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What's the Point?

At two weddings darling ring bearers paraded down the aisle proudly holding the prized objects. They couldn't have been more than six.When they suddenly stopped-as six year olds tend to do-to look at something on the ground, guests leaned into the aisle and pointed toward the beaming faces ahead. Smiles filled the crowd as they continued on their way. At one wedding the ring bearer was a little boy and at the other, a dog.

If we've spent any time with companion dogs we aren't surprised when a dog stops to check out the ground. It also shouldn't surprise us that a dog might go where we point. Pointing is about social communication and it often feels like dogs are right there with us, sometimes even more than members of our own species.

In the last 20 years dog's attention to our communicative gestures, that thing we do with our arm and finger, has attracted enormous attention from researchers around the globe. In fact the pointing gesture is so fundamental that seemingly no article on the canine mind is complete without a sentence "dogs read our gestures, like pointing more flexibly, than any other animal"(New York Times) or more boldly in (Time) while chimps and even wolves lack an innate ability to understand what pointing means, dogs come by the knowledge naturally.

The beginning of a full article written by Julie Hecht and appearing in a recent issue of BARK, the dog culture magazine.

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