Finally, a scientist has confirmed what I have long suspected: my dog laughs.
According to work done by Patricia Simonet, an animal behavior researcher at Sierra Nevada College, when dogs pant on a hot day, or from exertion, there’s a certain rhythm and pattern to the sound they make. Roughly translated, the sounds mean exactly what you’d think they’d mean: “I’m hot” or “I’m tired” or sometimes even, “Man, I could really go for a cold beer and a bowl of kibble.”
When dogs are playing, on the other hand, the panting sounds quite different. It’s a more explosive sound that hits a wider range of frequencies, and researchers have likened it to a laugh. Roughly translated, the sounds would be written as, “Bwahahahahaha! Woof!”
I know many of you will be wondering just why this study took place, and whether or not your tax dollars went to support it.
First, I’d like to remind you that many scientists who started out in dog research went on to describe important theories about human behavior. Consider Ivan Pavlov who basically spent most of his career training dogs to dribble on command. He discovered two things: 1) Waterproof shoes are important in the lab. 2) As a result of “conditioning,” (previous experience), when presented with a “stimulus” (a huge mobile phone bill), people will have an immediate, “conditioned response” (throwing up).
Second, there are worse things to research. Case in point: Jaak Panksepp of Bowling Green University has discovered that rats chirp or squeak when you tickle them. Given that rats aren’t exactly cootchie-coo material, I think this man ought to be given the Nobel Prize for Most Fingers Donated In The Name Of Science. And I can only hope he doesn’t try studying this effect in other animals:
Lab Notes, Day 2: Assistant tickled Fluffy the Tarantula. Noises recorded best described as follows: “Ssssnicker. Sssssnicker. Ssss-ARRRRRRRRRRGH!” Suspect last noise was from assistant, not Fluffy.
Lab Notes, Day 3: Assistant attempted to tickle Petunia the Polar Bear, using the remaining non-swollen fingers of his left hand. Noises recorded best described as follows: “Heh heh. Heheheheh. CHOMP. Gulp.” Curious. Must request funding to develop English-Polar Bear dictionary to find out what ‘chomp’ might mean. Must also find another assistant.
At any rate, now that we know that dogs are capable of laughing, it will be interesting to learn more about the canine sense of humour. What makes a dog laugh? In the case of pit bull terriers, the answer to that question is easy: just show them pictures of French poodles. But what of other breeds? Would they enjoy a night of sit-up comedy at the cabaret? Would they require a dog and pony show?
And what about cats? Because cats are, to use the scientific term, ‘stuck up,’ so far the only recorded and translated noise we have to date is ‘Sniff! Hmph!’
One thing we might try is sitting a cat in front of a new industrial strength, automatic animal washing machine, invented by Eduardo Segura and Andres Diaz. The device has a series of nozzles that wash and massage from every direction; an owner can watch his dog’s bath session through a large glass door. I suspect that if a cat is ever caught laughing on tape, it will sound like: “Hch. Hchhch. Spin cycle! Hchchchch.”
At least it will until the cat realizes that it’s going to be the next one into the machine. Then the dog will have the last laugh, which makes sense, because as everyone knows… every dog has its day.