Humor is defined as having the quality of being amusing or laughable. Comedians are people who have the ability to entertain and make us laugh, but what about our canine friends? Can they understand the concept of humor? One of my dogs, Riley, enjoys a good back scratching by rolling over on a patch of dry dirt, flinging her back legs in the air and squirming her bottom back and forth as she squeals with delight. I laugh every time and she seems to understand it’s something that amuses me. Canines are good at watching us and learning from our actions, but are they capable of understanding when they do something funny that makes us laugh and then repeat a particular behavior for our amusement? Do dogs have a sense of humor?
Anthropomorphism is when people attribute human characteristics to other animals, and it’s not difficult for many pet owners to see human characteristics in their dog or cat. There are no “proof positive” studies on canine humor, but researchers have found that dogs can laugh and express their happiness when playing with other dogs or humans. The laugh is a distinct pattern of breathy pants which is different from panting that indicates your pet is hot or tired from racing around. It’s not uncommon for a laughing dog to smile. Dogs are very capable of distinguishing laughter of other canines from normal panting. Research has shown that playing audio recordings of these distinct pants elicits a positive response from shelter dogs and may reduce their stress, promote positive social behavior and increase their chances of finding a forever home.