Research shows that some dogs really do have a sense of humour

According to dog expert and psychology professor, Stanley Coren, some dogs have the same humour as a three-year-old.

The theory that dogs have a sense of humour dates back to 1872, when Charles Darwin posed the idea in a book theorising the emotions of animals and humans.

Referring to Darwin, Professor Coren states, “He suggested there are things that dogs add to their play that seem to be the doggy equivalent of practical jokes,”

Running Dog
image: Pinterest

“The most typical one is their game of keep away, where if you toss something to a dog, he’ll grab it, run a distance away, then drop it on the ground and wait there until you come close, then grab it and run away.”

Speaking to ABC Radio Adelaide, Coren referred to a study undertaken by Benjamin Hart and Lynnette Hart at the University of California-Davis, which examined certain breeds’ playfulness. This included the dogs’ willingness to chase balls or frisbees and play games like hide-and-seek.

English springer spaniels, cairn and Airedale terriers, golden retrievers, and standard poodles were found to be some of the most playful, while at the opposite end, chihuahuas, rottweilers, bulldogs, and bloodhounds were the least playful.

Now, I don’t have my own pooch – a fact I lament daily – but I spend enough time at my local off-leash park.

After countless hours of citizen science doggy research, I can attest that there are some funny four-legged friends out there.

Last week, for instance, I saw a chocolate Labrador steal a packet of rice crackers from an unsuspecting mum and her toddler. I didn’t see the theft first-hand, but I heard the impassioned yells from the Lab’s weary owner.

Knowing full-well that it had leaped deep into naughty territory, the rotund pooch proceeded to gallop out of reach. Every time the poor man would come within reach of the plastic packaging, the dog would look him straight in the eye and sprint out of reach again – stolen loot still in his slobbery mouth.

This kind of behaviour is common in pooches with a sense of humour.

Professor Coren states that “Certain clusters of dogs have an incredible sense of humour and, for them, their motto is ‘Nothing is worth doing unless it creates a furore,'”.

In my scenario, the furore was definitely worth it – I was laughing, the people around us were laughing, and that chunky lab was definitely laughing.

His owner – not so much.