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. docdeb says:

    Sorry. Your “if then” theory is not correct. Just because something had more than one meaning doesn’t mean it had none.

  2. Kevin Behan says:

    A dictionary wherein words are their own antonyms cannot a language make.

  3. b... says:

    Hmm… a model based on facts. Is there a different kind?

    Indeed, if a single animal behavior is subject to opposing interpretations, then a dog can be said to be feeling whatever the observer is interpreting. The quantum canine!

    I think the point about stress would benefit from considering the concept of eustress vs. distress. Kevin’s theory accounts for both as far as I can tell.
    Or perhaps the objective physical definition of stress/tension/pressure rather than the subjective psychological one.

  4. docdeb27 says:

    Well, if it’s on the internet, it must be true. Really,lol?

  5. b... says:

    Troll much?

  6. b... says:

    If It’s on the internet, It’s projected out as input to anyone who sees It.

    This output serves Its source as a means of connection, the motivation being the universal drive to make contact. The reader processes this stimulus depending on their temperament and experience. They either perceive it as predominantly preyful (“positive”, concordant with their beliefs, feeding their hunger) and absorb it as a good feeling. There is no conflict. “Wow, this explains a lot. I had a feeling this was what was happening.”

    Or they perceive It as predominantly predatory (“negative”, discordant with their beliefs, knocking them off balance). It triggers physical memory, and the friction elicits stress. Stress causes neurons to fire and action results. Perhaps they yawn. Being a critical thinker, the reader may seek clarity in order to see if it applies to their own situation. Or they may rethink their situation and adjust their beliefs without further clarification. Or they may see it as negative proof of their existing beliefs and those get reinforced. In any case, the stimulus has produced positive conflict, and by overcoming the resistance It presented, the reader is able to turn stress into work into a good feeling, or flow. As a result, it may add intensity to their drive and they might seek out more of It to intensify their flow. “OK, that makes sense, now I get it.” or “I see now that your argument is logically flawed because of X,Y,Z, and you’ve convinced me that I was right all along. Thanks.”

    On the other hand, if they perceive It as predatory and aren’t able to perceive sufficient preyful aspect about It, It presents more resistance than they can overcome and the stress causes a collapse of the initial attraction, resulting in frustration, anger, annoyance, etc. This negative conflict overwhelmed their capacity and did not produce flow. Depending on their temperament, they may react indirectly and simply flee the site to a more comfortable place… or, if their hunger is stronger than their fear of losing balance, their drive to make contact wins over their flight instinct, and they may react directly by lashing out. “You’re an idiot. Anyone can make up anything and post it online.”

    Whether they perceive the stimulus as predominantly preyful or predatory, they are attracted to it and, as long as flight instinct is not triggered, compelled to post a comment (make contact). Without sufficient emotional mass to stimulate, and without the reader’s drive, they would simply ignore it and carry on with their business.

    Look at that – the theory even works on the internet. Is it true? I don’t know. Is geometry true? Is quantum physics true?
    Does it offer a logical explanation of observable phenomena and a comprehensive system that can be used to affect behavior with remarkable efficacy? Yes, I think so.

  7. docdeb27 says:

    You are waaay to full of yourself. Hubris. I don’t agree with you. That’s it. You can stop now and move on with your life. It’s ok that someone disagrees with you.

  8. b... says:

    That is beautiful. Nothing warms the cockles of the investigative soul like empirical evidence. Predatory reflection and most importantly, the irrepressible force of attraction, even under the mask of competition.

  9. Kevin Behan says:

    Indeed it’s okay to disagree but not to critique and then retreat to high “moral” ground without making an argument.

  10. docdeb says:

    You REALLY need to get over yourself! I did not critique. I noted that my dog yawned for a different reason, based on personal, first hand, repeated observation. You however have made it your life’s quest to prove me incorrect. Sorry my experience doesn’t fit into your theory. Get over it. Life will go on.

  11. joanne frame says:

    Thankyou docdeb, kevince and b… for this discussion. Interesting reflection from b… on the parallels of Kevin’s principles applied to the argument in this discussion. I’m trying to find the parallel of what b… is doing back into the NDT world… Is this exchange the equivalent of achieving ‘a bite’ in the dog world? From the discussion? Or maybe it’s actually achieving a ‘shake and tear’, indicating too much ungrounded energy for the dog to handle. I find myself judging the tone of the input a bit smug and maybe unfair. Would a dog be ‘teased’ in such a way? It’s a genuine question, as it may uncover resistance in me to applying NDT. And normally I would just think this and walk away from the discussion….

  12. Kevin Behan says:

    These exchanges are helpful for a reader to learn how a personality theory of behavior engages with an energy theory, i.e. a critic accuses me of what the critic is actually practicing. This is the strategy of the Unknown Scientist for example. Docdeb’s is commenting on my site, I am not commenting on D…’s site. So I am not concerned with how D.. ends up believing. Meanwhile this is the only site available to a reader to learn about an energy interpretation (i.e. immediate-moment manner of analysis) of a dog’s ways. Counter arguments are welcome but it has to be in the form of an argument. Or, a question might be asked so that a point of distinction might be made more obvious between two ways of looking at a behavior, or so that a flaw in my reasoning could be exposed. In the interest of priming the pump I offered D.. a possible counter argument so that a meaningful exchange of ideas might occur. If a meaningful exchange of ideas with D… is not possible, I don’t pursue the matter. But as long as there is something meaningful to say about an energy vs. personality theory (the consensus view) I will continue to comment.

  13. b... says:

    I think smugness is in the eye of the beholder. All my words were sincere.

    I found the exchange rather illuminating as well from an energetic analysis standpoint, hence my participation. I believe only one participant felt the level of pressure necessary to reference their DIS and repeatedly projected a pain memory (by way of character judgement) at the predatory mirror they encountered.

    Worth noting that the perception of predatory aspect was strictly in the eyes of the gazer and not inherent to anything written in response to their comments.

  14. joanne frame says:

    Kevin, I agree, these exchanges are helpful to the reader. And I agree with the benefit of debate, and understand the frustration when a counter argument isn’t provided, and I also accept your position regarding your own blog. I wanted to clarify my comment ‘resistance in me to applying NDT’, because on rereading, I think it might not be easy to understand.

    I thought it interesting, for my own development that I felt uncomfortable about the tone of the discussion, and specifically what I ‘heard’ as a slightly sarcastic tone in b…’s comments. I found docdeb’s comments quite argumentative as well. What I noted was my feeling that the exchange was disharmonious, and that fact, on its own is not worth sharing on the site (get over myself!). BUT, I related it to what I have noticed with working with the dogs. That I find it difficult to put them under any pressure…eg by giving them the opportunity to learn in situations that might make them feel uncomfortable at first – the -ve to get to the +ve to use a term of yours. Wanting to keep everything positive…so by noticing my feelings about the exchange in these comments, gave me more clarity on one of the areas I struggle with in working with the dogs. Probably not of interest to anyone else but I just wanted to explain!

  15. b... says:

    To Joanne’s point, it seems to me that the midpoint (blog) really can’t conduct enough energy to absorb the charge, so a collapse results, and the output might parallel the “kill” bite of some breeds. There’s not much “meat” to the midpoint, so it can’t convey much more than a snap/re-grip type of bite.

  16. Kevin Behan says:

    In and of itself the exchange may not have been worth much as of course those of us in NDT land are well aware that the vast majority of dog owners and professionals prefer a psychological over an immediate-moment manner of analysis. So yes there isn’t much to be gained from someone simply registering their objection and then failing to make an argument. However as the exchange unfolded the intellectual devices by which the inherent intelligence of emotion is discredited, denied and delayed came into view and made for a teachable moment. This is relevant because one must become aware of these intellectual reflexes as this is what dog owners have to confront in their own minds (judgement of others over intelligence of emotion) when one confronts the emotional issues that dogs trigger. So for example twenty years ago someone who chose to not neuter their dog risked complete ostracism from dogdom. Where are the mea culpas from the experts of dogdom? They’re not to be forthcoming as these same folks are already busy with the next order of expertosis. In those days the response to what a dog triggered came predominantly from the fear/control reflex; but today it is overwhelmingly the fear/guilt response. So if the tone becomes uncomfortable, this is because of a guilt approach that seeks to shift the burden onto the individual who is advocating for emotion over intellect as source of a dog’s intelligence. It’s brilliant. The intellect causes the discomfort, then seeks to blame emotion. It’s important to not give that strategy a pass, which means to passively cede to it, and this is because it mirrors the process that one is wrestling with internally as well. What’s going on inside is more important than what’s going on outside.

  17. Chris says:

    I was searching for topics about my dogs and came across your website and read the discussions. Kevin, keep up the great work, professionalism and reasoning on your theories. Your discussions are enlightening! Also can everyone start describing animals as him not her instead of “it” as they are not objects but a living sentient being who has a gender.

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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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