Did you know? An individual may yawn around 28 times daily between waking up and going to bed. The reasons could be umpteen. They may be tired, bored, stressed, or have an underlying health issue.
Now let’s talk about your dog. You would be amazed to see your pup’s similarity in most behavioral traits. Yawning is one of them. Dogs, too, yawn due to a whole lot of reasons. These include being tired, getting bored, and feeling stressed.
What does your dog do when you pet him? Perhaps he draws closer to you or places his paw on your lap to reciprocate your love. But have you ever noticed your dog yawning the moment you pet him? Does he do it always or sometimes? Have you thought about the reason behind this behavior of his? There could be many factors causing this trait. Read on to know more.
Why Do Dogs Yawn When You Pet Them? 7 Possible Reasons
If your dog doesn’t respond positively to your affection, love, and yawns, it could offend and leave you worried. Right?
Well, it is important to know that yawning from your dog’s end doesn’t just mean he isn’t liking what you are doing. There are a lot more other reasons for it. Let’s analyze them one after the other.
1. To Show Their Excitement
Did you know dogs wouldn’t just yawn to express boredom or tiredness? They would do it even when excited to the core. In this aspect, dogs are the reverse of their human friends. They will have their jaws wide open and take a deep breath. In this way, they are preparing themselves for the action.
So, the next time when you pet them, if you see that they are responding with a yawn. Then, it may mean that they are excited to get your attention.
Yawning is a way to release their excitement and show you how impatient they are to get their share of love and cuddles.
You may notice a similar behavior when taking your dog for a walk or surprising him with his favorite treat.
An excited dog will not just yawn. It may show other signs as well. These include wagging its tail, keeping its body relaxed, and leaning close to you.
Hence, if your dog yawns whenever you are about to start any interesting activity, like petting him or even playing with him. Then, this signifies that he is giving his approval for the same.
2. As a Calming Signal
Dogs sometimes resort to yawning when they try to calm themselves or those around them when the situation is extremely stressful. Let’s explain this with a few examples.
Say, you’ve started a training regime, and you find your dog yawning in the middle of the session. What does that mean? It could be that your dog is exhausted and wants to signal his owner to give him a break. Excitement would certainly not be the reason, then.
Similarly, suppose he chewed up your wallet or accidentally peed on the plush rug. He knows he will have to face the music. When you give him your piece of mind, your dog will yawn. It’s his way of urging you to calm down.
Dogs differ from each other in personality. Some dogs are clingy, while a few like their own space.
Now, if you find your dog yawning when you pet it, it could be that your dog doesn’t want you to do the same.
So, if your dog doesn’t want to be petted, he will even show associated gestures like pushing your hand away using his paws. If you don’t follow his cues, he may get aggressive eventually. He may even withdraw himself from you. In such cases, it is better to stop petting him for now.
3. Perhaps They are Stressed
Stress and anxiety often trigger yawning, not just in dogs but in humans as well. So if your dog yawns when you pet him, does that mean he is stressed? It could be that something happened before you petted him. His yawning is a reaction to the previous incident.
For example, your dog just came from the vet’s place and still seems stressed. You pet him then to comfort him. But he yawns to vent his feelings of anxiousness created due to his experience. So, to explain it a little more, your petting hasn’t stressed him, but the vet’s visit has.
Here’s another possibility. You have adopted a dog from a shelter home. He needs to become acquainted with you better. The result could be that your coming close to him stresses him initially. He will let you know of his inconvenience through several gestures. One among them could be yawning when you try to get close to him.
So, give him the time. Once he has settled down in your home, he will also accept you joyfully.
Yawning isn’t the only symptom of stress. An anxious dog will react in several ways. He will pace up and down, bark or whine without reason, and even become stiff.
His state of mind can be revealed through his body language, also. A stressed dog would avoid eye contact with his owner. He may lick his lips frequently and have his ears and tail tucked.
Yawning due to stress will also appear intense and last longer.
4. Your Dog Could Be Confused
Humans have our ways of expressing confusion. Dogs aren’t an exception in this regard. So, if your pup is confused about something, it will be visible through his gestures and body language. They could get startled easily and may not even be interested in you or the treats you give them when confused.
So now you must be thinking, how can your dog get confused when you pet him? Well, do you pet him often or once in a while?
Another way to show that they are confused is through yawning.
You could even scratch his head lovingly, and he responds. But, this time, you chose to do something different. You want to hug your dog. He doesn’t understand this gesture, and out of confusion, he yawns.
If your dog is a new addition to your family, he may not understand your loving gesture. He might be bewildered, and hence the confusion.
It isn’t a good thing to scold a confused dog. It’s okay to hold back your affection for a while if your dog isn’t comfortable for the time being. Early socialization with positive reinforcements will help your dog bond well with you.
5. Yawning Is Contagious
Aren’t you tempted to do the same when you see your colleague yawning after lunch? Like humans, yawning is contagious in dogs as well. This fact has been established through several studies.
If your house has multiple dogs, the other could follow suit when one yawns as you pet them.
Your dogs are great mimics as well. They have the innate ability to imitate their human companions.
Did you know dogs can copy human behavior for around ten minutes since it happened? It has been brought to light through a new study.
Out of tiredness, you may have yawned quite a few times. This behavior inspired your dog, and he began imitating you as well. So, do you often pet your dog after returning from work?
6. Out of Boredom
If your dog isn’t exercised well, he wouldn’t be physically and mentally fit. It will make him bored. A bored dog will indulge in a whole lot of destructive activities. They are likely to become aggressive in the long run.
Your dog probably had nothing much to do throughout the day. You got home and started petting him to show your affection. As an instant reaction, he may yawn. That’s to tell you that he is bored.
A bored dog would do other things as well. It will act restless, sleep excessively, destroy and damage furniture, and overeat.
7. They are Tired and Sleepy
Do you reserve most of your affection for your pup at nighttime? Then there are reasons for your dog to yawn. After a long day, it’s time for him to sleep. The additional cuddles and pats from your end will make him feel more relaxed, causing him to yawn. It will even make him fall asleep quickly, especially if tired.
What Can You Do to Stop Your Dog From Yawning When You Pet Them?
There isn’t any remedy to stop your dog from yawning when you pet him. It is mostly behavioral. However, there are things you can do to eliminate problems that have triggered yawning, like stress, anxiety, and boredom.
1. Exercise Your Dog Well
Dogs differ in their exercise requirements depending on their size and energy level. Yet a sufficient amount of exercise is needed to keep them fit, physically and mentally. Daily walks and sufficient indoor and outdoor playtime will give them the perfect boost.
If your dog always has a job, he wouldn’t feel bored. If you aren’t there to give him company always, teach him to live in a crate when he is 8-12 weeks old.
He will eventually learn to accept his crate as his other world and not feel bored in your absence.
By keeping your dog busy, you can minimize boredom in him. So, if he yawns out of boredom, he won’t do so when he has his hands full.
2. Relieve Stress
If your dog shows signs of stress, you should try to relieve it. There are umpteen ways. The most important one is regular exercise.
Your dog is less likely to feel stressed when given sufficient physical stimulation. Also, you should understand what triggers your dog’s stress and eliminate the reasons.
If a dog park visit stresses him, take him elsewhere for now. He may need to be socialized or exposed to different people and situations.
When your dog is happy and contented, his stress and anxiety will be under control.
3. Respect Your Dog’s Feelings
It has nothing to do with controlling your dog’s yawning. Yet, when you understand it isn’t approving your action, you should respect its feelings and stop doing the same for now.
Does Yawning Mean Your Dog Has An Underlying Health Issue?
In most cases, yawning doesn’t denote anything harmful. But, if your dog is constantly yawning and shows other symptoms, it could indicate a serious health problem.
If any health issue triggers yawning, it will happen all the time, not just on occasions when you pet your dog.
If you also find your dog burping excessively and at the same time stretching his front legs out. Then chances are that he is suffering from abdominal pain. If that has got something to do with digestive issues, then immediate treatment is the need of the hour.
It could also be that something has gotten stuck in his mouth. It may seem he is yawning. But, in actuality, he is unable to close his mouth. It would help if you looked into his mouth in such cases to see what’s causing the trouble.
In such cases, you must contact a vet as soon as possible.
How does your dog yawn?
Dogs yawn in a way similar to humans. When yawning, they will have their jaw wide open. Then they will take a deep breath. Some would yawn noisily, producing a high-pitched sound. A few canines will yawn silently without making any sound.
What does it mean when your dog is yawning a lot?
It could mean he is stressed. Or, he may have a physical discomfort that needs immediate medical intervention. If the yawning is because of a health problem, your dog will show other signs too. These include twitching, pain, loss of appetite, restlessness, etc.
What to do when your dog yawns a lot?
If your dog yawns continuously, take him to a vet. First, you must identify if it is due to any medical condition. Suppose the medical conditions are ruled out. Then you need to identify the triggers causing the behavior. Once you find it out, try eliminating it at the earliest.
After reading this article, I hope you’ll not get offended the next time your dog yawns when you pet them. Remember that maybe your dog is excited about your company. Or your dog may be anxious. Once you know the reason, the onus lies on you to comfort your pup.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.