What’s The Rea­son For Dog Yawns?

Riverbank News - - PERSPECTIVE - Didi McEl­roy Dier­dra McEl­roy is a grad­u­ate of Texas A& M Uni­ver­sity and is an An­i­mal Be­hav­ior­ist spe­cial­iz­ing in ca­nines. If you have ques­tions or con­cerns about the pets in your house, you can get them an­swered through a fu­ture col­umn of Didi’s Dogs. Fo

DEAR DIDI: My Border Col­lie mix yawns con­stantly. We have run blood tests and ev­ery­thing looks nor­mal. When we are try­ing to play with her, or train her, she yawns re­peat­edly so we let her just go take a nap. She goes straight to her bed and curls up. I was wor­ried that she was lethar­gic and lacked en­ergy, yet she seems to have a nor­mal ap­petite and en­ergy lev­els other­wise. Any ideas? -BC Mom

DEAR BC Mom: Many dogs, but Border Col­lies in par­tic­u­lar, seem to have a very sen­si­tive tem­per­a­ment. Tem­per­a­ment in a dog refers to how eas­ily they feel in­tim­i­dated or fear­ful. They may be ner­vous about their sur­round­ings, strange noises, walk­ing on a dif­fer­ent tex­ture than nor­mal, sud­den move­ments in their environment, too much di­rect eye con­tact from the hu­man, etc. Things that seem com­pletely nor­mal, to the point where you don’t even no­tice them, may be a very big deal to your dog.

Yawn­ing tends to be a sign of stress in ca­nines. Re­peated yawn­ing is your dog try­ing to send a sig­nal that she is un­com­fort­able with the sit­u­a­tion. So, now you need to be­come a de­tec­tive and fig­ure out what is mak­ing her ner­vous. Is it the lo­ca­tion in which you are train­ing or play­ing? Rule that out by re­peat­ing what you are do­ing in a dif­fer­ent place. If she is still yawn­ing then lo­ca­tion can be dis­carded. If there are other peo­ple in­volved in the sce­nario per­haps have them leave and see if she doesn’t like an au­di­ence. Also take a good look at your train­ing meth­ods. Some­times our tone of voice or body lan­guage is psy­cho­log­i­cally in­tim­i­dat­ing for a sen­si­tive dog. I find Border Col­lies do best with mostly pos­i­tive train­ing meth­ods. Uti­lize tech­niques that lure your dog into mak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate de­ci­sions so they feel they have some con­trol in the mat­ter. I’ve even seen Border Col­lies that are sort of a type A per­son­al­ity and if they are un­sure as to whether they can com­plete a task per­fectly it is best to just not even try, rather than fail. We have to en­cour­age them to try and that there won’t be any reper­cus­sions for fail­ing or per­form­ing less than per­fectly.

Think of try­ing to teach a tod­dler to walk. It is hard work phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally! The child might de­cide it is bet­ter to just plop on their di­a­per padded bot­tom than to work hard and still end up on the floor. En­cour­age­ment and over the moon praise will mo­ti­vate the kid to try much bet­ter than get­ting stern and de­mand­ing that steps are taken. Video­tape your­self play­ing/train­ing with your four-legged kid. It can be much eas­ier to eval­u­ate our­selves this way. You may not re­al­ize what your tone sounds like or what your body lan­guage looks like to your dog. Look into some on­line cour­ses on marker train­ing or even a good clicker class. There is real science be­hind the method­ol­ogy and can dra­mat­i­cally in­crease your dog’s self-con­fi­dence and en­joy­ment of the ac­tiv­i­ties you are ask­ing her to par­tic­i­pate in. Good Luck!

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