Yawning is a form of dog body language. When you see your dog yawning, there's a good chance he's trying to communicate with you. Learn what it means when your dog yawns and how to interpret it.
Yawning in Dogs
Yawning in dogs looks just like it does in humans—wide-open jaw accompanied by a big, deep breath. Some dogs will make a sound when they yawn, a high-pitched noise as they are exhaling, while other dogs will yawn silently.
While with people, we usually associate yawning with fatigue, when dogs yawn, it can sometimes also be a form of communication.
What Dog Yawns Mean
A dog yawning when it's waking up, as it's falling asleep, when it lays down, early in the morning or late at night is likely a signal that your dog is tired. Easy enough to understand!
Yawning is also a type of appeasement gesture; something also referred to as a calming signal. Dogs yawn to deflect a threat. If a person or another animal approaches a dog, that dog may avert his gaze and yawn. It's a dog's way of saying that he feels threatened or anxious, but that he is not going to attack. Dogs use this type of body language to avoid conflict.
Yawns can be a signal your dog is stressed. This would explain why your dog yawns more often in the car, at the vet, or during a thunderstorm. The yawns could be mixed with intermittent panting and whining.
What to Do If Your Dog Is Yawning a Lot
If it seems like your dog is tired, let them go to bed. Dogs like to sleep a lot! It's possible that they want to go to bed but you or someone else is in their sleep space. Be sure your dog has a place they can go that is quiet, safe, and theirs, where they can retreat and fall asleep without anxieties.
If it's not caused by sleep, look out for the things that could be causing anxiety. It could happen if two children are fighting close to where the dog is lying down, if a child hugs him, when someone scolds him, or in a variety of other stress-inducing situations. Being aware of what causes anxiety in your dog can help you prevent him from being exposed to those situations.
Romero T, Konno A, Hasegawa T. Familiarity Bias and Physiological Responses in Contagious Yawning by Dogs Support Link to Empathy. PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071365