In this game, you yawned and recorded whether Moona yawned in response. Yawning in dogs can be an indicator of stress, but we were measuring something different - social yawning. The rationale behind this game is that even as young children, we laugh when we see someone laughing, and we cry when we see someone in distress. Our ability to "catch" the emotions of others is called emotional contagion. A common form of emotional contagion is yawning. If you see, hear or even think about someone yawning, you will probably feel an irresistible urge to yawn.
Moona did not yawn in response to your yawn, but this is not surprising. Although dogs are one of the few species besides humans that contagiously yawn, there is variation among dogs. Data from several research groups shows differing results, but our preliminary data shows that only 20% of dogs yawn contagiously.
Eye Contact Game
Dogs can even be better than aspirin. Children in a hospital reported that their pain was four times less when they played with a dog than when they spent the same time relaxing.
This game was based on research that showed that owners whose dogs stared at them for longer periods of time had significant increases in the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, also known as the "hug hormone," is related to feelings of bonding, pleasure and affection.
Moona is more wolf-like when it comes to eye contact. Wolves do not seek out the gaze of humans like dogs do. But this doesn't mean that wolves are not bonded to their pack members. They have other ways of connecting. Similarly, not all dogs connect with their owners through eye contact. You know better than anyone how Moona displays her affection for you. But if you are looking for ways to increase oxytocin in a similar way to eye contact, research has shown that hugging and playing with your dog for half an hour raises oxytocin in both you and your dog. You should engage in as many of these play sessions as possible. According to one study, it's more relaxing than reading a book!