glands like humans. Most of a dog’s sweat glands are on the paws, making it much harder to cool themselves by sweating. Just as dogs pant to cool down, they may also yawn to bring down their temperature.

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Seeking Attention

Dogs can imitate your behavior to seek your attention. A dog that yawns when you pet it is probably excited about the attention, and it might continue to yawn after you quit petting because it wants more. Similarly, your dog might cuddle up to you and start yawning if you are about to go to bed, indicating that it is relaxed but also wants your attention before you go to sleep. If your dog is yawning to gain your attention, it will only occur in your presence.

Medical Issues

Like human yawns, most dog yawns are completely harmless and nothing to worry about. If your dog yawns occasionally, this is normal and perfectly fine. However, if you notice your dog yawning frequently, it could indicate medical issues. Dental issues or problems with the mouth’s anatomy may cause your dog to yawn more often. Dogs with mouth ulcers may yawn to relieve the pain caused by the condition. Check his mouth and gums if your dog is yawning more than he should. It is best to take him to the veterinarian to rule out any health issues.


Dogs can also yawn when they are confused. You could be asking your dog to do something it doesn’t know yet. For example, asking your dog to “sit” when it doesn’t know what the command means might cause your dog to yawn. When training your dog, keep treats on hand to reward the behaviors you want.

Managing Conflict

Dogs can also yawn as a way to manage or avoid conflict. If you find your dog doing something that he knows will get him into trouble, he might yawn to avoid conflict. It could be chasing a squirrel or chewing on the carpet. When you ask your dog to stop doing these behaviors, he probably doesn’t want to. However, a well-trained dog knows that he should stop engaging in this behavior. Your dog could also be showing you he’s sorry when he yawns while you pet him. It is be

Sleepiness And Contagious Yawning

Just like you yawn when you are sleepy, your dog could just be feeling sleepy when he yawns. Being sleepy is the most common reason dogs and humans yawn. Yawning is also contagious between dogs and humans. Similar to how you can’t help yawning when you see another person yawn, your dog will also yawn when he sees you yawning.

If it is the end of the day and you and your dog are about to go to bed, your dog will have a case of nighttime yawns. He is likely very tired and sleepy if he has had a long day running in circles or chasing squirrels. However, if your dog is yawning too much and having trouble falling asleep, you should consult your veterinarian.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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