A recent study conducted at the University of Tokyo suggests that dogs are emotionally connected to people and will yawn in response to their owners yawning. Previously it was thought that dogs would yawn when feeling anxious, however the study leader Teresa Romero suggests that dogs are “emotionally connected” to people and yawn out of empathy rather than stress.
The experiment ruled out stress having found no significant difference in the dogs’ heartbeats during observation. The dogs would respond to their owner’s yawns and responded less towards fake yawns also suggesting that they were more sensitive to their owner’s yawns rather than those displayed by strangers.
Scientific studies are often considered subjective however when it comes to the evolution of the domestic dog I feel that such studies have a clear place in helping us try to better understand and connect with our canine friends. I suggest that we should keep an open mind when it comes to science and appreciate that studies can have flaws with the results sometimes open for interpretation or challenge. Notwithstanding, the better we are able to understand our domestic dogs the better we can support them. We can only achieve this by studying them.
Do you feel emotionally connected to your animal? Professor Marc Bekoff in his book, ‘The Emotional Lives of Animals’ writes the following; “Emotions are the gifts of our ancestors. We have them and so do other animals. We must never forget this.”