Countless videos are floating around social media showing dogs doing hilarious things. Which begs the question: Dogs can certainly express a lot of positivity, but what about having an actual sense of humor? Can our furry friends be just as funny as us?
What does science say about it?
The short answer is that dogs certainly do have a sense of humor. Stanley Coren, Ph.D., and author of “How Dogs Think: What the World Looks Like to Them and Why They Act the Way They Do,” states that dogs often have a sense of humor and that this will manifest in playing practical jokes on their owners.
For example, a dog might engage in the juvenile behavior of being very possessive over a toy and wanting to hide it from its owners. They might show a lot of false aggression in the form of growling when the toy appears as if it might be taken away as well.
Because dogs are individuals just like people, they will certainly have a tendency to vary in their behaviors across different breeds, and this is just due to their different personalities. Also, like people, some dogs will just be more playful than others and some will have more of a sense of humor, while other dogs will prefer solitude and quiet environments.
Dogs let us know when they're ready to explore their sense of humor by walking into the room we're in with their favorite toy, signaling they're ready to play and want our attention. Their sense of humor will quickly come into play once we go to grab the toy from them with the goal of throwing it across the room. Instead, the dog grabs the toy and runs away before we even get a chance to throw it to them.
What are the differences between playfulness and humor?
There is absolutely a difference between playfulness and humor when it comes to dogs. A sense of humor is part of a long strand of complex emotions, while playfulness can be very quick and momentary. Playfulness, as well as humor, can both be multi-layered. A strong distinction can indeed be made that playfulness can be short, impulsive even, and can also be something that may happen occasionally and in a way that it may not happen again for long intervals.
However, when it comes to having a general sense of humor in a dog, this is something that can be found within them. It also depends on how they were raised and how they also see the world around them.
How do dogs show their sense of humor?
As we navigate through the world, we try to not only understand other humans but also want to understand our pets as well. A dog's sense of humor gives us the security that they are somewhat human-like, which then allows us to form important bonds and connections with them. We have to believe that this complicated behavior is also based on our own feelings and things we've learned.
There are times that we can tell when our dogs are playing tricks on us or pretending to be total jerks. They do silly things and then want us to chase them. While we may not always have the time, or it might not necessarily be the right time to play at that exact moment, we can certainly appreciate their willingness to show this softer side of themselves.
Dogs showing this sense of humor to their owners is something that is also complex. One minute, your dog may be very quiet and not interact much with you. The next minute, your dog may jump up out of the blue and go get their favorite toy, usually without giving you any warning.
There are indeed many complex emotions involved when our dogs do something silly like steal our socks and refuse to give them back. This shows that they are playing jokes on us and that they want some kind of interaction to take place. This also shows that their minds are indeed very capable of being complex. They stole the exact thing that they knew we were going to reach for next, and this is proof that they had the intention of playing a joke on us while our minds were not focused on them.
It is very important to note that the more that owners play with their dogs and nurture them, the more likely the dogs will develop a sense of humor. Inviting our dogs to play reinforces a positive environment, and hopefully, when they learn to laugh, we will laugh right along with them as well.
So, the next time you see your dog fooling around, join them. Nothing strengthens the bond between animals and humans like humor and playfulness.