Dog owners might not be too impressed when they’re able to point out a fallen piece of chicken or a thrown stick to their pooch, but dogs’ ability to follow that seemingly simple gesture places them in rare air in the animal kingdom.
Some research suggests that even chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives, don’t understand pointing as well as dogs.
For decades, researchers have debated whether dogs obtain their ability to understand pointing by spending time with humans and learning it or if our furry companions are born with a capacity to comprehend this deceptively complex feat of communication.
But a reader recently reminded me of a brilliantly simple way to explain the whole strategy — something I’ve written about before in a different context, without even realizing how apt it was.
Maybe we should explain the problem first, so the simple solution will make the most sense. It goes like this. Defining emotional intelligence can be complex, but practically speaking, it’s often about shaping communication so as to avoid emotional pitfalls that distract from your goals.
The challenge? So many words and phrases have ancillary meanings that we don’t even think about. Sometimes they’re the exact opposite of the things we intend.