Some experts are saying that they do indeed have a sense of humor, and with good reason. Certain studies have even shown that they have the ability to laugh.

Dog Laughter

According to researchers at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe, dogs actually laugh when engaging with their human counterparts during special occasions.

Animal behavior professor, Patricia Simonet, explains that dog laughter can easily be mistaken for panting by someone who might not know what to listen out for.

She also continues to explain that they chose to call this particular sound a ‘laugh’, because it was only heard during times when the dogs were either playing or being playful.

Professor Simonet further supports the dog laughter theory with frequency analysis recordings.

When one of the dog ‘laugh’ recordings was played to a test group of fifteen puppies, all of them excitedly responded by engaging in play with their toys.

A secondary test was performed to reinforce the first. A recording of various barks, growls and whines was played to the group, and none of these sounds brought about the same excited reaction as the recording of the ‘laugh’. [1]

Did you Know?

In the book titled ‘The Emotional Lives of Animals’ author Marc Bekoff wrote : “If we have a sense of humor, then nonhuman animals should have a sense of humor too.”

The Best Medicine

We now know that dog laughter triggers a playful reaction when heard by dogs, but does it cause any additional reactions?

Another audio study was conducted at a county animal shelter, exploring the affect that dog laughter might have on dogs experiencing stress.

Upon hearing the playback of the dog ‘laugh’, the stress levels of the test group were brought down substantially. On top of that, the dogs also became a lot more social. [2] [3]

Signs of Dog Stress

  • Panting
  • Salivating
  • Pacing
  • Barking
  • Cowering
  • Lunging

Being Playful

In establishing that dog laughter exists, we now have to wonder how playfulness factors in. The more playful the dog, the ‘better’ their sense of humor?

When looking at people, we always assume that the ones with a more playful side have a good sense of humor. Perhaps this applies to dogs as well.

Certain breeds are known for being extremely playful, while others are more quiet and reserved.

Two doctors from the University of California-Davis (Dr Benjamin Hart and Dr Lynette Hart) requested that experts compile a list of different breeds, ranging from most playful to least playful.

Most Playful Breeds

  •  Irish Setter
  •  English Springer Spaniel
  •  Miniature Schnauzer
  •  Cairn Terrier
  •  Airedale Terrier
  •  Standard Poodle
  •  Shetland Sheepdog
  •  Golden Retriever
  •  Australian Shepherd
  •  Miniature Poodle
  •  German Short-Haired Pointer

Least Playful Breeds

  •  Samoyed
  •  Chihuahua
  •  Rottweiler
  •  Pekingese
  •  Akita
  •  Alaskan Malamute
  •  Saint Bernard
  •  Basset Hound
  •  Chow Chow
  •  Bulldog
  •  Bloodhound

With all of the above taken into consideration, it is extremely important to choose a breed that suits your lifestyle and personality.

Fun fact

Charles Darwin was one of the first known people to theorize that dogs have a sense of humor [4]

Interactions and Body Language

There are various ways in which dogs attempt to communicate their humor to us. The signs are all there, and they’re quite easy to spot if you pay attention.


If someone can laugh, then they can certainly smile. This is also true for dogs. According to studies performed at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, a typical dog smile is a “relaxed, open-mouthed facial expression.”

Dogs often smile when seeing their human companions in happy or humorous states. This is known as ‘laugh contagion’, and dogs experiencing this will very quickly engage in playful activities with their owners or other dogs. Smiling is contagious after all.

Tail Wagging

The Helix newsletter at Northwestern University published an article exploring the various expressions of dog emotions.

Herein it was noted that the right hand side of a dog’s brain regulates rationale, while the left hand side is responsible for emotion. When a dog wags it’s tail, it would appear that the right side is telling the left side to perform this action.

In essence, it is a choice that is made rationally and consciously, which is directly connected to their expression of humor.

Practical Jokesters

There are a number of things that dogs do in order to play tricks on us, as reported by the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.

From a small thing like playing dead when they’re told to get off the couch, to pushing us off the bed at night. These are all playful little jokes that they believe to be funny. We as owners often teach them this sort of behavior without even realizing it, so we have only ourselves to blame.

Have you ever let your pooch out to do their business before bed, only to have them not come back in when you call them? Well, there’s a good chance that they’re just standing behind a bush ignoring you. To be fair, that is at least a little bit funny. [5]

Final Thoughts

At this point you should be quite well convinced that dogs do indeed have a sense of humor. They might not approach comedy in the exact same way as us, but they certainly have their own take on it.

The next time you can’t find your slippers, ask yourself who might be peeking at you from around the corner with a grin on their face.