DogSpeak: Dog yawning, translated

Your dog may occasionally yawn when he is tired. Your dog will also yawn throughout the day when presented with new situations, such as being approached abruptly or startled, having something or someone directly in his face, being picked up, when hugged, or when he’s unclear as to what is going on or what’s expected.


A yawn and a lip lick can be calming signals

Remember, dogs primarily use language to defuse conflict and tell others about their harmless intentions. They use DogSpeak when they are feeling conflicted or stressed in an attempt to neutralize the situation or calm themselves.

The yawn is actually one of the first “words” dogs display as very young pups. When picked up, most young puppies will let out a yawn as early as one day old.

Yawning is definitely one body cue that owners notice. They usually don’t understand why their dog is yawning though. When I searched for photos for this article, I started to type, “dog yawn,” into Google. It gave me a suggested list of 10 search terms. Below are a few:

Dawn yawning excessively.

Dog yawns a lot.

Dog yawn meaning.

You can see that many concerned owners have raced to their computer wondering why their dogs “seems so sleepy” all the time.

My own dog, when standing still on leash as I am chatting away with a neighbor (instead of walking briskly down the road) will let out a few yawns. She’s antsy. Perhaps the way my neighbor is speaking or standing makes her uneasy too. More than likely though, it’s that her brain is wrapped around MOVING and she is working to calm herself. I must say, I far prefer her efforts and yawns to my toddlers, who swing on my arms asking, “Mommy, can we go?!”

In group settings, you’ll see dogs offer a lot of yawning in obedience classes and obedience trials. They know something should and could be happening, but aren’t sure when it will start and work to calm themselves in this setting.

Our two examples this week:

Luna is offering a few different body language cues here which is normal. Dogs can offer multiple signals or chain them very tightly together. She’s got a yawn and lip lick going on at the same time.

The background on this situation: Luna is a bit confused as to why I would place her in a down stay and race to be as close to her as possible, as I am barking out to my husband, “Are you ready?” My husband is probably barking back, while laying in the grass with a camera pointing directly at Luna.

Luna is saying, “No one gave me the memo on this photo shoot. Why are you all barking at one another? Mom, why so snuggled up? There’s plenty of grass to go play with!”

Point being, there was a lot going on and all of it was out of context for her.

The cute puppy in the video below is clearly love and handled a lot. In the first shot, she was rolled to her back on someone’s lap with a camera directly in her face, and in the second shot she’s being held with a camera in her face. This puppy goes through a lot of in-your-face love. Remember dogs do not always understand our displays of affection as just that. Being held tightly and rolled onto your back is not viewed as nurturing. The pup simply finds all this love a bit overwhelming.

Remember, some dogs are very tolerant and forgiving. It’s very likely that this dog will just spend a life time being handled in this way. Sweet pup and sweet owner, but some miscommunication going on.

Looking for more ways to better understand and communicate with your dog? Check out all of Colleen’s DogSpeak columns…