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Study Finds Dog Yawning Is Contagious -- Because Dogs Love Us

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden rigorously studied the behavior -- when they could have just asked us.

 |  Oct 26th 2012  |   11 Contributions


Scientists recently discovered that dogs can catch yawns from their humans, a finding that many dog owners knew already. 

The findings are important to scientists because it means dogs feel empathy toward humans, a finding that many dog owners knew alre -- wait, scientists didn't know this already? 

What the heck have scientists been doing all this time? 

Many of you, of course, know full well that dogs have empathy and can catch your yawns -- often you catch each other's yawns and collapse into a heap and sleep through the afternoon. 

The study, conducted by Lund University in Sweden, exposed 35 dogs -- puppies and adults alike -- to various people yawning over a period of time, according to ABC News. (What we wouldn't have given to be a part of that study!)

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“We showed that the dogs were yawning contagiously," says Elainie Madsen, a doctor of psychology at Lund University, who co-wrote the study. "Not just yawning; they also took on the emotion that yawning usually signifies, which is usually sleepiness and tiredness.”

“For those of us who have dogs, we often feel this very close connection with them, and we feel that they must understand or sympathize with our emotions and our emotional states,” says Madsen, surprising not a single dog owner. 

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One new thing to us that the study did reveal was that puppies do not catch yawns -- just like infants and young toddlers don't catch yawns. Empathy is a learned trait, and puppies are as cruel and unyielding as babies.

"Oh, you've got to wake up at 7 a.m.?" your puppy says to you at 2, 3, and 4 a.m., licking your face with full-tongue kisses. "And that concerns me ... how?"

“[Dogs] go through what seems to be an empathy development that somehow mirrors humans’ empathy development," the study concluded, "so it’s just obviously on a very different time scale.”

The study found that puppies start to display empathetic yawns at 7 months, while children don't start until they reach an age of 4 years. Hahaha, parents. 

Oh, and cats? They don't contagiously yawn, but we knew that already.  

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Via ABC News

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