A Yawning Bond

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Yawning is catchy – and even man’s best friend is not immune.

For example, wolves have been shown to pass yawns from one another in a phenomenon known as “contagious yawning”. Horses do, too, but it occurs differently in dogs.

Different studies have found that pooches are more likely to open their mouths in a tired way after watching or hearing humans do it.

Even so, researchers are still investigating the exact purpose and cause of contagious yawning, especially what it means in terms of behavior and relationships.

While contagious yawning is considered “a hallmark of human empathy,” wrote Psychology Today, there are still questions about whether a yawn signals a connection between people and their pets.

“Am I socially bonded with my dog? How does my dog feel about me? Does my dog feel like I feel?” Brian Hare, director of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center,” told the Washington Post.

While a 2013 paper found that dogs yawned around twice as often after watching people they were familiar with than from watching strangers, another meta-analysis did not find evidence that contagious yawning in canines is associated with a familiarity bias or empathy.

Still, Hare noted that the behavior could be related to empathy, but science will need to “demonstrate it in a convincing way.”

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