‘Dogs catch yawns from their sound alone, new research indicates. They also catch their owner’s yawns easier than those from others, supporting the theory that contagious yawns are empathy-based and emotional in nature, the researchers say.
“Unexpectedly, results showed an interesting interplay between contagion and social effects,” Karine Silva, of the Universidade do Porto in Portugal, and colleagues write in their study detailed in the July 2012 issue of the journal Animal Cognition. “Not only were dogs found to catch human yawns, but they were also found to yawn more at familiar than unfamiliar yawns.”
Sounds fascinating, but this is actually not new information.
In fact, there is a link between dogs (and other animals) yawning and the human smile.
When do you yawn? – When you are tired and want to go to sleep. Definitely not when you are angry and want to fight someone. Some feelings and emotions are mutually exclusive, yawning and feeling angry are prime examples.
So when an animal yawns, it’s a message saying ‘I am not going to fight you’. Because you can’t sleep and fight at the same time. right?
Overtime this has developed into a communication too so that when one animal yawns saying ‘I am not fighting you’, the other one yawns in return saying ‘me neither’.
This could be potentially a powerful and under-used tool to communicate comfort to a stressed or aggressive dog.
Quick – someone tell Justin Silver, then dog trainer on ‘Dogs In The City’!