We all know that when you’re in a room and one person yawns it will set off a series of yawns. Now, according to a scientific team from Birkbeck College at the University of London, dogs can also “catch” a yawn.
The copying activity suggests that canines are capable of empathizing with people, say the researchers who recorded dogs’ behaviour in lab tests. Until now, only humans and their close primate relatives were thought to find yawning contagious.
Dr Senju and his team were questioning whether dogs could read the human yawn signal, which could support a finding that dogs have the ability to empathize. The team set up a study using 29 canines.
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.
That is good news. Lisa and I figured Bo, Copper, and Logan were yawning because they thought we were boring. Perhaps, that isn’t so.