Tuesday, August 12, 2008

That Contagious Yawn

'Dottie' the Dachshund Yawns by Mike Propst

A study released last week in the UK reveals what you may have known all along: yawns are contagious from human to dog. Dogs yawn for many reasons, but researchers feel that your dog yawns when you do as a sign of empathy. Here is the abstract of the article published in Biology Letters by a team led by Dr Atsushi Senju of Birkbeck College, University of London: This study is the first to demonstrate that human yawns are possibly contagious to domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Twenty-nine dogs (including dachshunds) observed a human yawning or making control mouth movements (where people just opened their mouths). Twenty-one dogs yawned when they observed a human yawning, but control mouth movements did not elicit yawning from any of them. The presence of contagious yawning in dogs suggests that this phenomenon is not specific to primate species and may indicate that dogs possess the capacity for a rudimentary form of empathy. Since yawning is known to modulate the levels of arousal, yawn contagion may help coordinate dog–human interaction and communication. Understanding the mechanism as well as the function of contagious yawning between humans and dogs requires more detailed investigation.
Personally, we think this shows that the bond between a human and their dog is essentially limitless. Does your dachshund yawn when you do?
Make sure to check out more pics of red smooth Dottie over at flickr!

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