Dogs yawn more often in response to owners' yawns
Dogs yawn contagiously when they see a person yawn, and even more so when that person is their owner, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. In previous research on this subject, it wasn’t clear if the dog’s response was a mild stress response or an empathetic response. The new research confirms it’s the latter.
For the study, pet dogs watched their owner or a stranger yawn, or mimic a yawn. The dogs yawned significantly more in response to their owners’ yawns than the strangers’ yawns, and also responded less frequently to fake yawns, which suggests they have the ability to yawn contagiously.
Researchers also measured the dog’s heartbeat, and found no significant differences, which makes it unlikely that their yawns were a distress response. Researchers say this means that dogs contagiously yawn in an emotionally connected way similar to humans.