Q & A: Yawning puppy

Q: What is the difference between a tired yawn and a yawn when my puppy is uncomfortable?

A: The difference is in the context and what the rest of the body is doing. Yawning has multiple reasons depending on the situation and how your dog is feeling physically and emotionally.

If your dog has just woken up and stretches out with a yawn, this is not a stress signal.

If you (or another dog) is interacting with your dog and he does a yawn (mostly coupled with a head turn), this is a distance-increasing signal – your dog would be asking for a pause in the activity, or he is uncomfortable and requesting space.

Yawning can be a self-calming behaviour if the dog is over-aroused (over-excited or anxious); requesting space; or attempting to try and calm the other person/dog down.

So, it’s all about the situational context. You need to look at the dog as a whole and observe other behaviours to ascertain the reason behind the yawn.

Samantha Walpole, behaviourist

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