How do language learners come to understand the meaning of words? This is an intriguing question that has given rise to a vast research field . One smaller aspect within this research field is how novel words are mapped onto novel objects. We studied this question in a domestic dog, Rico, who had already learned the names of more than 200 toys. We found that he was able to link a novel word to a novel object on the basis of exclusion . Markman and Abelev have taken a closer look at how Rico’s behavior could be accounted for (, this issue). Their main concern is that Rico selected the new toy among the familiar ones because of an inherent novelty preference. They also critically discuss the importance of rewarding Rico after fetching the novel toy. Finally, they note that only experiments that pit reference against associative learning (e.g. ) can uncover a true understanding of reference. In the following, we will briefly address these concerns.