I will be reposting some dog-related posts from the archives in the coming few weeks as I prepare for the course I'm teaching this semester on dog cognition. Please let me know if you find something inaccurate or unclear.
Domesticated dogs seem to have an uncanny ability to understand human communicative gestures (see here). If you point to something the dog zeroes in on the object or location you're pointing to (whether it's a toy, or food, or to get his in-need-of-a-bath butt off your damn bed and back onto his damn bed). Put another way, if your attention is on something, or if your attention is directed to somewhere, dogs seem to be able to turn their attention onto that thing or location as well.
Amazingly, dogs may be better at this than primates (including our nearest cousins, the chimpanzees) and better than their nearest cousins, wild wolves.
And so it was that biological anthropologist Brian Hare, director of the of Duke University Canine Cognition Center wondered: did dogs get so smart because of direct selection for this ability during the domestication of dogs, or did this apparent social intelligence evolve, in a sen...