Why Dogs Yawn, and When to Pay Attention

Most dog owners are familiar with seeing their dogs yawn. However, most owners don’t really consider why dogs yawn or what their yawning is a sign of. 


Most of the time, this is alright because most causes of yawning are relatively innocuous. However, there are times when a yawn is a sign that something is wrong. In these cases, you need to know what additional signs to look for. 


This article will answer why dogs yawn? It will explain the causes and when you need to pay attention to signs that something is wrong. 

1. They Are Tired

One reason dogs yawn is exactly the same as the reason humans yawn. They are simply tired. This could be from a lack of sleep, low-quality sleep, or a buildup of exhaustion. 


You can look for other signs to tell that this is why they are yawning. If they are yawning while also panting more often, seeming less energetic, and showing general symptoms of tiredness, this is likely the culprit. 


If this is the case, you need to do something about it. The first thing you should do is make sure they are getting enough time to sleep. Dogs need more sleep than humans, with most dogs requiring around 11 hours of rest. So, if you are waking your dog up early and running them ragged all day, change your schedule to allow your dog more time to sleep. 


You should also look into the quality of your dog’s sleep. If they are sleeping on an uncomfortable bed, swap it out for a comfortable or orthopedic option. If they are experiencing pains that are causing them to get less sleep, take them to a vet to have the issue checked out. 


Related: Lethargy in Dogs: Recognizing the Signs and Seeking Care

2. They Are Stressed

Dogs experience stress just like humans do. Just like humans, stress for dogs ends up affecting their health and behaviors. 


You can tell your dog’s yawns are from stress if they come alongside other signs of stress. These include excessive: 


  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Shaking
  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Licking
  • Drooling


If you determine that your dog is indeed suffering from stress, you should do something about it. Try to get to the root cause of their stress. It could be due to a fear they have that is constantly being triggered, something nearby that is too stimulating, or any number of other issues. For example, many dogs are afraid of fireworks and will need extra attention on the Fourth of July. Finding the source of the stress and eliminating it will help your dog stay healthy. 

3. They Are Frustrated

Dogs can experience frustration. When they do, they tend to yawn as a result. 


This is most often seen when you are training your dog. If you keep trying something over and over again and your dog doesn’t seem to be getting it, they may yawn as a result. 


The good news is that this isn’t a serious sign. You may just want to take a break from training for a few moments so that they have a chance to shake off their frustration. Otherwise, it could make the training less effective. 


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4. They Are Bored

Like humans, dogs yawn when they are bored. This is an involuntary reaction to the lack of something stimulating. This occurs because dogs are wired for work and engagement, so not having anything to do leaves them without purpose.


You can fix this by providing them with something to do. Going for a walk, playing with them, giving them a new toy, and anything else you regularly do with them all helps with this. If their yawns are due to boredom, they will likely disappear as soon as they are engaged. 

A tiny poodle sitting down next to a child

5. They Are Happy

Yawning isn’t always a sign that something is wrong. It can also be an expression of happiness. Dogs do this to communicate trust and signal that they are bonding with you. They may even do it when they expect you are about to do something they enjoy together. 


To tell that the yawn they show is a happy yawn, look for other signs of happiness. A wagging tail, an excited expression, and happy body language all indicate the yawn is a positive one. 


Related: 5 Ways To Show Your Pet You Love Them

6. They Are Trying to De-Escalate

One of the more unique reasons dogs yawn is to de-escalate a situation with another dog. When two dogs meet, and one is being aggressive, the other dog may yawn in response. This shows the other dog that they are not interested in being aggressive and are willing to let the situation simmer down. 


Regardless of how the other dog responds, you may want to remove your dog from the situation. There is no guarantee that the other dog won’t continue to escalate things. If they do so, it could be dangerous. So, move them away from the other dog as soon as possible.


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A dog yawns as it lays on the floor

When to Pay Attention to Dog Yawns

The types of yawns that are the most important to pay attention to are those coming from exhaustion and stress. For these yawns, you will want to determine why they are so tired or where their stress is coming from. You may be able to fix the situation on your own, but if the issue is serious, you will have to reach out to your dog’s veterinarian


Other yawns are less serious. Yawns from boredom and frustration are something you can address but not something you should seriously worry about. Meanwhile, happy yawns are something you should celebrate rather than worry about. 


If you're ever unsure about it, though, ask your vet. If you do this, try to bring a video or multiple videos of your dog yawning. They may not yawn while at the vet’s office, so having a video will give you something to show them. This can help them determine how serious of an issue you have. 

Understand Why Do Dogs Yawn

Dogs yawn for all sorts of reasons. Some reasons mean everything is alright, while others indicate something is wrong. Knowing the differences between these types of yawns can help you as a pet owner and can help your dog stay safe. 


Related: 6 Fun Activities To Do With Your Pet This Spring

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