Studies & Research
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Yawns Are Contagious!
Catch one from your dog.
Dog Yawns

A new study provides the first scientific evidence that dogs yawn in response to human yawns. The contagious nature of yawns has previously only been demonstrated in humans and other primates, but in a recent issue of Biology Letters, scientists Ramiro M. Joly-Mascheroni, Atsushi Senju and Alex J. Shepherd report that dogs can also “catch” human yawns.

The dogs in the study each spent five minutes with a human stranger. In these trials, the experimenter said the dog’s name; when the dog established eye contact, the experimenter gave a fake yawn, complete with vocalization. The experimenter continued doing this for five minutes, which resulted in 10 to 19 yawns, depending on how long it took to establish eye contact. In the control condition, the experimenter followed the same procedure, except that instead of yawning when the dog established eye contact, non-yawning, mouth-opening actions without vocalization were displayed. Of the 29 dogs in the study, 21 yawned in response to the experimenter’s yawns but none did so in the control condition.

Even reading or thinking about yawning can induce yawns, perhaps most notably among people with high levels of empathy. If you find yourself yawning right about now, take the opportunity to get your dog’s attention, yawn some more and see if your dog catches it.


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

Photography by Jolanta Stozek

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