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If you’ve ever spent time with canine friends in your life, you’ve probably wondered if when they’re in a good mood, can they laugh? Sure, it seems like they are when you get out their favorite treat or toy, but do they actually have the capability of laughing?
Scientists in the field of gelotology, or the study of laughing, have been investigating this idea for years, though it only began as far back as the 1960s in earnest. There’s even a host of information scientists don’t know about laughter in humans, so it’s understandable that we don’t know much about dogs or the way they interact or express joy.
So can dogs actually laugh? It seems that, for the short answer, they can. It all stems from research performed by Konrad Lorenz and Patricia Simonet, who investigated dog lips and their formation when panting, which sometimes corresponds to dogs and a possible invitation to come play. Some of the sounds dogs make, as far as recordings go, sound like a “forced breathy exhalation through the mouth,” which can be understood as panting, but sometimes dogs make the noise even when they’re not panting. It doesn’t sound much like laughter, but there seems to be a correlation.
But dogs don’t just vocalize laughter. The movement of their tails and other body language can be interpreted as such too, especially when they lean down, paws forward, head down and rear end up, and wagging their tails. These types of communications can mirror laughter, closed mouth laughter, or many of the other ways that it can vary between humans. Tail wagging on its own isn’t laughter, but it can accompany laughter in some instances.
So if you’ve ever sincerely wondered if dogs can actually laugh, wonder no more! Scientists are still getting the hang of it and trying to figure it all out. But now you have to worry, is your dog laughing with you or at you.