Aug 7, 2008


G'day, Dog Lovers

I stumbled across an interesting scientific study this afternoon which found that dogs watching a person yawn repeatedly will yawn themselves. So...just like yawns seem to be so contagious from human to human, they can spread from human to dog.

Apparently, researchers claim this copying activity suggests that canines are capable of empathising with people. The research team (led by Dr Atsushi Senju) from Birkbeck College, University of London, wondered whether dogs - that are very skilled at reading human social cues - could read the human yawn signal, and set out to test the yawning capabilities of 29 canines.

From the BBC: 'The team created two conditions, each five minutes long, in which a person - who was a stranger to the dog - was sat in front of the animal and asked to call its name. Under the first condition, the stranger yawned once the dogs had made eye contact with them.

"We gave dogs everything: visual and auditory stimulus to induce them to yawn," Dr Senju, told BBC News. Under the second condition, the same procedure was followed, but this time the stranger opened and closed their mouth but did not yawn. This was a precaution to ensure that dogs were not responding to an open mouth, explained Dr Senju.

The team found that 21 out of 29 dogs yawned when the stranger in front of them yawned - on average, dogs yawned 1.9 times. By contrast, no dogs yawned during the non-yawning condition.
The researchers believe that these results are the first evidence that dogs have the capacity to empathise with humans; although the team could not rule out stress-induced yawning - they hope to in future studies. '

Pretty interesting stuff! Does your dog yawn when you do?

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