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Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Pet Him? 9 Surprising Reasons

Why does my dog yawn when I pet him?

Let’s be real:

It’s kinda weird (and funny) when your dog yawns when you pet him.

So why do dogs do this?

Here you’ll find out the answer. Keep reading to discover:

  • How dogs can use yawning as a ‘calming signal’.
  • 9 surprising reasons why your dog yawns when you pet him.
  • What research has to say about dogs and yawning (hint: dogs and humans are very similar in this aspect).
  • And more…

Why does my dog yawn when I pet him?

Reasons why your dog yawns when you pet them include: your dog being excited, stressed out, confused, tired, or trying to calm themselves down, showing non-threatening behavior and avoiding a conflict, communicating with other dogs, experiencing contagious yawning, or having a medical issue.

9 reasons why your dog yawns when you pet him

#1: Excitement 

Dog Meme Cookie

Excitement is one of the coolest reasons why your dog might be yawning.

But what makes them so excited?

You giving them attention of course!

How to recognize it?

You can recognize excitement yawns if your dog starts yawning prior to a walk. Or while doing a fun activity – playing tug of war with you, or fetch.

When a dog starts recognizing your routine before you take them out, they might start yawning even more. Dogs are observant and might learn that you grabbing your keys and taking a jacket means you two are about to go outside.

In this case more yawns equals more excitement.

Look at it this way – if you have to wait in a long line to do something you really love doing, chances are you’ll grow impatient the more and more you wait. That’s precisely how your dog feels.

And they show it by yawning 🙂

#2: Stress

This one is an unpleasant yet even more important reason of why your dog yawns.

Dogs are very sensitive and might sense a potentially stressful situation before it occurs. Such one is going to the vet.

Maybe there’s a certain pattern your dog recognizes. If you feel your dog is reluctant, you might want to reassure them everything’s gonna be okay by petting them.

But since they’re already stressed out, they’ll yawn as an expression of how they feel.

So, remember – such type of yawn after you petting them isn’t a sign they’re bored or tired but rather worried.

How to recognize yawning caused by stress?

It usually lasts longer, and is more intense than a regular yawn caused by tiredness.

Apart from that, if your dog is pacing around the house or licking you excessively with emitting a lot of saliva, that means they’re very stressed.


Here’s what you can do to make your dog feel better:

  • Cuddle with them.
  • Offer them a treat.
  • Give them a favorite toy.
  • Put them on their comfort blanket.
  • Take them for a walk or let them run.
  • Remove them from the stressful situation.
  • Play with your dog so they can relieve their anxiety.
  • Use a soothing tone of voice when speaking to them.

#3: Yawning as a calming signal 

And now that we’ve covered yawning as a reaction to excitement or stress, it’s time to jump to how dogs use yawning as a calming signal.

In other words – they yawn to calm themselves down. Or a situation. Or even you if they sense you’re mad at them for some reason.

You can tell whether your dog’s yawn is a calming signal by looking for additional signs that accompany it, such as:

  • Licking their lips.
  • Scratching themselves.
  • Looking away (having ‘whale eyes‘).

Your dog will revert to yawning as a calming signal when they’re frustrated. It basically translates as…

‘Enough is enough!’

If your dog tends to yawn and duck their head while you attempt to pet them, you might as well stop.

This indicates they’re not comfortable being petted and are trying to ‘deal with it’.

Just look at it this way – some dogs enjoy petting and others don’t. Take into consideration the needs and preferences of your individual dog.

When in doubt, simply stop petting your dog for several days. Then wait and see whether they’ll initiate petting.

Suggestion: Maybe you can try cuddling with your dog instead.

#4: Confusion

Yeah – sometimes dogs get confused and need to unwind.

A dog might feel confused when they receive mixed signals. Such thing can happen during training.

Sometimes your dog will not be able to pick up on certain commands.

Have you noticed your dog tilting their head to one side when you say a new verbal command?

That’s because they have no clue what you want them to do.


Always have a treat ready in your hand for certain occasions. This will motivate your dog to try harder to solve the mystery of what it is you want from them.

After they perform the command, you could pet them but nothing works as well as a treat.

Last but not least – refrain from scolding your dog if they don’t do something as you expect them to or not as fast as you’d like them to.

Tip: Just be patient. Also, don’t forget to ‘navigate’ your dog on how to do what you want them to by using both appropriate tone of voice and body language.

#5: Yawning as a way to handle conflict

Sometimes dogs are confronted with unexpected situations.

One example is when your dog is nibbling on an item (could be your sock) and then you come, and take it away from them.

So, although they’re puzzled, they might want to suppress their instinctual reaction. What is that?

Well, their instinct could tell them to hold on to the ‘toy’ and even bite. But your loving furry friend might not want to take such drastic measures.

What does that leave them with? Yawning.


If you notice that your dog is chewing on something they shouldn’t be, don’t be too quick to pull it out of their mouth (unless it’s not something poisonous of course).

Instead, try with a command such as ‘release’ or ‘drop it’.

In order for this to work you should’ve first taught them the command to let go. Once you have, feel free to use it in such situations.

It will give clarity to your dog and show what you expect of them. This is not as startling as you raising your tone of voice (please don’t) and taking the item away from them.

#6: Communicating with other dogs

Interestingly enough, calming signals such as yawning come in handy when your dog communicates with other canine fellows.

You can witness your dog putting a calming signal into action when they meet another dog.

Calming signals upon introduction serve to show the other dog that the canine who’s giving them means no harm.

#7: It’s contagious 

You know how we humans are prone to yawn after we see a person yawn?

This has to do with our ability to feel empathy for another living being.

When it comes to animals, this doesn’t apply to all though. Chimpanzees are capable of exhibiting contagious yawning. But turtles, for example, are unable to yawn just because they saw a fellow turtle do it.

But what about dogs?

Well, according to a research ran by the University of Tokyo, it turns out that dogs could yawn because they see us do it. In other words, it is contagious for them as it is for us.

What’s more, the results of the study show us that the more attached a dog feels to their human, the more likely the dog’s yawning is a result of empathy.

#8: Having a medical issue

Maybe you’ve noticed your dog yawning while you pet them.

But what if yawning doesn’t stop there?

If they do yawn quite often and there are other accompanying signs, your dog might have a medical issue.

How to recognize it?

This would be the case if they yawn, stretch forward and burp.

Then this would mean that your dog is likely experiencing abdominal pain.

Suggestion: Pass this info on to your vet so they examine the dog and rule out any possible medical conditions.

#9: Tiredness

Sleepy Dog Meme

I know, I know – I saved the plainest reason for last. While this is the most common explanation that would come to mind, when you see your dog yawn, it’s not always the case.

But sometimes it’s just as simple as that.

And now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with the other more peculiar reasons, it’s time to tackle this one.

You might also want to read: 9 reasons why your dog is so calm (all of a sudden)

How to recognize it?

Do you have a reason to believe that your dog is tired?

If the answer is ‘yes’ because you two have been to the dog park, and the walk has been fun and games, then yawning is one of the most natural things your dog can do after they get back home.

Tip: Always take in account the amount of exercise your dog has had throughout the day. That way you’ll be able to tell if yawning is more due to tiredness or another reason.