- Dogs, but not chimpanzees, can understand human pointing gestures.
- Domestication and years of living with humans have likely given dogs an evolved ability to pay attention to, and understand, human visual communication.
- Some domesticated cats can also understand human pointing.
Chimpanzees may be our closest living relatives, but they do not understand us as well as dogs do.
The study in the latest issue of PLoS ONE. found that chimpanzees could care less when people pointed to objects, but dogs paid attention and knew precisely what the person wanted.
"We think that we are looking at a special adaptation in dogs to be sensitive to human forms of communication," co-author Juliane Kaminski, a cognitive psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, told Discovery News. "There is multiple evidence suggesting that selection pressures during domestication have changed dogs such that they are perfectly adapted to their new niche, the human environment."
Dogs may even be born with this inherent gift, since 6-week-old puppies with no major training possess it.