Do dogs laugh?
A few weeks ago, Trish King, instructor of the Marin Humane Society’s Canine Behavior Academy mentioned that the shelter used to play C.D.s of dogs panting because the sound has been identified as dog “laughing” and works to calm nervous animals. Layla, the little fluff ball that has been with Franny and I for the last two weeks, pants all the time and it made me wonder if she could really be laughing. She certainly looks happy – sitting around with her toothless smile panting like crazy…
According to Nobel Prize winning ethnologist, Konrad Lorenz, dogs are capable of laughing. In his book Man Meets Dog he describes it like this:
“…an invitation to play always follows; here the slightly opened jaws which reveal the tongue, and the tilted angle of the mouth which stretches almost from ear to ear give a still stronger impression of laughing. This ‘laughing’ is most often seen in dogs playing with an adored master and which become so excited that they soon start panting”.
So it’s not ALL panting. Dogs pant when they are physically exhausted or hot and when they are stressed out but this playful laughing pant is a little bit different. Patricia Simonet, a researcher at Sierra Nevada College, recorded the sounds of dogs panting in a dog park. Even though to the untrained ear all panting sounds alike, laughter panting has a wider range of frequencies than regular panting. Then Simonet played the sound of doggie laughter for 15 puppies and found that just the sound made them bound around joyfully. She also noted that when she imitated the laugh panting sound with dogs, it also had a positive effect!
Although the Marin Humane Society had to stop playing the panting c.d.s because visitors complained about the similarities between the sound and those made by humans in the, shall we say, heat of passion, they did find that it had a calming effect on the shelter dogs. And Layla, yeah, she’s definitely a giggly little lady…
So the next time you and your dog are in a stressful situation – at the vet, on a bus, in a crowd – trying panting at him and see if it makes a difference!