Ask any Boxer owner and they’ll tell you—Boxers are clowns! They love to make people laugh and they’re good at it. They can be downright goofy and the harder you laugh, the goofier they get.
All of our dogs have also smiled. Our first Boxer, Bridget, would loll on her back and look up at us with an enormous smile on her face. And Ceilidh… if you rub her tummy or scratch her neck, she’ll lean back with a big smile on her face… lips curled up in a “U” shape just like a smiling human. But it was only a few days ago that the sound we’ve always called “happy pant”—the panting sound that all three of our Boxers have made when they greet us in the morning or when we come home—is really the sound of them laughing. Who knew?
The other day I was mulling over a blog post idea and decided to Google “laughing dog” just for the heck of it. Guess what? Dogs laugh!! I’m not sure how I missed this, but in 2001, an animal behaviourist in the US named Patricia Simonet, discovered that dogs actually laugh! If you don’t know what you’re looking for, a dog’s laugh sounds like they’re panting, according to Simonet. When they recorded dogs laughing while playing in a park and analyzed the recordings, Simonet and her team discovered that the panting/laughing sound consists of a much broader range of frequencies than regular panting from exertion.
Still unconvinced? In 2005 in a dog shelter in Spokane, WA, staff played a recording of dogs laughing over a loudspeaker to the din of 15 barking shelter dogs. Within 60 seconds, every single dog stopped barking! According to Simonet, the sound of dogs laughing has a soothing effect on other dogs.
After I read these articles and listened to the clip of a dog laughing, I was laughing myself! I ran into the other room and said to Mary Doug, “I have incredible news! You know how all these years we’ve been listening to “happy pant?” She looked at me with an odd look on her face. “Uh huh…..” But once I explained, she was laughing too.
There is so much still to learn about the creatures we invite into our homes and hearts. Somehow, knowing that Freckle is laughing every morning when she does “happy pant” makes me extraordinarily happy. It’s like listening to anyone laugh … it’s hard not to join in.