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You love your crazy dog. In fact, you’d struggle to imagine life without Leo now. Sure you have to get up early to feed him and take him to the toilet. And yes, if you’d have known how much hair he'd leave on your floors and furniture, you might have thought twice. But now you wouldn’t change him for the world. Especially now that you’ve started teaching him some entertaining tricks. You get guests giggling when you have Leo rolling over and jumping around the room. So you’d like to continue teaching him some giggle-inducing tricks!
Training your dog to laugh seems like the next logical step. Firstly, it’s a great way to stimulate his brain and make him work for that tasty trick. It also makes for a great way to bond with your canine companion. But perhaps most importantly, you and Leo might be the talk of the town when his laughing face is going viral!
Training your dog to laugh isn’t as complicated as you might think. You’ll need to carefully watch Leo for situations which naturally bring on a smile and a sound that sounds similar to laughing. You can then use those to teach him to laugh on command. Introducing treats and positive reinforcements will soon get them following your lead. Then it’s simply a case of reinforcing the behavior.
If your dog is a puppy, then he should be at his most receptive. You could see results in a matter of days. However, if Leo is older and his learning days are behind him, then you may need a while longer. It could be a couple of weeks before you see frequent results. If you can master training, you’ll have the perfect way to break the ice in any social situation. Seeing your pup laugh may put a smile on your face as well. And, of course, a happy dog leads to a happy owner!
Before you start training, you’ll need to ensure you have a few bits. So stock up on some delicious treats. Alternatively, break his favorite food into small pieces. You’ll also need a toy and a clicker for one of the methods below.
You’ll then need a quiet place to practice, away from the distractions of a noisy house. So find five to ten minutes each day to train when you’ll both be able to concentrate. A living room or out in the yard often works well.
Once you’ve got all of that, just bring patience and a can-do attitude, then work can begin!
The Watch Closely Method
The first thing you need to do is pay close attention to your dog. You’re looking for any situations which naturally cause Leo to smile and make a laughing sound. This is likely to be when he gets excited. So it could be just before a walk or before food.
Once you’ve found that trigger, put Leo in that situation. However, just before or as he starts to smile and laugh, give a ‘laugh’ command. Give it in a clear voice and just once, as you want your dog to respond to you the first time. Also make sure you give it in an up-beat voice. Dogs learn best when they think they’re playing a game.
As soon as Leo does laugh, quickly give him lots of praise. You can give him a tasty treat or play around with a toy for a minute. Also throw in some verbal praise. The happier your dog feels, the more likely it is that he will repeat the behaviour.
Now you simply need to practice. Spend a few minutes each day trying the command in different situations. Remember to keep up with the treats. If he is a puppy, try to keep training sessions short, otherwise he may lose interest.
Lose the reward
Once Leo responds to your command and laughs whenever instructed even with distractions around, then it’s time to cut out the rewards. At this point, laughing is a habit and he won’t need the promise of food to follow your instruction.
The Click Method
A clicker is a fantastic way to signal to your dog when he has performed a trick correctly. Used correctly, it can seriously speed up the learning process. So click whenever Leo follows your command and behaves correctly.
Now get your dog’s favorite toy and dangle it in front of him. Get high-pitched and do everything you can to get him worked up. You want him so happy and excited that he naturally smiles and gives a laughing sound.
As soon as he does start to laugh, click straight away to let him know he's done something right, even if he isn't sure what yet. To start with, you can also click even when it isn’t a full laugh. You want to encourage any promising signs early on.
Once you’ve clicked, you must follow up swiftly with a reward. In fact, Leo should receive his rewards within three seconds of laughing. The best reward will probably be the toy you’ve been dangling in front of him. So really shower him in praise and make him happy for around a minute.
Now your job is to practice regularly. The more often you train, the sooner Leo will pick it up. Then once he's got the hang of it and will laugh even with distractions around, you can slowly cut out the rewards. Now you can just use the clicker to let him know he's done a good job.
The Lead by Example Method
Lead your dog into a quiet room and kneel in front of him. The first thing you need to do is capture his attention. To do this, you may want to hold out a treat or a toy. This technique works because dogs often mirror their owners behaviour.
Shape your mouth into a ‘huh’ sound. The sound you make should be quite breathy and if you touch your throat, you shouldn’t feel any vibration. From this position you will then be able to make a canine laugh.
Leo will be able to read on your face when you’re happy and sad. So smile and show him how content you are. This will increase the chances of him feeling happy and following your laugh shortly.
Now while holding the positive facial expressions, add the sound. You should make a huh-hah noise. Don’t worry if it sounds rather strange to begin with. It normally takes some practice. But fear not, the laugh will come and then you simply need to keep doing it until he attempts to copy you.
Eventually Leo will catch on and make some kind of laughing sound back. As soon as he does, make sure he gets a tasty treat or some time playing with a toy. Then simply practice regularly. Soon enough your dog will laugh as soon as you go to make your own doggie laughter sound.
By James Barra
Published: 06/08/2018, edited: 01/08/2021