Why Do Dogs Yawn and What Does It Really Mean?

dog opening mouth

Yawning is something humans and dogs have in common, but do they mean the same thing? While an owner may yawn because they're tired, bored or saw someone else yawn, dog yawns have even more potential meanings. Here, we explore reasons why dogs yawn.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Yawns?

Just because we can't speak with our dogs doesn't mean we can't communicate. Just as we can read a dog's body language, we can interpret their yawns to understand what a pup is trying to tell us. Your dog's yawn could mean:

"I'm Not a Threat"

In the language of dogs, the yawn is often used as a calming signal when meeting a new dog or other animals. If your pet yawns while displaying other signals such as lick lipping, averting their gaze or walking slowly, they’re likely greeting another dog and telling them, "I'm not a threat — no need to be on high alert." Dogs may also yawn in combination with tense muscles, tucking their tail or holding back/flattening their ears to help diffuse a potentially threatening situation.

"I'm Confused or Running Out of Patience"

Yawns can also be a way of saying, "I've had enough and my patience is running out." For example, in a training session, your dog may yawn to deal with frustration and to give themselves a mental break. A yawn could indicate that your dog is confused about what you’re training them to do. The next time your dog yawns while you're training them, try showing that you got the message by reducing your intensity or changing your approach.

"I'm Stressed"

Sometimes dog yawns indicate negative emotions such as stress, uneasiness and situational anxiety. Your dog may yawn in rapid succession to try to calm themselves in stressful situations such as:

"I Can't Wait!"

A yawn may indicate anticipation, too. Sometimes dogs yawn in anticipation of something enjoyable, such as a walk. This could be a way of controlling their enthusiasm or even preparing for physical activity by stimulating the nervous system with increased blood flow to the brain.

"I Just Saw Another Dog Yawn"

Sometimes yawns are contagious! Just as humans can "catch yawns," your dog may have seen other dogs yawn and followed suit.

"I'm Tired"

Of course, there are times when a yawn is, well, just a yawn. Dogs get tired, just as we do!

How Do I Know If My Dog Is Yawning Excessively?

Not all yawns are created equal. If your dog frequently looks scared or yawns excessively as an involuntary reflex — enough that fear, stress and anxiety seem like part of your pet's daily life — it may be time to seek out a professional trainer or veterinary advice. They can help identify your dog's signs of anxiety and potential triggers, and help train your pet to overcome their fear.

The best way to understand the real meaning of your dog's yawn is to look at the situation. If your dog yawns while stretched out comfortably on their bed, they're probably just tired. If you're training or playing with your dog and they yawn, your pet may be asking for a little break.

Pay attention to the context clues and other signs surrounding your dog's yawn and you’ll be translating their meaning in no time.

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