Dog-lovers appreciate the uninhibited and playful nature of their pets, especially these animals' penchant for fun. At times, it may even appear as if these lovable creatures are laughing or smiling to express their amusement.
Psychology Professor Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia believes that this is not a coincidence: some dogs may actually have a good sense of humor, while some do not.
Coren said the fun nature of dogs reflects their juvenile minds. He said that the way humans bred dogs enabled these animals to maintain a mind similar to the latter's ancestors. This is called neoteny or juvenilization.
Dogs often frolic and do silly things that make human companions laugh, and with that, we associate such playful behaviors of dogs to a good sense of humor. Coren said that the same is seen in humans: we mostly evaluate people who are playful as having a good sense of humor.
The first to suggest that dogs are good-natured is Charles Darwin. Darwin looked into the emotions in animals and humans to find similarities and parallels. He said the sense of humor of dogs manifests whenever they are playing, acting as an emotional extra to their behavior.
Coren noted that previous research showed that dogs exhibit laughter, and it is linked to the types of situations that make kids laugh, too.
While we cannot determine the exact sense of humor in any breed of dog by examining its subconscious, measuring the playfulness of a dog is possible. If playfulness indicated a sense of humor, then Coren said experts can rank dog breeds according to their supposed sense of humor.
Dr. Benjamin Hart and Lynette Hart, behaviorists from the University of California-Davis, asked a team of experts to examine 56 various breeds of dogs by measuring their playfulness. To do so, the experts assessed the dogs' willingness to run after balls, Frisbees or Kongs and to play in games such as hide-and-seek.
In random order, the team found that those who ranked the highest were the English Springer Spaniel, the Irish Setter, the Golden Retriever, the Airedale, and the Poodle. Dogs that ranked low included The Bloodhound, the Basset Hound and the Bulldog.
Below is the list of the team's findings.
Meanwhile, Coren suggests that for people who want a dog in their life, the best advice is to find a dog that will match or complement their personality.
For instance, people who value peaceful surroundings should get dogs that are categorized in the least playful group. These dogs will happily snuggle up to their human companions, and won't cause much ruckus the way that Irish Setters would.
Photo : Echelon Baxter | Flickr