You don’t need to be around dogs for long for their antics to cause you to smile. We all know that dogs are the very best way to cheer up your day and make you feel better when you’re down. They’re even the topic of hundreds of dog puns that can make us both groan and laugh at the same time.
But do our dogs have a sense of humor? So that’s not just us finding them amusing but do they deliberately do things to be funny? Do they even know what ‘funny’ is? We’ve dug deep into the research to see if we can find an answer
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Could playfulness count as a sense of humor?
It was the great Charles Darwin who suggested that dogs do show a sense of humor. He used an example that I’m sure many dog owners have experienced at one time or another. So, that’s when a dog comes just close enough for us to take the toy, and as you reach out, they dart off, triumphant with their prize.
Maybe, if playfulness is a type of humor, then we could say that it’s something that our dogs display. If we think about other animals, then there is plenty of research that indicates that primates definitely have a sense of humor. Perhaps the most famous of all gorillas, Koko was well known for playing tricks and using wordplay.
Then there are the giggling rats who laughed when they had their tummies tickled and the dolphin who chuckled when watching a child perform cartwheels outside their tank.
So, that would seem to indicate humor, but of course, the problem is how do we even define humor in humans? We all know that some people find slap-stick funny whole others barely break out into a smile. Have you ever told a joke that you found hilarious, but others just didn’t? If we all have a different understanding of what’s funny and what isn’t, perhaps our dogs are the same.
Does being funny have an evolutionary basis in dogs?
Usually, we can trace back the way a dog behaves to having an evolutionary basis. That might mean that it’s linked to hunting or securing a mate or reproduction. But what evolutionary benefit does humor give to our dogs?
One suggestion is that it can be used to survive, so if a dog finds themself in a dangerous situation, then if they might be able to get to safety by making the attacker think they’re just a silly puppy.
Our dogs also learn how to get a reaction from us. So, if we’re watching tv and the dog starts rolling over and we laugh, then the attention we gave to the dog is enough to reinforce the behavior and cause the dog to repeat it in the future.
The Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly, is not convinced that this is about a sense of humor though, they believe it just to be a way of getting attention.
Playfulness does depend on the breed
It’s incredibly difficult to be able to establish if dogs have a sense of humor. We can’t enter their minds, and we have no way to ask them if they find something funny.
If we come back to humor being related to playfulness, then we do have to realize that different breeds have different levels of playfulness. If you’ve ever tried to get a Pekingese to play with you, then you’ll know that can be a tough job. However, your average Golden Retrieve is pretty much always ready to join in a game.
So, a team of researchers from the University of California-Davis decided to rank all the breeds of dog by how playful there are. Right at the top of the list was the Irish Setter, but they were closely followed by the English Springer Spaniel, who managed to push the Miniature Schnauzer into third place.
At the other end of the list, so that’s the least playful dogs, there was the Chow Chow, then the Bulldog, and at the very bottom, there’s the Bloodhound.
Even then, there can be huge variations between individuals in a breed, so you might find a really playful Bloodhound and then an Irish Setter who couldn’t care less about joining in a game.
Do dogs laugh?
So, if our dogs might have a sense of humor, what about laughing? Do our dogs giggle? Well, first of all, we do know that dogs can’t laugh in the same way as we do, and that’s because they don’t have the ability to make the same kinds of sounds as we do.
But, if you’ve ever watched two dogs playing together, then you’ll hear a panting type of noise. It’s thought that this is the canine version of ‘laughing.’
Listen out to the noises that your dog makes when they’re happy and playful because that could be their very own way of laughing!
Our favorite dog pun?
We couldn’t finish this guide without slipping in one canine pun: Where do dogs go when their tail falls off? The re-tail store!