Important announcement: Studies show that the best way to get the most mileage out of this column is to make sure it is properly inflated.
If everybody did his part, we could cut our dependence on foreign humor by as much as 4 percent.
And now, on to one of the greatest scientific riddles of the age: dog yawning.
According to a recent actual study that was printed in the journal Biology Letters -- generally regarded as the leading journal of dog yawning research -- human yawns are contagious to dogs.
For thousands of years, ever since dogs first came to warm themselves by the cave man's primitive gas grills, humans have looked up at the sky and wondered: Why do dogs yawn?
So now you know. Dogs yawn because you're yawning -- which means you both need stimulating activities that you can enjoy together.
Chasing cars, for example, is a great way to bond with your pet. Not only will it provide you and your dog with exhilarating exercise, it will help lessen the need for a crime watch program, as people from the surrounding area soon learn to avoid your neighborhood.
Playing fetch is another, only make sure to run after the stick yourself.
The study also found that dogs lack a sense of self.
Your dog, while it may seem perfectly comfortable in its dogness, may actually be teetering on an existential abyss, unsure of its place in the world or even its own identity.
If this seems to be the case, reassure your dog about its place in the family. Let the dog sleep in your bed while you spend a night in the doghouse. Drink from its water bowl or, for more extreme cases, straight from the toilet.
The toilet, of course, is the office water cooler of Dog World. A little casual "water cooler" time spent with your dog will do wonders for your pet's self esteem.
Interestingly enough, scientists say that dogs do not even recognize themselves in the mirror, especially when you make them wear silly hats.
So, first of all, remove the hat. Most dogs won't tell you this, but they quickly tire of dressing up in people clothes. "Can't they see I've got fur?" is a typical dog comment found on Internet message boards.
Cat yawns are a different story. The reason your cat yawns, scientists agree, is because it considers you a bore and an idiot. There is nothing you can do about this. Attempts to bond with your cat will only convince it that you are beneath contempt.
And unlike dogs, felines have an inordinate sense of self, with most cats believing themselves to be a major deity. (Even less-narcissistic cats see themselves as rulers of the human world, but these animals are rare.)
Cats recognize themselves in the mirror and -- when they think people aren't looking -- will gaze at themselves for hours walking up and down the "cat walk."
Dogs will never do this. They will look at you -- and probably yawn.
Write to Don Flood in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.