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Can Dogs Laugh?

In the words of Monty Python "Now for something completely different!"

Do Dogs Smile?

We all know our pup smiles at us when we rub their bellies, or tell them how wonderful they are. Your girl, or boy, will open her mouth and pull back her lips, letting her tongue lap over her teeth. The ‘dog smile’ usually occurs when they are relaxed and happy which is why we value this body language as a smile. However, Sherry Woodard, an animal behavioral scientist with states that the ‘dog smile’ is also known as a submissive grin, or a sign that your dog wants to appease you. Woodard, and other researchers, believe dog-smiles occur in response to a human smile, which is a phenomenon called laugher contagion. Thus, dogs smile at us because we smile at them.

But does actual laughter contagion happen with dogs when they make us laugh?

Can Dogs Laugh?

There is a lot of debate as to whether dogs can laugh in the human sense of the word, however animal behaviorists have found that some dogs make a sound similar to laughing when they play. It is a kind of breathy panting that is forcefully exhaled from their lungs and it is considered a ‘play-pant’ rather than dog laugh. Dogs use this play-pant combined with other body language, such as play bows, paw reaching and teasing jumps, to invite other dogs and humans to play.

Animal behaviorist Patricia Simonet at Sierra Nevada College recorded dogs making this play-pant and discovered it had a wider range of frequencies than typical dog panting and could therefore be considered a kind of dog laugh. Simonet played these recordings to puppies and found that they became highly active upon hearing the sounds, whilst shelter dogs found the sounds calming.

What Does a Dog-Laugh Sound Like?

Human laughter is made when the chest muscles squeeze air out of the rib cage making a vocalized “ha-ha” sound. Dog laughter is created by panting without vocalization, creating a more “hhuh-hhuh” sound. It is a more breathy laughter because they do not have vocal chords.

We can mimic this sound be rounding our lips for the “hhuh” sound then smiling slightly to create the “hhah”, and alternating between the two. Some owners claim their pups respond to this by sitting up, wagging their tails and approaching to investigate the noise. Of course, we may be saying something totally different in ‘dog’ because our pronunciation is so bad, such as “I am a worm, come and scratch my ear!” This may well make our dogs laugh so the end result is the same.

Let us know how your dog responded to you dog-laughing with your pup, please comment on this blog or find us on our Facebook page:

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