We’ve all heard that yawning is contagious, but have you ever tried it with your dog? Any dog owner could tell you that dogs are sensitive and perceptive animals that often mirror the behavior and even the appearance of their owners.
Delving deeper into the psyche of man’s best friend, scientists studying animal cognition at the University of Porto in Portugal have revealed that dogs are just as susceptible to “contagious yawning” as humans are. In addition to humans and canines, contagious yawning has also been observed in other primates such as gelada baboons, stump-tail macaques, and chimpanzees.
There is certainly a time to yawn and a time not to yawn — during an important meeting or lecture while sitting on the front row is decidedly an inopportune moment, so we often choose to yawn in solitude or around family or friends. Again, dogs mimicked human tendencies and are more prone to yawn when their owners and other familiar humans yawned instead of when a stranger yawns.
As test subjects, researchers used 29 dogs that had lived for at least 6 months with their owners. The dogs were kept in their homes and around a familiar person, but they could not see their owners. The dogs were then exposed to recordings of their owners and unfamiliar people yawning. The ground breaking results? Dogs yawned five times more often when they heard their humans’ recorded yawn.
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