As one of the so called nutcases that treats their dogs like humans, and gives them emotions, I want to talk about something I read recently. It has to do with yawning. Yep, yawning, that thing we do that shows we are bored? Tired? Indifferent? I don’t know. But I do know, my dogs yawned too!! I used to think it was so cute. They both yawned but differently. When Boom yawned, it was with a tight mouth and a lick of the lips. When Bing did it, it was with a huge loose lipped breath and ended with a shake of his huge head!!! LOL.
So, it caught my eye, when I read an article about yawning. According to a new study from Japan and results from the Dognition citizen-science project, dogs may be even more connected to humans than people have realized. (I have no idea who those people are, cause me… and anyone I’m friends with, know that our dogs are our children and we bond with them the same way!! So there could never be a study to tell me we are more connected than we already are LOL! We love them, feed them, snuggle with them and think they can tell us anything and understand everything we tell them. They say we are using anthropomorphism, giving dogs emotions they don’t have, but I say they do have them and it’s being proved. More on that in my next blog.
But….Anyway, both studies show that dogs yawn contagiously, which is something humans do. It also stated that dogs that are bonded with people are more likely to yawn when their person does. Well, duh!! Just like my daughter… I mean my real daughter, not my dog daughter.
I remember a long time ago when I rescued one of my dogs, I had to hire a trainer. Bing was a street pup, surviving alone, knocking over and eating out of peoples garbage cans (they threw rocks at him) and growing up on the street (where I’m sure he was hurt by kids and maybe hit in traffic). When a rescuer finally caught him, (he kept jumping the fence into the guys yard and eating his dogs’ food then jumping back out). He had a collar growing into his neck and he acted like he was tough, and yet when I tried to walk him, traffic made him freeze, pee where he stood and violently shake till I could drag him from the noise. It was so sad. One of his worst things is you could see he wanted to bond with kids, he seemed to crave the attention, but if they made sudden moves, he freaked and snapped at them. Never really did any damage or harm, just scared the crap out of them and me! Freaked me out. And he never really lost that fear of kids till he was too old to remember his street life. He would be around them, rub on them love the attention then boom, snap and want them gone.
So he had issues! He ended up being the best sweetie ever, but back to the point. While we were working with him and the trainer, he would yawn a lot. And I mean all the time. The trainer would give him a command, he would look at him, yawn and not do it for quite a while. Then voila, he did it. The trainer said he was thinking. That when a dog is trying to figure things out, they would yawn. It sounded weird, but truth be told, he did it a lot. He would sit, look at me and yawn, then do what he was told.
So I’m thinking, is he so smart, he’s thinking or is he so dumb he doesn’t know what to do, or is he so bored he is just yawning cause he’s ready to fall asleep and doesn’t give a crap what I’m saying? It turns out for us, he really seemed to be thinking. It was like he was stalling for time while he thought. I really kinda forgot about all that cause I got so used to the fact that he yawned. Both my dogs yawned. I think all dogs yawn. But Bing did it a lot while we were together. It just made me laugh.
But, now I read this article and I wonder how much of this is true? They say yawning is one of the more bizarre biological functions in humans and other animals. No one knows why we do it. Some say it increases oxygen. Others say it is linked to controlling brain temperature. Maybe it stretches the mouth and throat, or keeps us alert. Personally, when I yawn, I am anything but alert….so maybe that is what it’s for, you’re tired, bored, you yawn, ya get some oxygen, you can stick around a little longer and listen to the thing or person that was making you tired in the first place.
The strangest thing about yawning is that it’s contagious. Seeing or hearing someone yawn, or even reading about yawning often leads to an irresistible urge to yawn. And it’s not random. You’re more likely to yawn contagiously when someone you love yawns, than when a stranger yawns. But, really, think about it. If I see someone yawn, I don’t care who it is, I yawn!!
There is actually a test to see if your dog yawn contagiously? Try the test here.
Most people have this wonderful quality called empathy. Thank God. It is one of the best things a person can have and almost everyone does. We are acutely susceptible to the emotions of others. People are more likely to laugh when they see someone laughing, (which is a good thing for me as a comic, ya want that laughter to spread! That’s why an empty showroom is a total drag) seriously, that’s where the line “can ya run around the room and pretend you’re a crowd” came from. Working to a small crowd that isn’t laughing is a killer. Gee, not because I’m not funny!! Anyway, empathy, it’s what makes people cry if they see others sad or in distress. It’s why watching movies is so emotional, you relate and empathize. Empathizing encourages good behavior and prevents harmful acts. It is not something that is taught, it is present even in young kids and grows and strengthens throughout life. Very different from sympathizing, which is feeling sorrow or sorry for someone else. Empathy is a bonding and in fact, without empathy, you possibly have developmental problems.
So, back to it, according to the study, people have “contagious yawning”, yawning after seeing someone else yawn. And it is positively correlated to empathy scores. An interesting question is whether animals are also capable of empathy. They say this is difficult to measure, since animals can’t tell us how they are feeling. But because contagious yawning is related to empathy scores in humans, there have been several researchers who have used contagious yawning as a measure of empathy, at least in a basic form, in animals.
Besides primates, only two species have been shown to yawn contagiously. One of them, perhaps not surprisingly, is the dog (the other is the Australian budgerigar).Whatever the hell that is. (I guess it’s time to google) When did google become a verb? It is, ya know!
Back on point….So in their original studies they got conflicting results as to whether or not dogs yawned contagiously. And when dogs did yawn contagiously, researchers questioned whether this was a sign of stress, rather than empathy.
Now when I think back on Bing yawning, I don’t know if maybe that whole “I’m thinking” thing was “I’m stressed now cause I’m not sure what you want me to do” Which makes the yawning while thinking after you are being taught a command you don’t know make sense! (Did that sentence even make sense?)
However, a new study from Teresa Romero and colleagues from the University of Tokyo found that not only do dogs yawn contagiously, but their yawning does NOT seem to be a sign of stress — and, like humans, they are more likely to yawn with someone they are emotionally bonded to. Now, that makes me feel better. I wasn’t stressing my dog, I was bonding with him!!!!
In that study, the researchers had 25 dogs watch the yawning of either their owner or a stranger. A heart-rate monitor measured the levels of stress in the dogs. Just over half of the dogs yawned contagiously (54 percent). Dogs yawned more frequently when their owner yawned, showing that the emotional connection between dogs and their owners produces a stronger response. There was no significant increase in heart rate in the dogs during the experiment, so the dogs’ yawning did not seem to be stress related. Yay!!!!
So another group, Dognition, a website that helps you find the genius in your dog, did a study too. And of the 250 participants in the beta program, 20 percent of the dogs yawned. The difference between the two studies was likely due to a slightly different method of examining individual yawning (the Romero study recorded dogs 5 minutes after the human yawned, while participants in Dognition recorded 2 minutes after the owner yawned). Although, I don’t know about the dogs, but I yawn as soon as someone starts yawning in front of me.
Also, in Dognition, there was a link between the yawn test and a dog’s cunning scores, which measures how dogs use their owners’ attention to deceive them. Dogs that were skilled at reading their owner’s body language, and at using this information to their own advantage, were also more likely to yawn.
So now I know, Bing wasn’t stressed, he was trying to trick me!!!! Into what, I’m not sure but he was cunning!!! LOL.. Actually, I’m sure whatever he was trying to make me do….it involved food. My Dog Was a Pig!!! As am I!! Again, we so bonded! Me, my dog, and pasta!! Wow, I think I have the name of my next book!! Next book? I haven’t written the first one?
Till next time. Kisses, Hugs, and Yawns!!!!!