Yawning is contagious not only between humans, but dogs can also catch a yawn, if sometimes reluctantly. According to recent research, the response of dogs appears to be due to a sense of empathy with their owners.
Dogs are man's best friend and dogs like to imitate and respond to what their owners' want.
Dogs aim to please, and they carefully monitor the body language of humans. Dogs are remarkable perceptive. Find out more about how dogs can catch a yawn from you.
About 60% of adults are vulnerable to contagious yawning and the prevalence increases as people get older. Once again it appears to be a compulsion, as many of those that respond express reluctance to yawn when they don't want to.
Researchers in Japan have confirmed that dogs follow what humans do.
You can even fake a yawn to make your dog yawn. Contagious yawning also occurs in budgerigars, chimpanzees and baboons.
But this contagion only occurs between members of the same species.
There are many theories but no definitive proof of why humans and animals yawn.
Yawning does seem to increase when you are tired, but yawning occurs at other times as well.
It does not appear to be due to lack of oxygen per sec, but it may be associated with shallow breathing causing the air in the lower parts of the lung to stagnate.
Yawning also increases with boredom, but you will often see athletes and sports professionals yawning just before a match and they are unlikely to be bored.
It may have something to do with cooling down the brain. It is also more prevalent in winter.
The obvious point is that once someone yawns the room full of people is likely to yawn as well as it is definitely contagious.
Copy-cat yawning is also more frequent among people that know each other well.
This supports the notion that contagious yawning to is a social thing, linked to empathy, rather than a physiological response. Laughing is also contagious.
To study yawning in dogs researchers fitted 25 dogs with heart rate monitors to observe what happened when they saw a human yawn.
The results or experiments of the response of dogs when people yawned were:
If you yawn in front of a cat, their response is akin to "Get Over It". If yawning is contagious among animals of the same species and is triggered by seeing another animal yawn why don't animals respond in this way?
It appears that dogs are very skilled at reading human behavior and body language, and that the dogs simply imitating humans. Or possibly, dogs see humans as similar to their own kind, and yawn when they see a human yawn, just like they do when they see another dog yawn.
Some other observations about yawning in dogs are:
The conclusion from the research study eliminated stress or anxiety as the cause of the yawning response.
The researchers suggested that dogs yawn in empathy with humans as part of the unique bond between dogs and humans since domestication.