Dogs love us unconditionally, but do they laugh at our jokes? Sometimes that’s the greatest measure of love, especially when our jokes don’t appeal to the human crowd. If you tell a dog a knock knock joke, they’ll smile blithely because they are nice pups, but dogs don’t laugh at bad puns or a particularly good standup set because, well, they’re dogs and they don’t understand the nuance of human language.
That said, there is some evidence that dogs do laugh, or at least make happy sounds that amuse themselves and each other when they’re in a playful state. It’s kind of a breathy “huh” sound, almost like panting, but not quite the same sound you’d hear from heat or overexertion. The dog laughter signifies having a good time, which is certainly one of the functions of human laughter.
Asides from the specific sound, dogs engage in humor, which is perhaps more fascinating. By being silly weirdos, they’re trying to get positive, playful, amused behavior and reactions from us. Their way of joking around is centred on physicality, so they romp around, roll on the floor, even steal our stuff in obviously joking ways. They’re looking not only to play, but to get a rise out of us in a respectful and zany fashion.
Another thing that dogs will do is to mirror our smiles and very clearly indicate to us that they’re having a good time with eye contract and other kinds of gesture mirroring. If your dogs starts to mimic you, they’re looking up to you, but they are likely also clowning around.
No, dogs will never really get your favourite comedy or understand the nuance of your dry, acerbic wit, but they will find the humor of the situation and make you laugh, while laughing in their own way for their own reasons. This is an example of how dogs are different from humans, but in a way that ultimately enhances our understanding of life. We can laugh in so many different ways.