4 min read


Can Dogs Know You're Laughing at Them?



4 min read


Can Dogs Know You're Laughing at Them?


Dogs have become part of our world and they are very aware of our emotions. They can sense from our actions and body language how we are feeling. They can hear the difference between laughter and tears. Dogs have become our social companions and can sense happy and sad emotions. 

They can see on our faces the expression of happiness and laughter. Dogs can copy our smiling faces with their version of a smile when you have a chuckle in front of them. Dogs like to entertain, and some breeds are very good at getting a laugh from their audience.


Signs Your Dog Knows You are Laughing

Dogs are very sensitive to the tone of your voice and so they will soon know if you are laughing at them. They will sense if this is an enjoyable moment. Dogs love to use the "play bow" in a comical situation and if you are relaxed and laughing, you may get a play bow response from your dog. 

Dogs wag their tails in happy times and will tilt their heads to get a better appreciation of the laughter. They know the difference between a light-hearted, funny laughter and a mocking, derogatory laughter. The sounds are different. One is light and friendly and the other harsh and unpleasant. 

Dogs show you they are enjoying your laughter with sparkling eyes, a toothy, broad mouth and even a funny, panting noise. Certain breeds love laughter more than others. Terriers, especially the Cairn Terrier, love to perform. They will show you comical antics just to hear you laugh and be the center of attention. 

A Cairn Terrier became a very famous show dog acting as Toto, Dorothy’s companion in the Wizard of Oz. Getting everyone to laugh and react to their laughter was what made this little character and other show dogs appealing. When you laugh with your dog, your dog will enjoy the game or entertaining activity. Some dogs will get up to mischief just to get your reaction and a laugh for their antics.

Body Language

These are some signs and body language cues your dog will show you if they enjoy hearing you laugh:

  • Head Tilting
  • Listening
  • Wag Tail
  • Ears Up
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

Other signs that you may see when your dog enjoys laughter are:

  • Sparkling Eyes
  • Running Around
  • Broadly Grinning

The History of Dogs Understanding Laughter


Dogs have become part of man’s social life and they notice when their master is happy or sad. They enjoy hearing us laugh because their intuition tells them this is a happy experience and being laughed at may bring some treats. 

Laughter is the best medicine they say, and some caninces have even become therapy dogs used to cheer people up. Taking a therapy dog to a hospital or old age home is very rewarding. The therapy dog encourages laughter and good cheer from the patients. 

Charles Darwin, in his animal studies back in 1872, was studying the emotions of animals. He wrote in his journal, ‚ÄėDogs have a sense of humor.‚Äô Some dogs are more adept at sensing a time for laughter and entertaining. Other dogs are of the more serious temperament. As dogs are social creatures, most dogs will enjoy a good laugh with the family and know when they are being part of the laughing matter!¬†

The Science Behind Dogs Sensing Laughter


Science plays an important role in investigating animal behavior. The MRI scan has helped scientists to record and understand a dog's reaction to certain sounds. The MRI (functional Magnetic, Resonance, Imaging scan), tracks the flow of blood in the brain. 

A group of dogs were trained to sit perfectly still while the scanner recorded their reaction to different sounds. The results showed the dogs reacted favorably to positive sounds - including laughter. The auditory cortex of the brain responded to the sound of a human voice more than to a non-vocal noise. The dogs responded differently to the sounds of laughter than to the sound of a cry.

Training a Dog to Sense Laughter


First, start to train your dog to sense laughter with plenty of socializing. A well socialized dog will enjoy being part of social activities and will feel comfortable around happy, laughing people and their canine friends. Puppy socializing classes will initially set the tone of social behavior. Socializing exposes the young dogs to other puppies and their owners. This helps them all to be more at ease with people who may laugh at them - ans people love puppies! 

Obedience training will be of value too. An obedient dog will learn how to stop exuberant behavior and you can control crazy antics that may get out of hand. Then, if you really enjoy your dog’s response to laughter, you may like the idea of getting involved in some circus tricks. 

The CCS, Canine Circus School, offers classes for dogs with their owners.  The dogs enjoy learning new tricks that will entertain and provide positive stimulation. Dressed in a little clown ruffle and learning to stand, sit or take a bow is all part of the training. There are different levels of training and the circus trainer shows your dog what fun it is to get a laugh or two. 

Basic training involves obedience and lots of socializing, too. The happy, smiling faces of the dogs performing their tricks, is a testimony to their enjoyment and the way they can sense you are laughing too. The emphasis is on enjoyment and mental stimulation, and each dog and their owner can take the classes to the level they feel able to attain. 

Dogs who perform well may go on to be movie dogs, take part in advertising, or just entertain at parties. It is a great way to enjoy some fun and stimulating activities with your dog, as you watch them take a bow, and you say, "wow! that’s my dog!!" 

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Written by a Rhodesian Ridgeback lover Christina Wither

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 07/06/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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