Scientists Discover Puppies Are Immune to Contagious Yawning

Posted on October 23, 2012

Puppy Contagious Yawing Experiment


Scientists from Lund University in Sweden have discovered that dogs above seven months of age or older are susceptible to contagious yawning, but puppies are not. Previous research has shown contagious yawning in humans, adult chimpanzees and baboons. The scientists say human children typically begin contagious yawning around age four.

Elainie Alenkær Madsen, PhD, and Tomas Persson, PhD engaged 35 dogs, aged between four and 14 months, in bouts of play and cuddling and observed the dogs' responses when a human repeatedly yawned or gaped or performed neither of the two expressions. The researchers found that only dogs above seven months of age showed evidence of contagious yawning.

The scientists say in a release that contagious yawning allows assessment of a behavioral empathetic response. They say there was some evidence they transferred the emotion that yawning reflects (sleepiness) to the dogs in the experiment as nearly half of the dogs responded to yawning with a reduction in arousal, to the extent that the experimenter needed to prevent a number of dogs from falling asleep. The research was reported here in the journal, Animal Cognition.

Here is the video from the study uploaded by LiveScience. It might make you yawn. Take a look:



Photo: Lund University