Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Pet Him

When humans yawn, it usually indicates that they are tired or bored. However, a dog’s yawn is much different. Your dog yawns when you pet him or even when you suggest taking him out for a walk. This might make you wonder why your dog is tired despite sleeping throughout the day. A dog’s yawn can mean many things depending on the situation it occurs in.

Once you begin to understand your dog’s body language, their yawns will make more sense. There are many things your dog is trying to tell you when he yawns while you’re petting him.

What Is A Dog Yawn?

A dog yawn is similar to a human yawn. It is an involuntary reflex where your dog opens his 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 are all out of the dog’s control. Scientists don’t have any definitive answers about why humans or dogs yawn. However, there are some interesting theories that 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 they are 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 actually excited you are giving him attention. Dogs might assume the attention means you are about to play with him or take him out 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. The reason why dogs yawn before these activities is not because they are tired. They actually try to increase the amount of oxygen supplied to their brain by inhaling deeply. This makes them feel more active by increasing their heart rate. Active dogs have a tendency 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 familiar and unfamiliar humans yawning. 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 familiar humans 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.

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 as a response to stress. If your dog is in a stressful situation such as a visit to the veterinarian or a trip to the dog park, he might yawn to release stress. A stressful yawn is generally longer than a regular yawn and more intense. 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. This can cause difficulty breathing, leading your dog to yawn for more air. A yawn involves a deeper inhale so it could help your dog calm down easier.

If your dog seems to be yawning due to stress, it is best to remove them from the stressful situation for some time. 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 as “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 down 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

One of the common reasons that dogs and humans yawn is due to tiredness and boredom. 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. If a dog is left on his own for too long, he can develop destructive habits. Active and energetic dogs need exercise to release their energy. If you think your dog is yawning out of boredom, take him for a walk or play with him.

Temperature Regulation

Humans and dogs both yawn to regulate their temperature. This occurs in warmer temperatures rather than cooler temperatures. The logic behind this theory is that a higher temperature can increase your brain’s temperature. To cool down your brain, you breathe in a large amount of air. This can also apply to dogs who don’t have as many sweat glands as humans. Most of your dog’s sweat glands are located on his paw pads. Just as dogs pant to cool down, they may also yawn to bring down their temperature.

Seeking Attention

Dogs can imitate your behavior to seek your attention. A dog that is yawning when you pet him is probably excited for the attention. He might continue to yawn after you are done petting him because he wants more pets. Similarly, if you are about to go to bed, your dog might cuddle up to you and start yawning. This could indicate that he is relaxed, but he 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. The behavior would also be persistent and frequent.

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. He might have trouble understanding you when you are training him due to mixed or unclear signals. You could be asking your dog to do something he doesn’t know yet. For example, if you ask your dog to “sit” when he doesn’t know what the command means, he might respond with a yawn. When training your dog, keep treats at hand to reward good behavior to teach him commands. You can use gestures and verbal commands as long as you treat your dog when he performs the desired behavior.

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. This 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. If he has had a long day running in circles or chasing squirrels, he is likely very tired and sleepy. However, if your dog is yawning too much and having trouble falling asleep, you should consult your veterinarian.

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