Laughter is some of life’s best medicine. And it’s something people share regardless of their cultural origins.
What about dogs, though? I don’t think many people consider whether or not their pets can understand or feel emotions similar to ours.
Sure, they seem to know when to act excited, and they can be sad sometimes. But do they know what the weird, tummy rumbling sound that happens at the most random times and sometimes brings their owners to tears is?
Unless there’s some alternate universe no human has ever heard of, it’s likely dogs can’t really laugh in the typical sense. However, there is such a thing as dog laughter.
It might not sound or look anything like laughing, but the cause and meaning are the same.
Making your dog laugh successfully could mean it starts wagging its tail, produces the canine equivalent of a smile, and begins to pant or make a sound similar to panting.
So, now that we’ve established that dogs do indeed laugh and maybe doing it more often than expected let’s delve into the why, how, and what you can do to make your pup chuckle.
Do Dogs Understand Laughter?
Dogs are very in tune with their owner’s vocalizations and tone of voice. They quickly learn when a stern voice means their human is unhappy or when baby talk means they’re glad to see you.
There’s an excellent chance that dogs understand laughter too. Sure, they may not know why you are smiling, but they will sense positive emotions connected to laughing and associate the sound with happiness.
So although they may not get the joke, they’ll definitely be smiling along.
Not only do most dogs know what laughing means, but they can differentiate between the types of laughter and understand when you are likely laughing at them or someone else. Many dog breeds will even try to make you laugh, which brings us to our next question.
Can a Dog Have a Sense of Humor?
Surprisingly, yes, and we’ve known this for much longer than you may imagine.
Dogs find most of their happiness around playtime, and they have shown an exciting proclivity for practical jokes surrounding this activity.
Many dog owners have experienced the same game. You throw your dog a ball or stick, they run after it and pick it up. Instead of running back to you, however, they go and lie down a little distance away from you. Trying to continue the game, you approach. Your pup immediately gets up, moves further away, and lies down again.
Believe it or not, that’s a dog’s equivalent of a practical joke or prank, and they receive endless amounts of enjoyment from annoying their humans in this way.
Even though what they find funny doesn’t always make sense or mirror our own ideas of a joke, we definitely can see why a pup would find running away from you funny for the same reason toddlers think it’s hilarious to disobey their parents.
Can Dogs Laugh?
Ah, the million-dollar question and the most likely reason you’re here. The honest truth? Yes, dogs can laugh, and they do it for the same reasons, although not in the same way humans do.
Some scientists believe laughter is a trait unique to humans, but it’s been proven to exist in primate species for years, so there’s an equally good chance dogs are capable of laughing, just not in the traditional sense.
Most animals, including dogs, have shown at least some emotional response when being tickled or playing. Not only can dogs laugh when the situation calls for it, but they can smile too, which is important to keep in mind as it is often a precursor to laughter.
If you’re looking for an exact mirror of human laughter in a dog, you won’t find it. However, the signs your dog may be laughing are described below.
What Does Dog Laughter Look Like?
Dog laughter will typically start with a positive response to an event or something you are saying or doing. Your pup’s tail will begin to wag, its head will start tilting to try to listen more closely, and its ears will be alert.
If the positive stimulus continues, there’s a good chance this positive show of emotion will turn into full-blown puppy chuckles.
The next level of amusement may include a wide, toothy smile, with their ears back, tail down, and slightly closed relaxed eyes. At times a smiling or almost laughing dog may be mistaken for an aggressive one, but there are key differences.
A happy dog will not have its muscles tensed. Its eyes will also seem almost lazily drooped, whereas an angry dog’s eyes will be wide open.
Happiness will also not typically be accompanied by:
- Hackles: Most happy dogs won’t have fur sticking up on their backs or necks.
- Snarling: Although a happy dog will smile and bare its teeth, the reaction is easily distinguishable from the angry snarling expression.
Finally, comes the full blow dog laugh. It may sound like a throaty, hoarse pant to humans, but scientists have analyzed the sound and found many similarities with humans laughing.
And funnily enough, humans typically react positively to dog laughter and attempt to start playing, even if we don’t consciously understand the sound’s meaning.
Can I Make My Dog Laugh?
Dogs will often smile or laugh without being asked or made to do so. Still, many owners would love to know how to make their pups happy and leave them chuckling, even if just for a few minutes.
Some dog owners even teach smiling as a trick that can be done on command. However, laughter is a whole other story, and the best way to go about making your pup giggle should channel both happiness and excitement.
How to Make Your Dog Laugh
Here are some of the best ways to get your dog laughing.
1. Take Them For a Ride
- Car, motorbike, or bicycle, depending on your dog’s size
- Leash and collar or body harness
If you’ve owned a dog for any amount of time, you’ll know they love going for drives, especially if these drives end in the park or beach. If you build up enough excitement, you may hear your canine friend panting loudly, with a broad smile on their face as they stick their head out of the window. This is, in fact, laughter, and here’s how to go about making your dog laugh.
- Tell them you’re going out or for a drive. Many dogs understand the word and will immediately perk up.
- Grab their leash and harness or collar and walk towards your car. If they’re excited, they will probably start barking and jumping.
- Once you and your dog are in the car, you can secure them by interlinking their harness and seatbelt or let them stick their head out of the window if this can be done safely.
- Alternate between slow and slightly faster speeds to really get them feeling the wind in their ears and, well, fur.
- Use an excited tone of voice when talking to your pet.
A drive is one of the most effective ways to make your dog laugh in happiness if they typically enjoy cars or motorbikes.
In the case of a motorbike, you can find special seats for dogs or if they’re small enough, let them sit in the basket of your bicycle.
2. Play With a Ball or Toy
All dogs love their toys, perhaps some more than others, and you can use this to your advantage while trying to make your pup laugh.
- Your dog’s favorite ball or toy
- Fetch their favorite toy or a ball and show it to them.
- Use baby talk to hype them up.
- Throw the ball or toy, but instead of letting them return it to you directly, run after them or run away from them as they try to give it back.
As this is a practical joke, dogs often play on people. There’s a greater chance they will understand what you’re doing and see the humor in it.
This action will likely leave your dog panting with a huge grin on its face – the canine equivalent of LMAO.
3. Take a Walk
Nothing channels both happiness and excitement quite as much as a walk.
- Your dog’s leash and collar or harness
- Tell your dog you’re going for a walk; this may already be enough to get it smiling and wagging its tail like crazy.
- Put on its leash and head out.
- Try to mix walking with running and lots of praise and laughter of your own.
- It’s likely your elevated mood will give your dog the push it needs to get back home laughing for joy.
4. Participate in Zoomies
Zoomies are short bursts of extreme energy in dogs. They are usually characterized by digs running around as though they’ve gone mad and performing endless amounts of play bows to try to get others to participate.
- When you notice your pup starting to get worked up to run, turn their zoomies into a game of chase.
- Either run after them or run away from them as they start zooming through the house.
- Teasing and laughing as you run can also help them see the humor in the situation and kickstart their laughter.
Most often, dogs will only start laughing after they’ve spent all their energy, so you may have to keep running and joking for a couple of minutes.
5. Mimic Their Laughter
Dogs can identify laughter in other dogs better than in humans. If you want to try to get your dog laughing without working them up, mimicking the sound they make may be your best option.
- Round your mouth, and make a deep “houh” sound with your breath. Don’t actually use your voice.
- Then make a smiling shape with your lips and follow it with a “hah” sound, still not using your voice, just your breath.
- Repeat these sounds after each other several times in your dog’s presence
If you’re making the right sound, your dog will likely perk up, start tilting its head, and even approach you as it starts laughing on its own as well. However, much of this may simply be luck, and it’s unlikely to work on all dogs at all times.