Can Dogs Laugh | Or Is It Just A Smile

We always talk about how dogs are so much like humans.  Whether it’s the way they can experience many of the same things that we go through in our life or the feelings they can emulate.   They can show joy, excitement, and even sadness.  They are like us in so many ways.

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When we are happy we smile, but when we hear something that is funny, we laugh out loud.  If you own dogs than I am sure that you have seen your dog smile.  But can dogs laugh like we do?

The research

The study of animal emotions has become quite the topic over the last few years.   Many behavior specialists and scientists have come up with different scenarios to help answer our burning question.

Konrad Lorenz who is a Nobel Prize winner in ethnologist who says that dogs are capable of laughter.  He believes that dogs actually laugh the most, when they are playing.

He believes that when a dog has a slightly open jaw where you can see their tongue, their head tilts back and an almost smile like in their face from ear to ear.   Although no sound actually comes out, you get a very strong impression that they are laughing.  Your dog is almost doing a breathy like panting motion. It’s this motion that identifies as human laughter.

Animal behaviorists Patricia Simonet who is at Sierra Nevada College recorded this particular type of panting like sound.  This panting was different from just the normal panting.  She found that this sound was over a much wider range of frequencies.   If you examine the sound using spectrograph analysis you will see that sound spikes as compared to a normal pant which leaves the graph flat.   This shows that this sound is different and could really be considered a type of laugh.

When she played that recorded sound to a group of puppies, they all became much more active.  Playing this kind of sound to a dog shelter, it actually calmed all the dogs down.  Just that sound really seemed to make a difference to them.


Can you tell when your dog is happy

Every dog has a completely different temperament than the next dog.   Just like people no 2 dogs personalities are the same.  The same goes for how your dog will react to happiness.

My 2 dogs show their happiness in similar ways.  Now part of that might be due to the fact that they have lived together for 10 years and have a tendency to mimic each other a bit.  They are one small dog and one big dog, so there are differences between them for sure.

For me, with my dogs, you can easily tell when they are happy.  Finn for example can give you the big open mouth with his teeth showing from ear to ear.  That is his full on smile.  I always feel like he is saying HUH HA!  A type of panting but not.  It really is the cutest thing.


How to make your dog laugh

Now that we know that dogs really can laugh in their own way, what does it take to get your dog to that point.

Dogs show their happiness physically with some easy visual things like: Tail wagging, ears up and the bounding leap of joy.  When they are really in tune with what you are doing, they pay complete attention to you and hang on every move or word that you say.

To think about what makes your dog happy enough to get that big smile is an easy thing.  Just think about all the things that your dog loves to do.  Dogs are an open book when it comes to showing their happiness especially when it is something that they love to do.


For my dogs, they love to go for walks, I can take them to the dog park, or better yet throw the ball or Frisbee around in the back yard.   Any of those exciting dog activities will bring the open mouth smile and the so called PANT that we consider to be the dog laugh.

If your dog is older and maybe not that active anymore you can try some other things that may make them smile.  Some of the ways you could get your dog to laugh are by simply scratching or rubbing their ears.  It could also be something like having them roll over, so you can rub their belly.  Every dog loves that.

Whatever action makes your dog happy, will make them smile and more times than not make them open their mouth show their teeth and get a laugh.


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Do dogs laugh when we laugh

With my boys, I see that when I am happy and laughing, they instantly want to take part.

One of the easiest ways to get my dog Finn to laugh is to put on music.  The second that I start to dance, he instantly jumps up on me to hold his paws so that we can dance together.   He absolutely loves to dance when I dance.

I love music so much that the second I hear it, it makes me happy and full of joy.  I really think that he feels that same joy from me.


Like many dog owners, when you have a good connection with your dogs and you are in tune together your emotions are easily picked up by them.  Especially the happy ones.

When we feel joy, you can see it run through our body.  We make our individual sound that is our own laugh and than we shuffle our body in a chuckle motion. Our expression on our face shows our utter happiness.   It is very visible.  Even if your dog is laying down and relaxing, they come over to see what the fuss is about.

Laughing Dogs

Dogs can laugh in their own sort of way.  It is not how we laugh, but I believe that it is still a laugh.

We know that dogs make many sounds when they play, they make bark, whine, whimper, and of course the breathy exhale.  Establishing that I believe that dogs laugh, is of course my own personal belief and comes from my own research and the knowledge I have from owning 2 dogs.

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Now I have shown you that there is research that seems to really back up my theory.   But as we all know sometimes research isn’t everything.  We want to see the results for ourselves.  Someone telling us results is not the same thing.

This is easy enough to do.  Find those things we talked about that make your dog happy.  It won’t take long for you to see for yourself, that wide ear to ear smile, the open mouth teeth grin and the HUH HUH pant.  There it is…… Your DOG’S LAUGH!

Whether you believe that your own dog is capable of laughing is for you to decide for yourself.  You have the tools and your dog is waiting.


18 thoughts on “Can Dogs Laugh | Or Is It Just A Smile”

  1. Hi Coralie! I landed on your site with a post concerning a question I had: Can dogs watch something on a PC or TV screen and actually understand what they are watching? You have a post that answeres that and it was an interesting read. But I see you have so many other interesting post on your site.

    I really didn’t know that dogs could laugh. And I didn’t know they could even laugh with us! Cool! I’ll pay attention to how our dogs laugh. I’ll be thrilled when I find out! 

    • Hi Henry,

      Thank you so much for checking out my posts.  I think that understanding the things are dogs are capable of and how questions we always wanted answers to are right there for us to see.

      I am so glad, that I was able to help answer a few of your dog questions with my posts.  I love that dogs are able of more things than we give them credit for.


  2. Hi there, Loved the overall content and visibility of the site. Such great photos of the dogs you have taken. Mainly, I have liked the fitbark thing where you can track the activities. Well, I have a plan to get a dog sooner and that’s is how I came across your site and figured out some cool stuff that I never know existed.

    • Hi there,

      I am so glad that you enjoyed checking out my website. The Fitbark gadget, I agree is completely cool.  It is exciting that you are thinking of getting a dog in the future.  You won’t regret it.

      They provide so much unconditional love and no matter what your day is like, coming home to a dog really does make your day better.  If and when you decide to get a dog, if there is anything I can help you with, please let me know.

      Best of luck and thank you so much for your amazing feedback.


  3. That is a question that we have pondered about for quite some time. Can they laugh and smile? It seems they surely know how to smile, and they likely are laughing too in their own way/manner. I have two that do quite a bit of both. They are happy pets and add to the life of the household a lot.

    All I have to do is mention taking a walk (they understand that and immediately perk up their ears and the tails start wagging). and they will often jump for joy as preparations get underway (leash, clothing for me as appropriate, etc.). They often will let out short excited barks too as this happens…

    I agree with your theory that the dogs can smile and laugh, in their own manner. It is really easy to see how a happy dog reacts to things going on around him, and vice-versa, I have seen some dogs that are very sad and lonely looking. Perhaps some of this is projection?  It does not matter to me, I know my two are pretty happy dogs and they show it!

    • Hello Dave,

      I love that you also have 2 dogs and they sound like they are both happy dogs.  I love having 2 dogs, I think it is kind of a special thing.   I even think that they are happier simply because they always have a companion around.

      Your dogs sound a lot like my dogs when it’s walk time. They are just so happy. There is nothing like that excitement.  

      Dogs ability to show their happiness seems to be so easy to see just by their reactions and movements. Smiling and showing their way of laughing seems easy to spot.

      Best of luck with your 2 dogs. Thanks again for being so engaging, it is great.


  4. I have a small Pomeranian dog who definitely laughs.  I never realized before you mentioned this that this is actually what he is doing.  He does it when my son plays with him and you can tell in his body language that he is happy inside.  He will through his head back and wag his tail while giving this breathy exhale.  Sometimes he sneezes at this point too.  I always thought maybe he gets air up his nose!  Loved your view on this and look forward to reading the other posts on your website.


    • Hi Michelle,

      Isn’t it funny that when you know what to look for in how a dog laughs, you can pick it out so easy. It sure sounds like your dog is having fun and is happy playing with your son. 

      I am really glad that you enjoyed my post and found a new way of spotting something about your dog you didn’t know.  I appreciate you sharing your doggy story with me. 


  5. Wow, I’ve never thought that dogs can laugh.

    Well, I thought that my dog feels what I feel sometimes but I thought that he cannot understand what I mean.

    I was wrong, totally wrong.

    After reading your article, I got an inspiration. 

    He can talk to me and feel what I feel.

    The only obstacle between us is a language. But it doesn’t mean he cannot understand my feelings.

    I think this is very important. I think I have to learn how to communicate with my dog.

    Then I can make him laugh and we can be a real family.

    Thanks for the good article 🙂

    • Hello Shawn,

      You are so right when you said that language really is the only barrier when it comes to our dogs communication with us. 

      I have always believed that dogs do feel how we are feeling. Whether that is happy or sad, I think they are in tune with us. 

      Thank you so much for commenting on my post.  It’s great to share with other dog owners. 


  6. Hey Coralie!

    Finally, I thought I was the only one thinking of that! Sometimes when I play with my dog, I swear I can feel the happiness and laughter whenever I play catch with it, or when we run around in the yard – It seems that I’m right! We don’t deserve dogs, they’re the nicest beings on earth and are happy already just seeing us come home. Okay enough typing, I’m gonna hug my dog again 😀

    • HAHA Riaz,

      I really love your comment on my post.  It is making me smile right now. 

      Maybe we should all hug our dogs.  You are so right that dogs are amazing.  It is a gift that we get and there truly is nothing like it. 

      Isn’t it great now to know that your dog is actually laughing when you are outside having fun. Makes it so much sweeter. 

      Thanks for the smile.  Lots of hugs to your dog, for sure. 


  7. Dear Coralie,

    Thanks a lot for the informative post and every time I read one of your post I gain new insights.

    To be honest, I had this question for many years. And in the part of the world where I live we have a saying, only human beings can laugh so I believed it so far. Thanks for sharing the facts from great people and this is an eye-opener for me.

    The tips you shared on making our dog laugh is helpful and I am going to try those and see the difference (I didn’t notice the PANT before (properly).

    Indeed, they can pick up our feelings easily and quickly. That’s the reason they said, “Dogs are our best friend”.

    I am going to implement what I learned from this post now!


    • Thank you Paul,

      It is really exciting to hear that you find my posts insightful.  That is always my goal when I decide what topic I am going to tackle next.  What do people want to know about dogs that they might not know. LOL!

      Dogs definitely pick up on our feelings and moods. They have a real way of giving you what you need from one day to the next. I think that is one of my favorite things about dogs. They say it all, without saying a thing. 

      Thank you again for such wonderful comments. 


  8. Hi Coralie, 

    There’s no doubt that dogs can laugh, and that they respond to other dogs’ or humans’ moods and emotions.  

    What makes them laugh is an interesting, fun question … you are giving really good elements of answer in this article. Dogs seem to laugh as a way to express the joy they are experiencing in different situations.  

    Now, comparing to what makes human laugh, I would think – we can certainly laugh out of joy as well, however we humans also and especially laugh because of a situation, whether it’s a verbal joke, or a silly circumstance.  I believe dogs cannot laugh at that.  The reason is, unlike humans, they seem to have no or very little ego.  And it’s our ego that make humans make fun of another person because that somehow makes the ego feel better.  

    It seems dogs are much more in the present moment, whereas people are much more stuck in their minds.  Perhaps this why unconsciously dogs make us feel so good.


    • Hi Vincent,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas on my post.  I really enjoyed reading someone else’s  thoughts on dogs and whether they can actually laugh. 

      I think you are so right that dogs live in the moment and laugh when they feel joy. It just seems so much more genuine that humans. 

      I appreciate hearing your thoughts.



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