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Do dogs (Canis familiaris) show contagious yawning?

Abstract

We report an experimental investigation into whether domesticated dogs display contagious yawning. Fifteen dogs were shown video clips of (1) humans and (2) dogs displaying yawns and open-mouth expressions (not yawns) to investigate whether dogs showed contagious yawning to either of these social stimuli. Only one dog performed significantly more yawns during or shortly after viewing yawning videos than to the open-mouth videos, and most of these yawns occurred to the human videos. No dogs showed significantly more yawning to the open-mouth videos (human or dog). The percentage of dogs showing contagious yawning was less than chimpanzees and humans showing this behavior, and considerably less than a recently published report investigating this behavior in dogs (Joly-Mascheroni et al. in Biol Lett 4:446–448, 2008).

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Hiram College. We thank our human and dog models (especially Dr Chet Sherwood and Phoebe), and the dogs’ owners for their participation in the study. Experimental procedures were approved by Hiram College’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and adhered to the Animal Behavior Society Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research.

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Correspondence to Kimberley A. Phillips.

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Harr, A.L., Gilbert, V.R. & Phillips, K.A. Do dogs (Canis familiaris) show contagious yawning?. Anim Cogn 12, 833–837 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-009-0233-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-009-0233-0

Keywords

  • Dogs
  • Contagious yawning
  • Social contagion
  • Empathy