Sometimes our dogs do the funniest things and we just can't help but laugh at their latest displays of comedic genius! They make us smile, laugh and let's face it, burst with doggy love. But can these tables ever turn? Is it physically possible for our dogs to laugh themselves?
Do dogs laugh?
There is actually a scientific name for the matter at hand. Canine gelotology is the study of how, or if, dogs laugh. Fancy! This field of study is still being developed but researchers have come to some conclusions.
Konrad Lorenz, author of Man Meets Dog (1949), explains in his book that dog laughter is detected through the correlations between social activity, a dog's lips and panting. When the corners of a dog's lips are loose and the dog pants rapidly, this is similar to human laughter. Lorenz explains that this physical expression is an "invitation to play".
Decades later, researcher Patricia Simonet continued Lorenz's work with a much more detailed and experimental approach. Simonet studied the sounds dogs make during play, noting a "forced breathy exhalation through the mouth." During experiments and observations, the sound was made even when the dog wasn't playing hard enough to justify panting. Simonet concluded that a dog's "laughter" had different sonic content than simple panting alone. The laughter had spikes in the audio, while panting was flatter.
The effects of dog laughter
Simonet discovered the positive effects dog laughter has on other dogs. In 2005, she conducted an experiment where she played a recording of the higher pitched panting or "doggy laughter" for dogs struggling with stress and depression in an animal shelter. The dogs that heard the recording stopped what they were doing and turned their heads towards the sound. The younger dogs, especially, started to imitate the dog laughs themselves. Simonet concluded that simply hearing the laughter of their peers could help decrease stress while at the shelter. Our hearts melt. Adopt a dog today!
Simonet took her findings one step further and imitated dog laughter sounds in obedience classes to calm worried, anxious, and shy dogs. Go on, give it a try with your pup!
What makes a dog smile and laugh?
Many dog lovers take a dog's wagging tail as his way of smiling, but dogs can actually smile with their mouths! When the jaw is slightly opened and tongue is lapping out over the front teeth, this comes close to the human smile. These smiles are the first step to full-on, joyful doggy laughter, usually during playtime.
Playing with your dog is the best way to make him smile and laugh. You can also take a more direct approach and imitate doggy laughter like Simonet. To do so, follow these steps:
- Round your lips and make a breathy "huhh" sound without any actual voicing (just breath).
- Make an open-mouthed, smiling expression.
- Combine steps 1 and 2 and repeat in order to imitate doggy laughter and hopefully your furry friend will join you!
Although dogs are not ticklish in the same way humans are, "tickling" their tummies can be a form of play and can elicit a fun laugh attack!
Check out this little guy and his cute, growling laugh! (Hover to play video.)
Or this doggo that definitely likes the joke you just told.
Not choking, just laughing
Although it may not sound exactly like a human's, dogs can absolutely laugh!