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Dogs Yawn in Response to Owners' Yawns

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Aug 08, 2013 08:17 AM EDT
Dog yawm
(Photo : REUTERS/China Daily)

Dogs yawn when they see their owners yawning, a new study found.

We have all experienced that moment when one person yawns and everybody in the group starts yawning. Experts say that group yawning is empathetic and might help increase vigilance of the entire group.

Now a new study, conducted by Teresa Romero and colleagues at University of Tokyo, has shown that even dogs begin yawning after seeing their masters yawn.

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In the study dogs watched their owners or strangers yawn or make facial expressions that mimic yawning. Researchers found that dogs were more likely to yawn when their masters yawned when compared to strangers.

Also, the dogs would yawn only when the owners yawns were real, showing that the animals could pick up cues from their human companions.

Other research has shown that dogs yawn along with their owners, but it wasn't clear if this behaviour was to reduce stress or if the dogs were really emphatic with humans. The study showed that the heartbeat of the dogs didn't change when they yawned in response to their owners' yawns, which shows it wasn't a distress response.

"Our study suggests that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally connected in a way similar to humans. Although our study cannot determine the exact underlying mechanism operative in dogs, the subjects' physiological measures taken during the study allowed us to counter the alternative hypothesis of yawning as a distress response," said Romero in a news release.

The study is published in the journal PLOS One.

A recent study had shown that dogs have the ability to understand human perspective. Another study had found that humans and dogs share a deep relationship, much like a parent-child relation.

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