October 1, 2013

throw the ball already

As I was tossing the ball to Pan today I was thinking about this previously linked article, Dogs: an uncomplicated relationship. I lost track of the ball at one point and said, "Where is it?" and Pan looked under one of our garden chairs, then back at me, and then he tossed his head with a distinct "over here" gesture. It occurred to me that the article makes a big deal about how dogs look at what we're pointing at, but it mentions nothing about the fact that dogs expect us to look in the direction they're pointing, too. Maybe it's such a given that we overlook it. I mean, there's a whole slew of pointers, duhr, but what other animals do that? If you tell a well-trained dog "show me," he'll point right to an object with the understanding that we'll know what he means. So that got me thinking...what if it's the other way around? Lots of research says that dogs probably habituated to humans by hanging out by our garbage dumps, but chances are good that we spent at least some of our evolutionary time following dogs' noses around the savannah, too. As the article notes, our nearest wild relatives don't point: Chimps don't point. Monkeys don't point. Dogs do. Maybe we learned it from them. (Dibs if this isn't already somebody else's canine behavior research project.)


  1. On the feast of the Guardian Angels---THAT's a guardian angel!
    and smart!

  2. I would like to get in on this research project. But only if kisses and belly rubs are guaranteed. From and for the dogs, respectively.

  3. love the way his tail mirrors the palms in the background--great!!
    Mack will participate in your study too!! But he mostly just points to the cupboard where we keep his biscuits...and we ALL already know they're in there...