Canine Behavior

Why Does My Puppy Yawn and Scratch When Around Other Dogs

Jane Davis

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When your dog yawns or scratches in the presence of other canines, it often has a meaning rooted in canine communication or emotional response.

Yawning can signify stress or anxiety as your dog tries to calm itself amidst the social interaction.

It can also serve as a pacifying gesture, indicating non-aggression and disinterest in conflict when faced with an unfamiliar or assertive dog.

Scratching, on the other hand, might be a displacement behavior. Dogs often exhibit displacement behaviors when they are uneasy or conflicted in a situation.

Your dog might scratch itself when unsure how to react or relieve stress in other dogs’ company.

It’s an action that serves as a self-soothing mechanism and can also indicate that your dog finds its environment or interaction slightly overwhelming.

Understanding Canine Body Language

To accurately interpret what your dog is communicating through their behavior, it’s essential to pay close attention to their body language, specifically when they yawn or scratch in the presence of other dogs.

Yawning in Dogs

Yawning in dogs often signifies more than just tiredness; it can be a sign of stress or anxiety. When your dog yawns around other dogs, it may be feeling uncertain or overstimulated.

This is a calming signal—a way for it to pacify itself and signal to other dogs that it means no harm.

Scratching Behaviors

Scratching can vary in significance. It may indicate a simple itch, but it might be a sign of stress or social discomfort if it occurs frequently around other dogs.

Your dog may be using scratching as a displacement behavior to relieve anxiety or to show conflicting emotions, especially if the scratching is sudden and seems out of context.

Social Interactions Among Dogs

In the complex world of canine communication, your dog’s behaviors, such as yawning and scratching, serve specific social functions when interacting with other dogs.

Meeting New Dogs

Yawning can be a pacifying behavior when your dog meets new dogs, indicating no harm is intended.

This action helps to dissipate tension and convey that they are not a threat, facilitating a more amicable interaction.

Key behaviors during new encounters:

  • Yawning: Conveys relaxation, an attempt to reduce aggression.
  • Scratching: Possibly a self-soothing gesture when anxious or uncertain.

Play Behavior Signals

During play, canines use a variety of signals to communicate their intent and prevent misunderstandings.

Look for a play bow, a stance in which your dog stretches its front legs forward while keeping its rear end up, which is an invitation to play.

Common playful gestures to note:

  • Loose, wiggly body movements: Signifies playfulness.
  • Role reversal: Dogs may switch between dominant and submissive roles during play.

Establishing Hierarchy

In a multi-pet household or when dogs gather, you may notice one dog yawning excessively, which can signify submission within the pack hierarchy.

Observing these interactions can provide insight into the group’s social dynamics and individual relationships.

Indicators of hierarchy and submission:

  • Frequent yawning: Can signal a lower position in the social ranking.
  • Physical posturing: Smaller or younger dogs may attempt to make themselves appear larger.

Stress and Anxiety Signals

When your puppy or dog yawns and scratches in the presence of other dogs, these behaviors may indicate stress or anxiety.

Identifying Stress

Yawning: While often associated with tiredness, yawning in dogs can be a sign of stress. If your dog is yawning around other dogs, it could be a way to alleviate tension or signal discomfort.

Scratching: Dogs may scratch themselves as a displacement behavior—essentially using the action to relieve mild stress or anxiety.

Watch for scratching when in social situations, as it may indicate your dog is uncertain or stressed.

  • Whale Eye: Exposed white in your dog’s eyes, known as whale eye, can be a stress signal indicating that your dog feels threatened or anxious.
  • Licking Lips: Dogs often lick their lips as a sign of nervousness. If your dog does this while around other dogs, it may be showing unease.

Common Stress Triggers

  • New Environments: Unfamiliar settings can make your dog anxious.
  • Overwhelming Groups: Large groups of dogs may overwhelm your dog, especially if it has a history of social anxiety.
  • Unfamiliar Dogs: Dogs that are unfamiliar with each other can be a source of stress as they navigate social interactions and establish hierarchies.
  • Loud Noises: Canines with sensitive hearing can become distressed by loud or unexpected noises, particularly in a new context with other dogs.

Health Considerations for Canine Behaviors

When observing your puppy or dog yawning and scratching around other dogs, it’s crucial to consider if these actions stem from behavioral cues or underlying health issues.

Medical Reasons for Scratching

Allergies: Your dog may display excessive scratching due to allergies. Potential allergens include certain foods, pollen, or dust mites.

Parasites: Fleas, ticks, and mites are common causes of scratching. These parasites can be more than just irritating; they can carry diseases that might harm your dog.

Skin Infections: Bacterial or fungal skin infections can cause itching and scratching. Look for redness, inflammation, or odorous discharge.

Dry Skin: Like humans, canines can suffer from dry skin, leading to scratching. Dryness might be due to environmental factors like low humidity or nutritional deficiencies.

When to Consult a Veterinarian

Persistent Scratching: If scratching is incessant and not situational (around other dogs), consult your vet.

Skin Changes: Any sign of lesions, redness, bald patches, or inflammation warrants a veterinary visit.

Behavioral Shifts: Additionally, if scratching is accompanied by changes in behavior, appetite, or energy levels, seeking professional advice is essential.


Jane Davis

Hi, my name is Jane Davis, and I love dogs. I own a labrador retriever named Max. When I was growing up, we always had dogs at our house. They provide us with such unconditional love and companionship, and I can't imagine my life without one by my side.

This website does not provide pet medical advice. For professional advice regarding your pet's health, please consult a licensed veterinarian in your local area.