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Dog Sense of Humour: Does your dog have one?

dog sense of humour

Smiling Dog Image by Denise Coyle from Pixabay

Some dogs seem to have an advanced dog sense of humour. They view life as a stage on which they can play and conduct of pranks of all sorts. Sometimes this is for their own enjoyment. But often they use their imaginations to target their human and canine companions.

Dog sense of humour is what makes our dogs such a pleasure to be with. This increases when we embrace the unpredictability of their wittiness. If you are the sort of person who prefers order and quiet in your life forego the joy of being with a dog.
Our dogs’ playful, uninhibited natures reflect their tendency to keep their juvenile minds. Breeders nurture them to maintain minds very like their wolf puppy forebears. It’s called neoteny.
Dogs love us and want nothing more than opportunities to frolic. They do silly things that they know will make us laugh throughout their lives.
Do these playful behaviours equate with having a dog sense of humour? We expect people with playful natures to have a sense of humour. We also expect people judged to have good senses of humour to be playful.
Charles Darwin might have been the first scientist to suggest dogs have a dog sense of humour. Darwin took human and canine emotions into account when looking for similarities and parallels.
And he came to believe dogs do have a dog sense of humour. It reveals itself best when a dog is playing and acts as some sort of emotional add-on to the games they play.
In The Descent of Man, Darwin said dogs show a sense of humour,  and he distinguishes between this and mere play. He gives the example of a bit of stick or similar object being thrown. The dog will often carry it a short distance before squatting down on the ground with the stick in front of him. The dog then waits for his master to come close. When the master tries to take the stickj away away, the dog will seize the object. He will then bear it aloft and rush away as if in triumph – enjoying his little practical joke!
In the 150-odd years since Darwin’s observation, researchers have proved that dogs laugh. And not only that but that their laughter is associated with the sorts of situations that can make us all laugh.
We cannot enter the minds of our dogs to examine their mental state. As a result, it is difficult to determine a dog’s sense of humour. But it’s possible to determine a dog’s level of playfulness.
Accepting that playfulness indicates a sense of humour, it becomes possible to rank various dog breeds for their sense of humour.
As all dog owners become aware not all breeds are equal. There are some that are more playful than others. Airedales appear to have an almost insuppressible sense of play. But Basset Hounds can often seem as if they shun the idea of playing.
Dr Benjamin Hart, and his colleague Lynnette Hart, two animal behaviourists from the University of California-Davis, put together an expert panel to rank 56 different breeds of dogs for their playfulness.
Defining “playfulness” as a breed’s willingness to chase Frisbees, balls, and Kongs and to engage in hide-and-seek and other such games the breeds that ranked highest included breeds like English Springer Spaniels, Irish Setters, Airedales, Golden Retrievers and Poodles. In the lower ranks were Bloodhounds, Bulldogs and Basset Hounds.


  • Airedale Terrier
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Cairn Terrier
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • German Short-Haired Pointer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Setter
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Standard Poodle


  • Boston Terrier
  • Fox Terrier
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Shih Tzu
  • Silky Terrier
  • Toy Poodle
  • Vizsla
  • Welsh Corgi
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier


  • Beagle
  • Bichon Frise
  • Boxer
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Collie
  • Dachshund
  • Dalmatian
  • Maltese
  • Pug
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Weimaraner


  • Afghan Hound
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Doberman
  • Keeshond
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Newfoundland
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Pinscher
  • Pomeranian
  • Siberian Husky


  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Basset Hound
  • Bulldog
  • Chihuahua
  • Chow Chow
  • Pekingese
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard
  • Samoyed

At Cats, Dogs & Peace of Mind we are well aware that sometimes playful dogs can be a mixed blessing for their owners. They may be a joy for those of us who are able to handle occasional bouts of chaos, but they can also exasperate the people who cannot.

If you are looking for advice about which breed would be best for you then the rule of thumb is:  if peace and quiet are high on your agenda then maybe a Pekingese or a Basset hound is best to simply snuggle up to you on the sofa; if you are keen for an energetic companion perhaps you should choose either a Cairn Terrier or an Irish Setter. Both breeds will no doubt try everything they can to get you up to satisfy their craving for play and to exercise their deep sense of fun.

Whatever dog you have we are very happy to give your pet lots of opportunities to have fun and as often as you like. To discuss how we may help you look after your dog and take it for walks please do not hesitate to get in touch.


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