Today was the first day that the puppies ventured outside! And with that opportunity, I got to go outside and enjoy the beautiful day as well!
Going outside is not as easy as it may sound for a litter of 7 puppies. First, there is the prep time of getting the area ready for them. While they have gotten the all clear from staff to go outside, I wasn’t quite ready to let them “explore” everything that a new spring lawn has to offer-so my overprotective compromise with the puppies was that they could go outside if their area was covered with surgical drapes to prevent any unnecessary ingestion of foreign materials! (Yes, I have a number of conversations with these litter pups on a daily basis….when you spend 24/7 with these beautiful pups you naturally fall into a conversational bond with them:)
So, I proceeded to spend 20 minutes gathering the materials, toys, and x-pen and set them up a nice mini play yard for their first experience. Then there was the chore of making 4 trips in and out of the house to gather 2 puppies at a time to move them. Once all were safely outside, I reveled in their cuteness for just a moment, took some photos of their first exploration and then climbed into the pen for some snuggling to reassure them of this new space!
The first time the puppies go outside it is a brief journey; just long enough to get them acclimated to the space but short enough to make sure that they don’t become too stressed in their new situation. For this first trip, the outing was between 3-5 minutes. Then the trips back into the house ensued! It ends up being about 30 minutes of set-up and take-down for that brief visit, but it is a wonderful time to watch them getting their first taste of the outdoors!
While outside I play with them, but also watch their body language, their facial expressions, whether they whine, how they move about their space, etc. to make sure this is a positive experience. This is one more activity to help them build their skills and it’s my opinion that it’s critical to make sure that all of these firsts don’t become overwhelming but instead are fun and give them a desire to do more as the days continue.
I started seeing the pups begin to yawn-one by one, and it traveled through the litter. They were playful but sticking close to me for reassurance and it was interesting to watch and observe. Of course, that got me to thinking; I’ve heard a few different opinions about what a dog yawn actually indicates, so when I got back inside I decided to do a little research on it! Often I hear people focusing on “a dog yawning indicates it is stressed”. While that MAY be true, it’s certainly not the only reason a dog yawns and it is only ONE piece of a very complex puzzle that you can use to paint the bigger picture. Interestingly enough, dogs that yawn aren’t strictly yawning out of stress; there are other reasons they yawn, including communication between them and other dogs and in communication with humans! They can yawn for a calming signal to soothe others around them, when they are unclear of what is going on around them, out of stress, in anticipation, confusion or conflict, or due to medical issues, when they are bored, and most obviously because they are simply tired. And finally, possibly the most surprising reason, dogs it seems can yawn as a reaction to a human yawn!!! (See research study below)
So, the next time you yawn around your dog(s), watch and see if they follow your lead!
What I came to see in these puppies is that they were simply yawning most likely due to a change in their environment-they had never been outside and were wondering just what was going on; maybe a tad of elevated anticipation/stress but that they were just fine with the new space and they enjoyed their new but brief experience in the beautiful weather! If tomorrow is nice again, they will get another opportunity to learn about the big world around them!
So, what does a dog yawn REALLY mean???? Well, I’ve been yawning the entire time I’ve been writing this blog, so while I would love to provide more links for you to read about the subject, I have to stop 🙂 The real question is, have you been yawning while reading this???
Here is an article excerpt taken from a study, indicating some of the reasons of yawning and whether it is contagious between humans and dogs:
Taken from the following link: Yawning may promote bonding even between dogs and humans
“Until the last few years, the feeling was that contagious yawning was unique to humans,” Provine says.
But recently, two more species have been added to the list of contagious yawners: dogs and chimpanzees. When two groups of chimpanzees were shown videos of familiar and unfamiliar chimps yawning, the group watching the chimps they knew engaged in more contagious yawning. This study, by Matthew Campbell and Frans de Waal, supports the theory that yawning plays a role in the evolution of social bonding and empathy.
And dogs not only catch each others’ yawns, they are susceptible to human yawning as well. In one study, 29 dogs watched a human yawning and 21 of them yawned as well — suggesting that interspecies yawning could help in dog-human communication.
Here is some interesting information about dog yawns and whether they are contagious!
Is Yawning Contagious Between Dogs and Your Dog and You?
(excerpt taken from Why dogs yawn-the research behind it )
Contagious yawning between humans is well documented, but can dogs “catch” the yawns from other dogs or from their humans?
A 2014 study published in Animal Cognition did conclude that shelter dogs that had a rise in salivary cortisol levels, which is a sign of stress, caught contagious yawns more often than those dogs that didn’t have a rise in salivary cortisol levels. This suggests that stress yawns among dogs might be contagious. [i]
Several studies have concluded that yawns are contagious between humans and dogs. One of the most famous studies, which was conducted by researchers at Tokyo and Kyoto universities and published in U.S. science journal PLOS One in 2013, concluded that “contagious yawning” was a sign of empathy dogs were showing their humans and not a sign of stress.
The researchers studied two-dozen dogs and involved humans both familiar and unfamiliar to the dogs. The people involved in the study also made different facial expressions and mouth gestures to determine if dogs could tell the difference.
Researchers also monitored the dog’s heart rate to rule out yawning as a stress response. The results revealed that dogs yawned contagious yawns more often with familiar humans. “Our study suggests that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally connected in a way similar to humans,” says Teresa Romero of the University of Tokyo who led the study.[ii]
Georgina Lees-Smith, a certified canine behavior consultant near London in the U.K., who has studied and written about the varying theories about dog yawning for her post graduate degree in psychology and neuroscience, says that her own anecdotal research seems to support that theory.
“I’ve conducted a study with my own dogs and have found that if you yawn and your dog yawns, it shows a definite social connection with your dog,” she says. “It really is quite lovely.”
The Dog Yawning Conclusion
While we cannot be absolutely sure why dogs yawn when they are not tired, modern studies have suggested that dogs yawn for several reasons, based on the circumstances:
– Dogs may yawn as a response to stress
– As a communication signal toward other dogs
– In empathy (or at least in response to) their humans
Some other links: Dogs and Yawning
If by chance you want to do more research on the subject, here is a study, the first of its kind, that discusses the testing of contagious yawning between dogs and humans that was done in 2008 and here is a brief excerpt from the study:
“The current study demonstrates that human yawns are possibly contagious to dogs. The presentation of human yawning elicited yawns in 72 per cent of the dogs tested, which is higher than the rate reported in humans (45–60%) and chimpanzees (33%). This effect cannot be attributed to a general effect of the mere presence of unfamiliar humans, or to the observation of human mouth movements in general, because no dogs yawned in the control condition. This study is the first to demonstrate that the observation of yawning elicits yawning in a non-primate species, as well as the first demonstration of possible contagious yawning between different species. Since yawning is known to modulate the level of arousal (Daquin et al. 2001), such temporally synchronized occurrences of yawning may help coordinate interactions as well as communication between humans and dogs.”