Is Yawning a Secret Dog Language?

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Have you ever wondered if your dog yawning means more than just nap time?

Have you ever yawned and then noticed your dog yawn shortly after? Most people have heard of the old wives’ tale that yawning is contagious. But guess what – Pupper could be trying to tell you something more.

In dog lingo, a yawn can be a sign of stress or heightened anticipation. A dog can let out a big yawn when they are overly excited. Since you know your buddy best, you will need to read all the context codes to understand what he is trying to tell you.

There are three main emotions your dog could be feeling. These are stress, excitement, and nervousness.  


Stress is probably the most likely emotion to bring on the yawns. For example, you are sitting in the waiting room at the vet’s office, who is now running 30 minutes behind schedule. If your dog is anything like Ryder, sitting still in one place (that isn’t our couch) is almost impossible.


Next time you are in this situation, take notice if your dog takes a big yawn. If they do, this is a red flag that they are in need of a timeout. Your dog is telling you that they have pretty much had enough. They just want to go home or get a move on with the day.


Over-excitement just like stress can give your dog added tension and anxiety. When they get over excited, like any other emotion, your dog needs to have an outlet for all the pent-up energy. A lot of times this comes out in a yawn. Does your pup know the word “walk” or “park”? You do ask him if he wants to go to the park, right? What normal dog mom doesn’t?

Picture this.

Right after you ask the infamous question and reach for the leash… your phone rings. It’s your mom. She’s a talker, but you have to answer. Since you mentioned your buddy’s favorite word, Doggo is now super excited and anxiously awaiting the trip out.

Do you ever notice that when he starts to just pace around, he lets out a big yawn?… Maybe even an audible one. When Ryder gets super antsy like this, he will let out a super high pitch squeal of a yawn. This is your dog’s way of saying, “Hey!? We are still going out, riiight!?!?” They are actually looking for a return yawn from you. Yawns are a sign of reassurance for your dog.


Basically, whenever your dog is looking for reassurance, his yawn can be his way of asking. Whenever there are multiple dogs playing together and some are a little rougher than another, pay close attention. Watch to see if any of them yawn to one another.

When one dog gets a bit nervous at the intensity of another, she will try to communicate her feelings by yawning. This signals to the other dog that they should either go play somewhere else or to return the yawn. Returning a yawn is a way the dog can acknowledge her nervousness and telling her they mean no harm. You can witness this a lot of times at the dog park. It is common for dogs to try to communicate especially to dogs they are unfamiliar with.  

So, how do I reassure my dog when they are unsure?

If your dog is showing signs of nervousness or unease, the best way to combat this is to take them out of the situation. If you are at the vet, tell the receptionist that you are going to take your doggo around the block. Taking them out of the stressful situation will allow them a good breather to calm down.

If you cannot leave the situation. Try to prepare yourself before you get into it. Make sure you have treats handy. I usually keep some in my car for Ryder. Try to distract your pup with something happy. You can also bring along a favorite toy. When you see signs that Pupper is starting to get uneasy, pull out the toy for a small game of tug.  

If you do not have any tangible distractions for them. Talk to your dog! Verbal reassurance can be just as successful. Your dog knows the tones in your voice. If you sound sure and calm, they will know. Also, remember if they look at you and yawn, yawning back is a “All is well.” in dog lingo. Go ahead, call me crazy —  I have been called crazy for much less than yawning at my dog.

Each dog is a bit different, and you will have to learn what works best for your little guy. Does your dog have a secret weakness? Something that is always a good distraction for them?

Start a howl and let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear some tips that you have for calming your pup.

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