Dog Research Reveals That Dogs Yawn In Empathy With Their Owners

Most dog owners have always know that their dogs have empathy, now there is a dog research study to back it up.

If you think your dog is yawning along with you when you are tired, you could very well be right.

A Japanese dog research study has found that dogs indeed do “contagious yawning” and that “man’s best friend” is able to sense human fatigue. In a possible show of empathy, dogs join their humans in a big, companionable yawn.

The study conducted at Tokyo and Kyoto universities and published in US science journal PLOS this week. The researchers found that dog’s yawn more often when it is their owner who is involved.


“Our study suggests that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally connected in a way similar to humans,” said Teresa Romero of the University of Tokyo who led the study.

The team measured the canine’s heart rate while observing their response to human yawning. She said this allowed researchers to rule out the possibility that the dog yawns were simply a stress response.

Two dozen dogs were observed to measure their reaction to both their owners and unfamiliar humans. The humans involved in the experiment also made other facial expressions to see if the dogs could sense the difference between these and genuine yawns.

“The occurrence of yawn contagion was significantly higher during the yawning condition than during the control mouth movements,” the study said, adding that “the dogs yawned more frequently when watching the familiar model than the unfamiliar one”.

Similar behaviour has been seen in primates including chimpanzees, it said, adding that contagious yawning in humans is associated with activity in the part of the brain responsible for feelings of empathy.

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