Why does a dog yawn?

I did a quick search of the internet and along with what I expected to find,1) yawning is a physiological means of getting more oxygen into the lungs 2) it is a response to stress and pressure; 3) it is a calming signal to other dogs; I was surprised to find one particularly good answer that I’m happy to fully concur with, 4) a dog yawns to “relax itself.”

The author however doesn’t offer a model as to why a dog would experience yawning as relaxing but nonetheless the relaxation response is indeed why a dog yawns when under stress. So then why does yawning relax a dog when it’s stressed? BECAUSE A DOG FEELS THE WORLD THROUGH ITS MOUTH and it’s trying to keep its mind OPEN.

The animal mind is an energy circuit; its consciousness a sense of flow, a constant movement, an ebbing and a rising, a going out and a returning in, a continuous loop of energy cycling incessantly like a conveyor belt running through its body importing and exporting. To sustain this feeling of consciousness, a dog’s jaws must be “open,” i.e. the muscles, lips, mouth region and tongue must feel soft, supple, relaxed. If this primal orifice is closed, i.e. the dog feels a muscle tension in its jaws then energy is not being fully processed.

Of course there’s no actual energy going in or out other than on those occasions when this process of consciousness does in fact deliver something material to be digested, it’s just that the dog feels as if there is. How then is such a feeling of flow created?

First, a dog is constantly putting out “pings” and if it gets back a steady stream of “pongs” then the dog feels open, grounded to terra firma and physically connected through a state of resonance to what it is attracted to. Its body/mind is open.

What is a ping? A projection of the physical center-of-gravity. If you throw a stick for a dog, before it takes one step forward, it first projects its physical center-of-gravity onto the moving object because the mechanics of motion in conjunction with hunger is the first imprint that its nascent mind absorbs and organizes around during its first days and weeks of life on earth. The most important variable in its consciousness is its physical sense of equilibrium that at first it has virtually no motor control over as it’s constantly getting knocked around and jostled about, and then laboriously struggling to remain upright and generate forward motion. Disequilibrium is calmed by warm milk filling the gut, completing the primal circuit of consciousness and thereby inducing sleep, i.e. calmness and relaxation. In the first days of life, hunger and balance are synonymous and for the rest of its life, if a dog is attracted to something, it hungers for that thing and it first projects its physical center-of-gravity onto that thing as a means of calculating how to make contact with that thing. If when it sees that thing move, and if that movement feels good within its body/mind, especially if that ping can be imported all the way down to the deep gut, then that ping has returned as a “pong,” as a preyful value that fills the void in the gut due to physical affects of physical memory. So a dog puts out a ping and if a pong comes back, it enters the dog’s mind, which simultaneously means a virtual feeling of entering the dog’s body.

So for example when friendly dog A meets feisty dog B, the problem is an emotional rather than a mental one, and the emotional process works exactly like the digestive process. In other words, a feeling for something first begins for a dog as if that things’ essence, which visually speaking is its physical center-of-gravity, IS IN ITS MOUTH, quite akin to a young child who can’t help but imagining how a shiny object or a smooth stone would feel in her hand, fondling, squeezing and experiencing the weight of it in her palm in order to take the measure of it. (In fact with very young children one has to be on guard that the object doesn’t go straight away into their mouth.) To assess the energetic essence of an object, especially if it has considerable mass, a child is compelled to discover if they can actually hold it up as a way of settling the sense of wonder it induced in their mind. But in the dog’s mind, mass is not apprehended in terms of weight, rather it is synonymous with ACCELERATION because that’s in fact what mass actually is: a function of resistance relative to being accelerated.

So in the first instant when A sees B; the form of B triggers the physical memory of a specific resistance value so that were it to be ingested, would make A feels as if it has been knocked off balance and with a degree of force that accelerates it into motion. (If A can process this energy via the hunger circuitry, it feels it’s pulling the object in toward it, whereas if it’s processing this force via the balance circuitry; A feels as if the object is pushing in on it.) And the question of whether A will be assessing the p-cog of B through either its hunger or its balance circuitry and therefore ascertaining its compatibility with B, revolves around the feeling as to whether or not A can seize B with its jaws and then hold on at whatever rate-of-change the intensity value of B would accelerate A to were they in fact connected to each other and B’s intensity was actually converted to outright motion.

A’s perception of B is derived from an involuntary, innate emotional calculation as to whether A can hold the essence of B (its physical center-of-gravity) IN ITS JAWS at that specific SPEED, that rate-of-change; that level of intensity/resistance that the form of B constitutes. For example, if one is training a dog in protection and the dog is too sensitive at a particular level of development, then it can only hold onto the bite object up to a certain speed, a specific rate-of-change, which is the intensity level and vigor of the helper’s arm and body action. If the helper pulls too hard, or moves too intensely, the dog drops off and has to recover before it can continue.

In contrast however, when dog A sees its favorite doggy buddy C in the park, A feels C’s p-cog in its jaws at high speed and this FEELS great because of the physical memory of having played so intensely and yet smoothly (flip/flopping polarities at a very high frequency) on previous play sessions. For A seeing C, that jolt of pure energy is like giving a young child a huge cone of soft ice cream; a straight shot of high-energy sucrose that requires virtually no digestion. Indeed, every child’s eyes open wide when they see the Good Humor truck.

Therefore, what’s termed an avoidance response by science or a calming signal by many, is in fact the dog trying to open its jaws so that the object of attraction CAN FIT INSIDE. This behavior indicates that the dog has let in the p-cog but is now trying to loosen its jaws because the object of attraction has TOO MUCH RESISTANCE and this R value is immediately and involuntarily tightening up the observing dog’s jaw and facial muscles, the conveyor belt of consciousness is bogging down. The dog is perceiving the essence of what it is attracted to (the movement of the p-cog within the form, it’s not just going by the form) and so we can say that it is open to the feeling of ingestion, and it’s trying to grab a good hold on it, but it can’t continue to process this form with its hunger circuitry by holding onto its p-cog in its jaws because of its intensity, i.e. SPEED. So the dog yawns as an involuntary response to a feeling of bogging down in its jaws, like it’s trying to chew something that’s too tough. It will also find itself compelled to smell the dog’s mouth and saliva in order to LUBRICATE the ingestion process with some pongs.

And it also looks away or aside because it doesn’t want to let any more resistance into its mouth as it’s already bitten off more than it can chew. It can’t bear to look at something that’s more than its body/mind as an energy circuit can process because that doesn’t feel good. It has no cognitive understanding of yawning as having a calming effect on another individual so that we can say it is therefore trying to signal benign intentions to the other dog, and yet nonetheless A’s yawning and looking askew has a calming effect on B because A is acting more prey-like than predator as it tries to soften its body and loosen up its mind. Thus, A’s energetic signature is absorbing B’s pings and returning them to B as pongs. And were B to pick up a stick in its mouth, or lift its leg and urinate, or lowers its head while it raises its butt, it would be returning the favor and giving A some high sucrose pongs to chew on.

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Published March 26, 2010 by Kevin Behan

67 responses to “Why does a dog yawn?”

  1. Sang says:

    I remember watching Apollo Ohno yawning a lot before his short track events during the winter Olympics. He also said that he did it to help reduce his stress and to help him relax before he started his race.

  2. taoofblue says:

    My puppy always yawns at me, then looks away. Because of the common accepted ‘calming signals’ I just thought it was her way of avoiding me, or trying to calm me down.

    It seems, though, that the problem was with me. And, perhaps, I’m putting out more energy than she can actually digest; in order to relax herself she has to constantly yawn, and look away, because this works for her.

    Thanks for the article Kevin. I’ll have to watch how many emotional-vibratory pings I send her in the aethers, and be aware of how much she can actually pong! 😉

  3. JamieC says:

    I have a quick question: wouldn’t “2)response to stress and pressure” be related to “4)trying to relax itself” ? As in, wouldn’t a dog only need to relax itself in response to some type of stress? And I don’t mean just bad stress, but basically any kind of extraneous input?

    An example I have found with dogs I work with as well as my own is that they use the ‘shake off’ (shaking like they are covered in water) in the same way/instances they use the yawn: to relax themselves, to relieve extra stress, almost to get rid of the pressure, to equal things out, calm themselves, and be able to move on.

    how do you see this?

  4. christine randolph says:

    wow, somewhat complicated…

    i have seen a lot of Shake offs after some intense activity…

    of course I see a bunch of yawning.

    my big dog yawns REAL BIG and at the very end makes a little yelping sound. is that a different behaviour or also yawning to create feeling in the jaws etc as described by you above ?

    what does it do to the other dog when the first dog yawns, does it really calm them down ?

    Kevin, In your mind, is there such a thing as
    displacement behavior and what kinds of dog behaviour would you say are in this category ?

    (this is usually thought of as self-grooming, touching, or scratching, which is displayed when an animal has a conflict between two drives…)

  5. kbehan says:

    Yes, the dog would want to relax itself in order to deal with the pressure. I was going into the response more deeply to show how and where the energy is getting stuck in the jaws. With the shaking off response, it’s a rapid way of dissipating energy that is already gotten inside the dog. So for example, the dog that exits the water has the impression of being compressed by something, and so it shakes it off, literally. After a few times the behavior just generalizes to swimming, but it has that emotional component. So when a dog slams into another dog, one or both have to shake off this rapid input that they can’t process. So it’s too much energy in the system as opposed to yawning which is a specific response to where the energy is getting bogged down in the body/mind as process of consicousness.

  6. kbehan says:

    What we think of as displacement behavior is generally energy running to ground along a path of lesser resistance. In this way I don’t see it as a conflict between two drives because I think there is only one drive, to make contact with an object of attraction, and all attractions have a universal positive component, but there are paths of resistance along an infinitely variable gradient which make it look like there are many drives.
    The yelp is probably a physical memory of whatever it was that caused the bogging down in the first place thus precipitating the yawn. I think the yawning is calming for another dog because (in addition to being preyful) it softens up the same jaw/throat region in the other dog via the projection phenomenon and mirror neurons.

  7. JamieC says:

    my dog also does the little whine/yelp at the end of his yawn, but i usually find that during any good stress, like wanting to do a fun activity(i.e. getting a walk started) as opposed to something negative (i.e. not wanting to be in the vets office). usually it’s when he’s ready to move, bite, or chase – not usually when he just wants to get out of a bad situation.

    as far as displacement activities, i don’t see them with conflicting drives (as pointed out that there really is only one), but with conflicting emotions, like being interested and scared at the same time.

  8. I’m working with a boxer who sometimes gets agitated with other dogs on the street. It’s easy to tell what she’s feeling because her hackles go up. When that happens, I have her jump up on me to redirect her from the dog that’s causing her energy overload, then I tell her, “Shake it off!”

    As soon as she shakes herself her hackles go down and she’s fine again.


  9. christine randolph says:

    yeah interested and scared, that is like fight or flight…i think my little dog yawns when she is not sure if to fight or flee. hence i am wondering if you all think that yawning sometimes is a displacement behaviour…

  10. Christine says:

    That’s interesting Lee. So if I’m understanding this correctly: When Duncan gets ‘electrified’ by activity in the neighbors yard (even though he can’t see as there is a solid fence on that side of the yard) and his hackles are up all along his top line, if I have him jump up on me and perhaps engage him in tug-of-war, that will help to dissipate the charge. It’s a challenge to redirect though. Any tips on how to do this effectively? I can use all the help that’s available to tap into with this boy as he’s a bit obtuse! lol

  11. pam New Zealand says:

    I believe that dogs as well as cats wolves lions tijgers etc. jawn to keep their ear tubes open, hearing to animals is very important. This might be associated with excitement before going to the park, beach etc. your dog wants to make the most of its time out and wants to be fully alert and hear everything. Mind you it’s no garrantee that it is going to listen to you.

  12. kbehan says:

    Yes I agree there would be a number of physical benefits from yawning, but the fact that yawning can be contagious, and that it is a response to stress to something that is seen and not needing to be heard, would suggest to me that clearing the ear tubes wouldn’t be fundamental but rather a beneficial subsidiary effect. We could ask ourselves why we would feel disgusted by anything. Why aren’t we simply not attracted to that which holds no instrumental value to us, like the sight of vomit, and which is also highly contagious. Why do we have to experience a physical repulsion to that which is noxious and how therefore does that sense of visceral revulsion come to be part of our conscious awareness?

  13. Bailey says:

    We just got a new lurcher puppy from a rescue centre and upon meeting my cats he starts yawning. So I understand he’s probably trying to calm himself + or the approaching annoyed cat down.

    What I’d like to ask is, we have also noticed he looks directly at us, on full alert when we ourselves yawn through tiredness.
    We weren’t sure therefore if us yawning in front of him is a good thing or not ?

    i.e Are we telling him ‘all is calm, everything is ok’ or are we telling him that we are stressed and looking for his reassurance ? (which inadvertently might wrongly suggest there is something to be anxious about when there isn’t)

    thanks for any advice

  14. kbehan says:

    That’s an interesting reaction, and I wouldn’t worry about yawning in front of your dog. In my view, yawning is an attempt to relax the jaw region in order to emotionally process what’s going on because for example, someone has “bitten off more than they can chew.” So your yawning must indicate to the dog that you’re having difficulty processing something, and perhaps the dog has learned to associate this with something worthy of being on alert for. It could mean energy is about to move, and perhaps even about to move explosively, and hence, worthy of paying attention. For example, a predator might yawn when it can’t handle pressure from the prey, and so the others of the hunting group would become alert to this impasse. I’d also be curious if the adult wolf returning from the hunt to the den might yawn as it avoids the pressing faces and probing snouts of the litter that mobs it right before the act of regurgitation. At any rate, this is how I would begin thinking about the reaction.

  15. kbehan is right, and i would add from my observation: Yawning is related to emotional energy de-stress. When i work on energy healing with dogs, the moment i LOCK into the dogs energy channel and I’m able to “release” his emotional-energy through me i Yawn and my eyes start to cry. Immediately the dog relaxes few “stages” and most of the times he lays his chin on the ground, and exhales deeply.

  16. Bailey says:

    Thanks for your input.

    As our puppy has begun to settle in a bit more, we noticed that rather than staring right at us now on full alert when we yawn, he physically sighs and relaxes. My partner observed that when he was on a walk with him and a rabbit ran past, he went rigid, but when my partner yawned at him he said he felt the tension just drain away from puppy’s shoulders and he forgot about the rabbit.

    We’re going to try it some more during his introductions to the 3 cats. Hopefully we can conquer the chase instinct before it really takes hold .

    Isn’t it marvellous, the simplest things to make life easier for all ?!!

    thanks, great article and much ‘paws for thought’ !

  17. Nikki says:

    Ok… Seriously? WAY too complicated. They yawn because they are stressed, makes them less predatory to dogs that are nervous of them. Its like trying to explain to a dog why we laugh, the long explanation is a little much. We laugh because we’re happy. The end.

  18. kbehan says:

    I love how you humans think thinking is so simple. So, you’re saying that a dog yawns so that they appear less predatory to other dogs because they are aware that this yawning action is less threatening than other gestures among a range of repertoire it can choose from, and that this specific gesture will be received as such by another dog and they are also able to discern that this particular dog, unlike another kind of dog, won’t attack or take undue advantage by virtue of having adopted an appeasement or “calming” strategy even though there are some dogs that exploit a sign of weakness. In other words, they must construct a theory of mind for the other dog and then rationalize that a dog they are intimidated by so that they feel compelled to yawn, they nevertheless want to connect with for some reason rather than be passive and let it be on its way. And this is just the beginning of the psychological loops that are in play. For example, why would yawning be calming, is it by any chance “preyful” as the equal and yet opposite of predatory?

  19. Stephanie says:

    I had learned from a very great and experienced dog trainer of over 50years that when a dog yawns it is releasing stress and essentially learning what ever behavior you are trying to teach it.

  20. kbehan says:

    Yes I agree that the dog is trying to change the way it feels by yawning. If he comes out of it and gains the lesson one is striving for, as in converting stress into Drive, I can see the point that particular dog trainer might have been making.

  21. Dawn says:

    I just want to say WOW!!!!! I love energy work and I nevered put or would have thought to put yawning into these energetic ways. It makes sooo much sense to me now why my pup/baby is yawning so much. I am bombarding him with energy, I just feel awful that I have done this. I have an anxiety disorder and he helps me stay calm, but now I know he is adsorbing or maybe more like I am pushing it off on this poor little soul. I know better than to do this, why didn’t I see it before? This will actually help me more now because it will force me to be aware and keep myself in control so that he do not have to deal with so much. When this little guy came into my home he tried to set all the BIG animals straight and I told him that he didn’t need to carry any stress of the house on his shoulders, mom and dad would do that. Well I guess that was a big lie. Anyway, you have NO idea how much this article just changed my life in a great way and all of my dogs especially my little baby dachshunds. Namaste

  22. Ann says:

    The reasons explained for a dog’s yawning I’ve read on this site are all very interesting. I have three female Shih Tzu /Poodle mixes and one male Toy Poodle. I spend most of my days at home with them, as I am retired, and I use a motorized wheelchair. All four have extremely sweet natures and are not only very important for me, but great therapy as well! I notice them yawning, especially one of the girls, mostly when they are tired and it is getting close to bedtime or when they snuggle up to me on the sofa and they are completely relaxed, happy, and content. They vary in age from 4 to 6 years. I’ve never seen them yawn when they are stressed out, although I have noticed excessive barking or jumping up when stressed and one of the girls will pace repeatedly when stressed. I’m not sure if any of this helps with the thread of conversation going, but this has been my experience with my brood of pups.

  23. kbehan says:

    From what you’ve described it sounds like the yawning come the evening is an adult version of a puppy mouthing. In other words, they feel a strong affection and if they were puppies they would be mouthing you, but they’re adults and processing the impulse with a yawn. It’s sort of like the vestigial remnant, or shadow from the past, of a “cruder” or more primal version of the feeling.

  24. Judith Carlone says:

    I have a new dog… i got him at five months he is now ten months. We are very attached,,, when I kiss his snout and give him some affection and love he starts yawning and looking away. He is attached to the hip with me and follows me everywhere. This yawning and looking to the side didn’t fit with the rest of his behavior. I’m not sure I got the whole jist of your explination. Could you just let me know if he likes me to do that to him or not. I don’t want to force my affection on him.

  25. kbehan says:

    When a dog follows an owner everywhere, it is because the dog doesn’t feel connected. If the dog felt connected, it wouldn’t have to constantly monitor its owner attention as a metric of survival. So the looking away and yawning to relieve stress of being pressed close is indeed consistent with this. All you have to do is take two magnets and try to hold the north to the north pole and this force of repulsion is what your dog is feeling when you press your head (north pole) to his head (north pole). The main thing to do to effect bonding (a bond is not the same as an attachment, i.e. one cannot be overly bonded but one can be overly attached) is long quiet walks in the woods, and playing tug and push of war with a bite object. That way you are creating a bond.

  26. karis says:

    Thanks for the important lesson, Kevin – I wish these great little tidbits were compiled somewhere as a kind of owner’s manual rather than scattered across the NDT blog comments.

    I’m a bit confused though as to why a dog following you around isn’t a sign of his attraction to you, which seems to be what NDT is always trying to build. And if he is now more often bringing toys to you for fetch/tug and pawing/play-bowing at your feet is it a sign of increased attraction or also disconnectedness? Perhaps this was already covered elsewhere in the blog — I’m still working my way through it.

    Also, my dog seems to be doing a lot more “shaking off” and, I think, less yawning since starting NDT recently. Wondering if this has any significance.

  27. kbehan says:

    Since emotion is universal to all beings, if we insert a person into a behavior, we can get a very good emotional reading of the behavior. So yes, emotion is equal to attraction and the goal of NDT is for the dog to be attracted to you no matter what, but that doesn’t mean the dog has to actually stay in direct physical contact and follow its owner about the house under normal circumstances. For example, a husband and wife are attracted to each other (hopefully) but if one were to follow the other about too closely, it would be seen as dependency rather than affection. A feeling of connection allows one to go on their way and the other one doesn’t feel disconnected. And on the larger scale, everything husband and wife do should be as if they are orbiting the other. Even going across the country to do a job is part of this orbit and impels a return. Likewise my dogs don’t follow me about the house, they feel connected just by being in the frame of reference the house defines, but they orbit me when I move around the property, a more expansive frame of reference.
    Bringing toys to you is a stronger attraction, the play bow indicates a block so you want to cultivate a more direct pushing in style. It sounds to me that the shaking off indicates a stronger force of attraction, whereas the yawning more compression. So that’s a good progression.

  28. karis says:

    Yes, thanks for the great analogy — that makes it quite obvious.

    What would the management technique be then if the dog is always following you into another room?

    For a while I ignored it mostly, but after reading about the importance of not discouraging attraction to you, I started responding to play bows and looking up with a brief light touch (no talk) and carrying on. Sometimes he will whimper softly as he looks up if you don’t respond. I was wondering if that means he’s built up a charge that he needs to released, so I’ve tried to do a “speak” but he usually doesn’t do it in that situation (though he will do it easily most of the time). Is it wrong to follow up with a bit of tug to relieve tension? This he will do. I worry about building up stress because he’s often restless. Or is the idea that you want to build it up so that he’ll tug and push outside? He won’t do either yet.

    And if he brings a toy, do you fetch or tug with him, or ignore him until he will do it outside?

    Some background…
    As NDT is a recent discovery for us, play has been mostly indoors at home (fetch, tug, hide + seek) and at puppy play. Outdoors, some chase me and running around off leash. Indoors he has pretty solid sit, down, stay, eyes, dance, hup, leave it, etc. Tried pushing inside just to see if he would respond, which he will a bit if food is very tasty. Outside he’s very distracted. Have not been able to redirect him at all with toys (ignores), food (ignores), or pushing (will side-step my hand and continue pulling). Even if I wait him out and try when he breaks focus, although he will look up and continue walking after a few seconds. Tried fasting him for 24 hrs. without any improvement, and hesitant to do it longer as he’s only 9 months.

    He does a mediocre walk on lead (intermittent side-pulling or sudden stops) if no one is around and I crouch down and move forward quickly. But when traffic/people/dogs are around he will just sniff/stop/pull every few yards. If we’re not at least 50 yards from home, he will scramble to get back home. In a store, he will now mostly heel if the pace stays quick and he isn’t allowed (leash pops) to start sniffing where other dogs may have been.

    Used to be shy, now very attracted to most dogs his size (sniffing and licking rear, sometimes leading to wrestling; will whimper to get near many). Used to be very shy of people, then went to barking at anyone getting close (we were told he gained “confidence” and his “dominance” came out). Doesn’t bark at people much anymore unless they move in fast and direct (he’s been “socialized” as we were told to do, by being picked up, brought close, and given a treat by them). Now he is a bit tentative at first, but ends up ignoring them or being very friendly (he’s tiny and fluffy, so at any sign of affection from him, people tend to squeal excitedly and he licks and jumps up).

    I know there’s a lot here to deal with, and apologies in advance if this is the wrong place to put all this, but I figured the overall picture might be useful to answer the question.

  29. karis says:

    By the way Kevin, thanks for the quick response and your time. It’s really touching that you tirelessly dedicate your time to helping dogs all over the world and responding to all the inquiries and critiques, even those coming from people who seem determined not to understand.

    Since getting my first dog a few months ago, I’ve been a bit shocked by how most all trainers I’ve encountered approach the process from such an egoic place. I had always associated positive personality traits with dog lovers.

  30. kbehan says:

    A snapshot of what to do: Only work and play outdoors (although since he feels safer indoors you can begin the work here, but object is to get it all outdoors) so that wide open spaces become places of release. If dog follows you around indoors, it’s because he’s holding back outdoors. So get the bark and bite out outdoors. Good exercise to build confidence in small dogs that have been and generally have to be picked up, is to teach them to jump up into your arms so that they are choosing to give up their space to you, rather than being snatched out of their space given a justifiable need to do so because something is going on. Sit on a bench outdoors and invite to jump up into your lap, and then gradually stand up and have box perhaps so dog gets boost on its own. Good luck.

  31. karis says:

    Thanks for the guidance. Yes he is, out of (unfortunate?) necessity, often picked up and sees much of the outside world from the elevated viewpoint of his carrier bag. Very excited about NDT but have been struggling with whether the techniques could be successfully applied to a city “lapdog”. Most here and in videos seem to be dealing with a larger animal and a more “natural” environment.

    Following the advice, have been able to lure him with food to step front paws onto my thighs when I sit on my shins, but he’s not inclined to jump into my arms. I’ve seen a number of small dogs jump into their handler’s laps spontaneously but not sure how to get there. Will keep trying.

    Still wondering how much to ignore him inside. Not coming up to dog myself to interact, but when he seeks attention/play and dances on his hind legs, is a calm short touch an ok response or should ignore?

  32. kbehan says:

    It’s a fine line to tread, let me say when you do give him attention, discipline yourself to not talk, put your energy into a massage deep kneading manner of touch, grip the neck and then spread the warm glow back down the spine so that you end up especially (sensualizing) the rear end, in this way the dog isn’t feeling stimulated/accelerated by being near you, but sensual and grounded and remaining in his body by being near you. As the dog gets sensual to your presence, you can invite him to jump up on you, and then extend your hands down to pick him up. The thing to look for is whether he backs away or feels a magnetic/sensual pull to you. Then clasp him to pick him up and only go part of the way to lifting him off the ground, you’re looking for him to make the last little bit of effort to get you to lift him all the way up. Once up in your arms, cradle in one arm and massage and give food with free hand. That last little bit is what will expand to an all out leap for the sky when your arms beckon.
    Also, there is absolutely no difference for a dog between city life and country grounds. Be a dog big or little, there is only one problem to solve no matter where he is.

  33. docdeb27 says:

    My dog yawns when he is happy, not stressed. When he is pet, stroked etc. He nudges to get more if you stop, he is not stressed at all when he yawns.

  34. Kevin Behan says:

    A dog can be happy when he masters relief from stress.

  35. docdeb27 says:

    Yawning can have NOTHING to do with stress.

  36. Kevin Behan says:

    When I see two dogs playing with abandon, a pretty good indicator of joy, or laying together in comfortable companionship, a pretty good indicator of calm acceptance, I don’t hear any noise or see extraneous behaviors. Whereas many social interactions while in the overall positive, nevertheless have a degree of compression implicit in two beings pressed together in close quarters and this is when we see yawning. The dog is trying to release the body tension this sense of compression evokes.

  37. docdeb says:

    You just want to be convinced it’s due to stress or tension regardless of evidence to the contrary.

  38. Kevin Behan says:

    Please explain the connection as you see it between yawning and happiness. Are you saying that it could be a sign of stress but also a sign of happiness, as for example people might cry for joy as well as for sadness?

  39. ChrisInTheVale says:

    My 12 week old Golden retriever pup has got me a little panicked as he seems to yawn whilst twisting his head quick sharply to the left. I was wondering if there may be something wrong (inner ear, head etc.) and then it dawned on me I have never seen Bailey yawn directly at me. It truly must be a yawn but I have never seen a pup or dog twist the head at exactly the same time. He is mainly calm and relaxed when he does it (after a sleep when he realised I am glancing at him). he has never yawned to the right- only ever to the left and very exaggerated. (My previous dog was a border collie who suffered from quite severe epilepsy for a few years so I tend to er on the side of complete paranoia. Great thread – inspired me to ask the question – Would love any thoughts. thanks, Chris.

  40. docdeb says:

    You had asked what my dog was doing while yawning. Last night he was waging his tail while being pet. He yawns to express pleasure not in response to stress. Waging ones tail while simultaneously yawning would suggest it is not stress.

  41. Kevin Behan says:

    I can completely understand why you would take issue with my interpretation. In the overall your dog is experiencing great pleasure, but from a technical point of view, nevertheless things aren’t moving fast enough and this is what elicits the yawning behavior. Tail wagging is also a state of conflict, but I want to point out that there can be negative conflict as well as positive conflict, much as there can be a negative relative to a positive electrical charge. Were my dog to yawn when I’m massaging it, then I would adjust my approach in order to not elicit yawning, trust this may clarify.

  42. b... says:

    What does positive conflict look like?

  43. docdeb says:

    Kevin. You are way too invested in your stance to accept evidence to the contrary.

  44. Kevin Behan says:

    A state of conflict —-> GO versus NO GO …. can assume a number of forms. When the perception of the preyful aspect is stronger than the predatory aspect, then we have a positive state of “contrasting” or conflict, i.e. contrasting the inhibiting capacity of the predatory aspect relative to the arousing capacity of the preyful aspect. In the reverse, predatory aspect stronger than preyful aspect, but the dog is mechanically blocked from moving away, this is a negative kind of conflict. But these two states relative to GO, NO GO, are not enough to account for the great range of complexity which can be observed, such as when a dog might be experiencing great pleasure and yet still be yawning and tail wagging. A much greater degree of complexity can be attained by the projection of DIS toward a midpoint, which is then held in contrast with either the predatory or preyful aspect. The evolved purpose of this is to force the interaction to evolve into greater complexity and in this way the pressure doesn’t invoke a shut down, but rather inflects the GO v. NO GO threshold so that it becomes a more complex rheostat for more complex feats of discrimination. The individual can get the feel, GO but not quite yet and not straight ahead but circuitously, the Direct/Indirect–Active/Reactive subset of possibilities. So for example in the instance of a dog yawning while being massaged, it indicates that in the natural scheme of things, the pressure of DIS relative to Predatory aspect of the masseuse, will force the interaction to elaborate so that the two in the relationship will strive to overcome greater objects of resistance rather than stay contented in the relationship. (Projection of DIS held in contrast with Predatory Aspect creates an internal void—if that is the subliminal focus on gut/hunger remains strong enough in the face of said pressure, in other words, the primal form of the positive state of contrasting that I discussed above—which creates a state of arousal, an urge for something inchoate to materialize so that this can be fulfilled. (this is the “absential”) It increases an orientation to the horizon, to find, “to seek” as is a term dog folks are fond of these days, an appetite for change, input, so we could say it is a future tense of the emotional mind.) Companionship evolved not for the virtues of companionship, but to do work and this is what positive contrasting can effect. (In contrast, negative contrasting could effect an intuitive knowing of something malevolent and seeking distance even when the threat isn’t physically manifest in any way under current circumstances) The predatory aspect when held in a state of positive contrasting creates a state of arousal. This is emotion as a thermodynamic phenomenon which causes the group to seek a common midpoint for their respective appetites. The yawning dog is absorbing a charge (things aren’t moving fast enough) and so it becomes invested with an internal charge to do work, to connect with the handler on a deeper level of complexity that will be attracted to common objects of resistance as a means of connection. Again, we have this intellectual reflex that stress is bad, but stress evolved to do work, and stress is many layered, the deepest layers propel the organism toward future goals, not cognitively, but as a consequence of emotion as a thermodynamic phenomenon. To date this animal capacity for future oriented, purposive behavior has been misinterpreted as akin to human intellectual processes.
    {I would like to reiterate, that the above logic stream follows from the construction of a model. So if one finds an objection to any of the above, it becomes incumbent on them to supply an alternative model rather than simply relying on declarative statements.}

  45. docdeb27 says:

    I reiterate my last comment.

  46. Kevin Behan says:

    Earlier I put forward perhaps the best counter to my theory in the example of someone crying tears of joy which one might argue shows how various autonomic responses might flow together to render a more complex emotion. If one were to build a model one might test whether this counter argument holds up.

  47. docdeb says:

    One would have to care enough to. I am simply staying that the theory of yawning equaling stress in canines is not always true. Your latest theory would seem to support that. No need to be too complicated.

  48. Kevin Behan says:

    Guilty as charged. I do care enough to build a model to support my argument.

  49. docdeb says:

    You are trying to make a model to force facts into your theOry. Maybe yawning is also a sign of pleasure not stress.

  50. Kevin Behan says:

    I’ve made the point elsewhere but it bears repeating. If yawning equals pleasure in this instance, then context is everything. If context is everything, than body language means nothing. Therefore, it would no longer matter what yawning indicates. So if body language is to mean something, there must first be a model that runs consistently through every context.

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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