Dogs yawn more often in response to owners' yawns than strangers

Aug 07, 2013
A yellow labrador retriver dog with pink nose. Credit: Wikipedia.

Dogs yawn contagiously when they see a person yawning, and respond more frequently to their owner's yawns than to a stranger's, according to research published August 7 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Teresa Romero and colleagues from the University of Tokyo.

Pet dogs in the study watched their owner or a stranger yawn, or mimic a yawning mouth movement, but yawned significantly more in response to their owners' actions than to the strangers' yawns. The dogs also responded less frequently to the fake movements, suggesting they have the ability to yawn contagiously. Previous research has shown that dogs yawn in response to human yawns, but it was unclear whether this was a response or an . The results of this study suggest the latter, as dogs responded more to their owners' genuine yawns than those of a stranger. The researchers observed no significant differences in the dogs' heartbeat during the experiments, making it unlikely that their yawns were a distress response.

Explaining the significance of the results, Romero says, "Our study suggests that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally connected in a way similar to humans. Although our study cannot determine the exact underlying mechanism operative in dogs, the subjects' physiological measures taken during the study allowed us to counter the alternative hypothesis of yawning as a distress response.

Explore further: Danish museum discovers unique gift from Charles Darwin

More information: Romero T, Konno A, Hasegawa T (2013) Familiarity Bias and Physiological Responses in Contagious Yawning by Dogs Support Link to Empathy. PLOS ONE 8(8): e71365. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071365

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Puppies don't pick up on yawns

Oct 23, 2012

Do you get tired when others yawn? Does your dog get tired when you yawn? New research from Lund University establishes that dogs catch yawns from humans. But not if the dogs are too young. The study, published in Springer's ...

Why yawning is contagious in bonobos

Nov 14, 2012

Being socially close to another bonobo is more likely to make bonobo apes yawn in response to the other's yawns, according to research published November 14 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Elisabetta Palagi ...

Fetuses yawn in the womb, according to new research

Nov 21, 2012

The 4D scans of 15 healthy fetuses, by Durham and Lancaster Universities, also suggest that yawning is a developmental process which could potentially give doctors another index of a fetus' health.

Recommended for you

Danish museum discovers unique gift from Charles Darwin

15 hours ago

The Natural History Museum of Denmark recently discovered a unique gift from one of the greatest-ever scientists. In 1854, Charles Darwin – father of the theory of evolution – sent a gift to his Danish ...

Top ten reptiles and amphibians benefitting from zoos

18 hours ago

A frog that does not croak, the largest living lizard, and a tortoise that can live up to 100 years are just some of the species staving off extinction thanks to the help of zoos, according to a new report.

User comments : 0