Happy puppy jumping

Do dogs have a sense of humour?

Whether dogs have a sense of humour is something we have seriously been thinking about over the last few weeks. Can dogs really have the ability to create or respond to humour? Research on the internet is inconclusive. We thought we’d give you our opinion based on the way that our own dogs behave.

Consider the following extract from The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin [1872].

Dogs show what may be fairly called a sense of humour, as distinct from mere play; if a bit of stick or other such object be thrown to one, he will often carry it away for a short distance; and then squatting down with it on the ground close before him, will wait until his master comes quite close to take it away. The dog will then seize it and rush away in triumph, repeating the same manoeuver, and evidently enjoying the practical joke.

We have all been subject to that little trick. Dogs seemingly love to outwit their humans by playing these sort of games. Our own little Lhasa Apso puppy finds it funny when she retrieves a ball and cleverly retains possession of it. This leaves me clumsily attempting to win it back. It is also curious that dogs seem to know instinctively how far you can reach when trying to snatch an object from their jaws.

No laughing matter?

It has since been suggested that dogs actually laugh… although I haven’t heard our Poppy do this. She also hasn’t nudged any of us in the ribs when something funny appears on the television screen! However every night I leave my socks by the side of the bed and every night Poppy steals away with them, one after the other. She then jumps on the bed and taunts us with them. There’s a very slim chance that you’ll be getting those back without a chase. Poppy finds this game incredibly amusing. As you can imagine, I find it a bit less amusing when I’m trying to get ready for bed! In the morning, it always takes ages to find my socks! Usually, a couple of pairs just disappear completely, never to be seen again!

Humour leaderboard

Staying on the subject of dog humour, I have been talking to other owners to see if a pattern emerges about the playfulness of dogs. During my research, I did come upon a list of dog breeds in order of their playfulness. Poppy is a Lhasa Apso, as you probably know, and I was more than a little disappointed to see this particular breed well down the table. It’s in a subcategory headed ‘not very playful’.

The below list was compiled by Dr. Benjamin Hart and Lynette Hart, behaviorists from University of California-Davis. They examined 56 breeds of dogs by looking into their playfulness. This involved dog experts assessing their willingness to run after various items or to play typical chase games.  Obviously, I cannot possibly agree with where the Lhasa Apso ranks on this one! Try to find your own dog on the leaderboard below and see if you agree with the ranking.

Tell us your stories

We would be really interested to hear from other dog lovers about their own experiences on this subject. If you have an opinion or a humorous story to tell please leave us a comment below.