The Daily Telegraph reports that research presented at the National Ethology Congress in Lisbon shows that the 29 pets used for the experiment were five more times likely to yawn if they heard their owner yawning.
Some dogs, however, yawned whenever they heard any human yawning.
Lead author of the report Karine Silva said: "These results suggest that dogs have the capacity to empathise with humans."
Animal behaviour expert Ádám Miklósi suggests instead that the research was not conclusive, adding: "Using behaviours as indicators will only show some similarity in behaviour.
"But it will never tell us whether canine empathy, whatever this is, matches human empathy."
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