Dog Yawning - What Does it Mean

Dog Yawning - What Does it Mean

Author WDF Staff | Last updated: Jul 28 2023


Understanding your dog’s behavior is one of the most important things you will have to do as a dog owner. This doesn’t seem so difficult for experienced dog owners, but new dog owners can be confused by some things their dog might do. Don’t worry! In time, you will get in tune with your dog, and you will understand what they want or need just by looking at them. However, nobody was born as an all-knowing, responsible dog owner. It is a process that will take time, and we all could use some help at the beginning.

One of these confusing dog behaviors is dog yawning. They seem to do it all the time. It is pretty clear why dogs yawn when it’s bedtime, but some dogs do it a lot more often. Dogs can yawn even when they are not tired, and, naturally, you would want to know why that is happening. You can also do a fun thing while reading this article - try not to yawn once. Let us know if you managed to do that.

Dogs wag their tail; that is not a big secret. You can read more about it here - Why do dogs wag their tails?

Why do dogs yawn?

Yawning is not fully understood; scientists still haven’t discovered the exact reason humans or dogs yawn. The most plausible theory to this day is - Yawning is a reaction to a lack of oxygen. Our dogs and our bodies do it to replenish the amount of oxygen we need. However, there is no scientific evidence backing that theory. Modern theories claim that dog yawning might be a sign of communication. Here are some of the possible theories about why dogs yawn;

Imitating humans

One of the theories about dog yawning claims that dogs yawn because they imitate their owners. You might have heard the expression “yawning is contagious,” and you can notice yourself yawning when someone else yawns. Even if you picture someone yawning, you might get the urge to yawn. Apparently, the same thing happens to dogs.

cocker puppy yawning in park

They might imitate their owners and yawn when they see their owners yawn. Dog behaviorists say it is a way of bonding and might be a sign of affection. The dog is letting you know they are relaxed and they fully trust you. It is their way of expressing empathy and love.


One of the most popular dog yawning theories says that dogs yawn to release stress. You can notice that type of behavior in situations dogs might find stressful. Keep an eye on your dog when you are preparing to leave your home, while you are training them, or going to a vet clinic. These types of situations might cause your dog a lot of stress, and one of the ways they try to relieve it is by excessively yawning.

dog yawn

Stress is similar to anxiety, and dogs can suffer from separation anxiety. It is a disorder that prevents your dog from feeling peaceful and content while being left alone. Separation anxiety will become an issue for dog owners whose dogs are used to always being around them. It is not an easy disorder to fix, but with patience and training, it can be done. Check out more information about separation anxiety here - Separation anxiety in dogs.


Yawning was noticed in wild wolves as well as in domesticated dogs. Scientists and behaviorists believe it might be a sign of pacification. When faced with aggressive dogs, peaceful dogs will yawn to show no interest in fighting or bickering about anything. The yawn will demonstrate a complete lack of interest. The yawning dog will communicate their pacifist mood and avoid trouble. This is not considered a submissive move but rather a sign of pacification.

dog yawning

In the wild, dominant wolves and pack leaders might yawn when faced with submissive or scared pack members. They will let nervous members know they will not hurt them. This type of yawn has the same meaning as letting aggressive dogs know they are not interesting. It is a canid’s way of letting them know, “Relax. I am not interested in you. I won’t hurt you, and I don’t want any trouble.”

There is another unusual dog behavior that can confuse dog owners - twitching. If you want to know more about it, check out this article - Why do dogs twitch in their sleep?

Contagious yawn

Another dog yawning theory suggests they are simply copying their fellow dogs. The “yawn is contagious” theory is not unique to humans; dogs seem to experience it too. You might notice your dog yawning simply because they observed other dogs doing it. The theory says it is the same as copying humans; it is a sign of empathy.

dachshund yawning

Tired or bored

The most common reason dogs yawn is because they are tired or bored. If you look at your dog before it’s their bedtime, you will notice them yawning. It works the same as with humans - when we are tired and ready for sleeping, we yawn. The same goes for yawning after we wake up. However, scientists are still not sure why we do it before sleeping or after waking up.

Another reason dogs might yawn is that they are bored. These types of yawns can be noticed while training. When the dog is getting bored of repetitive training, they will yawn to demonstrate their boredom. If you notice such behavior, you should adapt your approach and change the training method slightly.

Now you know why your dog might be yawning and what that behavior means. The next time you see them yawning, you might understand what is going on and help them if they are feeling stressed or anxious.

World Dog Finder team

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