I believe I may have caught multiple yawns from my dog. Is this possible?

Can yawning be transmitted across species from pets? The setting could be a couch in the living room, for example.


Yes! There have been several studies between dogs and humans for contagious yawning. Yawning is also a way for dogs to show stress.

Contagious yawning has also been seen in certain species of apes (i.e Bonobos, chimpanzees).

From PLOS:

The first study investigating contagious yawning in dogs showed that a high proportion of the subjects (72%) yawned after observing a human experimenter acting a yawn [22]. The authors argued that since dogs are unusually skilled at reading human social and communicative signals [27] there is the potential that dogs may also have developed the capacity for empathy towards humans, and thus being able to catch human yawns.

From the Biology Letters:

The yawning condition elicited yawns for 21 out of 29 dogs (one example is shown in figure 1), and no dogs yawned in the control condition (p<.001, McNemar's test; McNemar 1947). No yawns were observed during the interval between conditions either. On average, dogs yawned 1.9 times in the yawning condition (range, 0–5; see the electronic supplementary material, table). On average, it took 1 min 39 s for the dogs to yawn (s.d., 1 min 28 s; range, 5 s to 4 min 47 s), after the experimenter had presented 4.5 yawns (s.d., 4.4; range, 1–17).

A summary of the studies can be found at animalcogniton.org.


Yawning is contagious, but not in the same way that contagious diseases generally don't spread between species. Part of me feels that this is the reason you're asking whether it's possible or not :-)

Contagious yawning is a psychological effect (in the mind of whoever observes a yawn, and then involuntarily yawns himself). Whether you observe a human or a dog yawning doesn't really make a difference. You observe a yawn, and that triggers a yawn reflex.

I seem to remember reading a study that concluded that the yawn reflex even occurs by seeing the word "yawn", or having the act of yawning described in text (without explicitly calling it a yawn). It's likely that a reader uses their imagination to "see" a yawn, and thus is triggered to yawn himself.

The proof is in the pudding: I have yawned several times while writing this.


I had to come back nearly a year later to add this self-answer, because of how I happened upon the information:

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I also kind of have to wonder if it's possible that someone from that company (Snapple) read this thread before creating that bottle cap trivia? :)


I was just thinking about this. My cats won’t yawn after I yawn, or I haven’t gotten them to do it yet. They just look at me like they don’t know what I’m doing. But if one of them yawns, they all tend to yawn.

I have been able to get even the unfriendlinest cat I’ve known to wink at me. So that’s something.

Also, I have “caught” a yawn from one of them.

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