….science says so! Therefore it must be true! 😉
Dog owners will often swear that their four-legged friend understands exactly how they feel.
And now researchers have suggested that far from reading too much into their pet’s actions, they may well be right.
Not only do dogs yawn when humans do, they are much more likely to do so if that person is their master.
Scientists say this behaviour reveals that dogs have a human-like ability to show empathy – the capacity to identify with another’s feeling.
Lead researcher Dr Teresa Romero said: ‘Our study suggests that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally connected in a way similar to humans.
‘Although our study cannot determine the exact underlying mechanism operative in dogs, the subjects’ physiological measures taken during the study allowed us to counter the alternative hypothesis of yawning as a distress response.’
For the study, published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, the Japanese team from the University of Tokyo recruited 25 dogs and their owners.
Dogs watched their owner, or a stranger, yawn or mimic yawning mouth movements, while having their heart rate monitored.
The researchers found that the dogs yawned significantly more in response to their owners’ actions than to the strangers’.