You might have even noticed that dogs sometimes yawn after getting a good night sleep. This could indicate that they are not tired. This raises the question: can dogs fake yawning? If so, why bother?
This isn’t a difficult question. You’ll soon find out that yawning plays an important role in canine communication. You can also teach your dog to yawn when you command it.
Signs of a Dog Faking a Yawn
You can expect your dog to yawn when they are tired. If they yawn when they are tired, then why? You could argue that if a dog yawns if they’re not tired, it’s a fake yawn. After all, why would they need to yawn when they aren’t tired?
Dogs will yawn out of fear for many reasons. You might think they are mimicking your behavior to make it easier for them to be accepted. Another reason dogs yawn is to be anxious or afraid of being judged. Watch the dogs waiting in a vet’s office to see if they are yawning. It would be quite surprising if they didn’t yawn.
Fake yawns can be affected by the dog’s temperament, stress response, and even their personality. A submissive, scared dog will be more inclined to fake yawns and lick their lips rather than an aggressive, feisty dog that is trying to protect themselves.
You should consider their activity, such as whether they have been sleeping or running for a while. Also, their current circumstances. Are they able to relax in front of the TV? Or are they frantic at the vet? This will help you make a decision.
History of Fake Yawning and Dogs
Much of our knowledge of yawning (fake or otherwise) comes from the field of human psychology. It’s believed that the humble act of yawning was an evolutionary adaptation to help ensure the survival of the species. In fact, infectious yawning is an example of empathy, where one person witnesses the actions of another and repeats it out of empathy. Thus, yawning helps to bond a group together.
Additionally, yawning increases blood flow to the brain and helps with alertness. Strangely, yawning can help a person prepare for flight or fight when they are under threat. Even though they are not tired, others around them pick up on their actions and yawn.
This helps to unify the group and increase their awareness of the world around them. This could be the difference between being able to recognize a dangerous situation and not.
Dogs are as likely to yawn like people if they do not yawn out of fatigue.
Science of Dogs and Fake Yaawning
Don’t be deceived! You may think yawning in dogs (and people!) is all about being tired, but psychologists tell is this is not the case. There is considerable knowledge about the science of yawning from the human field, and as it happens dogs are no different.
Psychologists devise observational tests that place people in a room together and then make a fake yawn to prove their point. The fake, planted yawn spreads quickly throughout the room. It is interesting that people who score high on empathy tests are more likely to pick up the yawns and repeat them.
Repeating the yawn signals that you understand the other person and are sympathetic to them by repeating it. This may be why our canine companions yawn when they are stressed or anxious. It is a cry for help. This is a signal to others that they are not threatening anyone and that they are feeling uncomfortable.
These findings are supported by MRI scans showing people yawning while they’re lying. These scans reveal that certain brain areas light up which are involved with the processing of past memories or empathy. The fake yawn can be seen as acknowledging that the other person is in a difficult situation.
How to train a dog to fake yawning
Whilst you can’t tell a dog to fake yawn, it is possible to put the action on cue.
You need to pay attention when your dog yawns. If this happens, mark it immediately and reward it. This is possible with clicker training, which allows you to click on the dog’s yawns immediately. The click is a sign that a reward is due. Once the dog has been trained, the dog logs the information. “Hey, I yawn when I click, I get a reward!”
You will soon notice a dog who yawns when you click them enough. Encourage them to do this by saying “Yes!” in an excited voice. You can also add a cue word to encourage them to stop yawning.
When they open their mouths, say “Yawn”, and then click to reward. They’ll soon be able to associate the word “Yawn”, opening their mouths, and anticipating what they want.
This is a long process that requires patience and vigilance for the initial yawns. Your pet pal will learn faster if you capture it and praise it. This one will take some time to master, especially if your four-legged friend isn’t prone to yawning.