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Dogs can catch human yawns too

tech-reviews Updated: Aug 06, 2008 16:27 IST

PTI
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If you think that yawning is only contagious in humans, you are wrong, for a study has revealed that man's best friend also yawns to empathise with its owner.

Previously, only humans and their close primate relatives were thought to find yawning infectious.

Now, a team at London University's Birkbeck College has carried out the study and found that a dog can also catch an attack of the yawns from its master, the Biology Letters journal reported.

According to researchers, the skill could allow the canine to build a stronger bond with its owner.

"Dogs have exceptional capacities to decode social signals from humans, possibly as a result of the domestication process. Therefore, it is also possible they have the capacity for empathy and that this underlies contagious yawning," the Daily Mail quoted the researchers as saying.

The team came to the conclusion after carrying out a test to analyse the yawning capabilities of 29 canines placed in a room with a person.

To measure the phenomenon, the researchers looked at how the canines reacted when faced with the man pulling facial expressions -- yawning was the only one which provoked imitation.

In fact, they found that 21 or 72 per cent started to yawn as the man yawned in front of them, with top of the yawners being a Border collie, fitting in five in the space of only a few minutes.

However, not a single dog yawned during a non-yawning condition.