Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Cuddle or Pet Him?

Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Cuddle Him

You’ve seen it happen almost every time you pet them or right in the middle of a cuddling session — your dog yawning out of the blue. If you’ve been trying to figure out why your dog yawns whenever you cuddle or pet them, I’ve outlined it all below.

So, why does your dog yawn when you cuddle or pet them? 

Most of the time, yawning when being petted or cuddled is a dog’s way of communicating. If your dog often yawns whenever you pet or cuddle them, it could mean many things: they are overexcited, tired, confused, stressed out, relaxed, or uncomfortable, among other reasons.

There’s more you need to know. Continue reading as I take you through all the possible reasons behind your dog’s yawning habit during a petting or cuddling session. 

Dog yawning explained: 8 surprising reasons why your dog yawns when you pet or cuddle them

As a dog owner, you’ll agree that nothing quite beats the feeling of cuddling with your dog or showing them affection by petting them.

And even during these intimate moments, our dogs still manage to pull odd surprises — like letting out a loud yawn suddenly.

If you often experience this with your dog, you’re not alone. A lot of dog parents are far too familiar with that awkward moment when their dog randomly yawns while being petted or cuddled. It’s a common dog behavior since dogs can’t speak to tell us what they feel.

Yawning is one of the few ways that dogs verbalize their thoughts. 

Why does my dog yawn when I cuddle him?

So, if your dog yawns when you pet or cuddle them, they are trying to tell you something. The big question is, what exactly? Let’s see:

1. Your dog is excited

Yawning when excited is unheard of in the human world. To us, yawning is associated with the not–so–pleasant reasons — hunger, boredom, and fatigue.

But in the dog world, things are different. Yawning due to excitement is a real thing. 

Nothing matters more to your dog than spending quality time with their favorite human — you! It makes them super excited because they know they have your full attention.

So when you pet or cuddle your dog, and they yawn, it could simply be because they’re excited.  

They’re basically saying, “I’m happy to be right next to you, only that that I can’t jump in excitement since this a chilled moment!” 

And so you know, petting a dog triggers their brain to release the “happiness hormone”, oxytocin, the same hormone that flood’s a mother dog and newborn puppy’s body during breastfeeding (it strengthens the mother-puppy bond). 

2. They love how relaxing the petting or cuddling feels

When you get cozy with your dog or stroke them in their favorite spots, this puts them in a relaxed state of mind. Your dog may yawn to indicate that whatever you’re doing is calming, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Besides the yawning, you might notice your dog gently closing their eyes and panting softly.

3. They are stressed out

If your dog had a stressful experience right before you started to pet or cuddle with them, it’s likely that they will still be in an anxious state of mind throughout the petting or cuddling session.

Dogs tend to yawn when stressed. And often, this stress-triggered yawn is accompanied by signs like excessive lip licking, wide eyes, flattened ears, and drooling.  

Stress-triggered yawns in dogs are a bit prolonged and happen repeatedly.

Your dog’s stress could also be due to your petting style. Petting your dog vigorously can overstimulate them (the pleasure becomes unbearable), making them nervous. 

If you’re not gentle while petting or cuddling your dog, they may yawn out of nervousness.

4. Your dog is exhausted

Like humans, dogs sometimes yawn to indicate how tired they are. 

If your dog has had a long day running around, the yawns they let out as you stroke or cuddle with them may signal they are fatigued and want to switch to resting mode. 

The petting or cuddles creates the perfect mood for them to take the much-needed nap.

5. They are confused

Scolded your dog then went ahead to pet or cuddle them a few moments later? 

Your sudden change of heart will confuse your dog, which can make them yawn. It’s common for dogs to yawn when they are trying to make sense of something. 

In most cases, your dog’s “confusion yawn” will be followed by a slight head tilt — you’ll likely notice this if you’re petting your dog when they’re standing, facing you.

6. The petting or cuddling makes them uncomfortable

Yawning is sometimes a dog’s way of letting you know they want out of an uncomfortable situation.

While most dogs enjoy cuddling or being petted, some can only tolerate this affectionate gesture for a short while — especially if you aren’t doing it right.

If you’re petting your dog the wrong way — for instance, reaching for their face and petting them roughly — they could get quite uncomfortable and a little tense.  

Most dogs don’t enjoy being petted on the face since it feels like you’re hovering over them,  invading their personal space. 

If your dog isn’t too impressed with your petting style, they will probably yawn to say they’ve had enough and want you to back off. You might even see them duck their head and lick their lips to show you how uncomfortable they are.

The same goes for cuddling. As much as dogs agree to cuddle with us, it doesn’t mean they are glad to do it whenever we want. 

In other words, the desire to cuddle isn’t always mutual. It’s more like a sacrificed dog at times make to please us. 

Cuddling isn’t part of a dog’s natural love language. They know how to shower us with slobbery kisses since it comes naturally to them — but not cuddling. 

The main reason why most dogs dislike cuddles is because of how immobilized and confined they feel when you’ve got your arms wrapped tightly around them.

If your dog isn’t feeling the cuddling session, they may yawn a few times to signal you to stop.

7. You’ve yawned, so they yawn back

Ever heard of how contagious yawns are? That you’re likely to yawn if someone next to you yawns? 

As it turns out, this strange “contagious yawning” phenomenon doesn’t only apply to humans. Dogs can also yawn when another dog or human next to them yawns.

A 2013 study by a group of researchers from the University of Tokyo revealed that dogs are more likely to yawn when someone they’re emotionally bonded to also yawns.  

Another study by the university of Portugal involving about 29 dogs found that 12 out of these 29 dogs yawned when they listened to a recording of their owner yawning.  

Going by these two interesting studies, there’s no doubt that dogs can yawn in response to their owner’s yawn. If you’ve noticed your dog often yawns right after you do the same when petting or cuddling them, there’s a good chance it’s all a contagious yawn.

8. Your dog might be experiencing discomfort

In rare occasions, yawning in dogs could signal an underlying health condition. 

If you realize your dog is yawning excessively and even exhibiting symptoms like frequent burping and whimpering during the petting or cuddling session, they might be in pain.

It’s best to talk to your vet if you suspect your dog yawns too much when you pet or cuddle them and displays worrying symptoms while at it.

FAQs on canine yawning

Why does my dog lick his lips and yawn when I pet him?

As mentioned earlier, it could be that your dog is stressed about something or uncomfortable with how you are petting him.

Why does my dog yawn when we’re cuddling?

There are a couple of potential reasons why this happens. Your dog could be yawning because you’ve yawned (contagious yawning), they’re tired, uncomfortable, excited, confused, or feeling relaxed.  

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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