Skip to Content

Dog Yawning in Car (Why and What to do)

There are lots of theories as to why people yawn, and why dogs yawn as well.  It is hard to nail down, and many of the theories sound reasonable. Dogs yawn for much the same reason that humans do, and yawns are even contagious for dogs as they are for humans.

Dogs and humans have had a relationship for thousands of years, so there could be a connection there. It is believed dogs yawn to relieve stress. It is a means of calming down. They may also yawn when happy, or any strong emotion. 

Why does my dog yawn in the car?

Even if your dog likes riding in the car, the ride may still be a bit stressful. Dogs probably don’t know why there are sways or bumps as they go down the road. The dog probably thought he was going into another house when he got into your car.

With that in mind, you can see how your dog might be a little uneasy or stressed when riding in your car. They may also yawn when entering a veterinary clinic, which they may recognize and have bad memories of. 

Relieving stress, and cooling down the brain, are the main reasons a dog would yawn in your car. Heat can also induce a yawn as part of trying to lower their temperature.

Yawning is still a bit of a mystery both in humans and in dogs.  There apparently is no way to physically measure or study a yawn. But through observation and other studies, scientists have come up with a lot of possibilities.

For a while, the theory that it increased the oxygen level in the brain was widespread. That theory has fallen out of fashion, but they’re still could be some truth to the idea.  If you are sleepy, your breathing may slow, which will mean less oxygen in the brain.

Physical reasons

Scientists now believe yawning could cool the brain when it gets too warm. A yawn could stimulate the nervous system when waking up is another possibility.

Physiologically, scientists say yawning comes about when we transition from one thing to another. Waking up, falling asleep, and going from anxious to calm, are transitions we make physically. The yawn seems to be a response to those changes. 

Dogs may well be yawning for the same reason. Going into a mysterious box that starts moving would be stressful for a dog, and the yawn could be a response to that stimulation.

Emotional reasons

Dogs also yawn when they are stressed, and this may be the biggest reason. Car rides could be stressful, and going into a veterinarian’s office could be as well. Being restrained too tightly, or hugged too much, could also be stressful and induce a yawn.

Dogs may also yawn at other dogs when another dog approaches them in an aggressive manner. The yawn could signal boredom, or that the dog is not intimidated or interested in the other dog.

What does it mean?

To really understand why your dog is yawning, you need to look at the rest of the body language that is shown.  If they have their tail between their legs, licking their lips, and ears back, that is a sign they are stressed. A yawn then would be because of stress.

If they are lying down, it could mean they are sleepy. The other signals help interpret what the yawn means. 

Yawns are also contagious in dogs, just as they are in humans. It must be some kind of group action that makes one do it when they see another one do it.

If your dog is yawning in the car, it could also mean it needs a potty break. It could be a signal that they are getting stressed because they need to relieve themselves, and know they can’t do it where they are.

Your dog could also be yawning because he is excited about being in the car and going somewhere. That would be a good kind of stress, but the dog may yawn at either kind of stress. It is the change itself that causes the yawn, but the stress can cause more yawns to happen.

What to do about my dog yawning in the car?

If your dog is stressed, it is a good idea to help the dog feel better. The dog may not be in pain, but there is something causing stress, and the dog yawns as a result.  

The most obvious thing would be for someone to talk to the dog and or pet the dog. Say or do things that will bring about calmness. Having the dog’s owner sit by the dog will also have a great calming effect. If the dog is small, hold him or her in your lap, and that will add comfort and relieve stress.

One idea is to have a travel bed in your car. It would be good if you could leave it there all the time. This way, when you go somewhere, the dog has a place to sit. He has his own place that he knows, and that will give him comfort. Feeling at home, as it were, will relax your dog and he won’t need to yawn. He might get sleepy and yawn before going to sleep.

Paying attention to body language can also tell you a lot about how your dog is feeling. Is the dog stressed in a bad way, or is the dog excited?  The dog is probably enjoying it if it is exciting, and it might be best to let him yawn all he wants in that situation. If the dog is yawning and does not show a level of excitement, they are probably stressed and it would be good to remove any stressors that are there.

In addition to body language, pay attention to the environment the dog is in. Dogs’ hearing is also more sensitive than ours. They won’t like loud music, but even what you consider normal, might be loud to the dog. There could be other sounds that we cannot hear that could bother your dog.  Sounds that are different than normal outside the car could be yet another reason.

If it is a car the dog has never been in, that could cause some stress. Dogs don’t usually like new things or different things, so when it happens it gives them some stress. If your dog is yawning a lot, pay close attention to what else is inside the car, as well as who else is in the car. A different car than normal might also be a reason.