Book Review: Born to Bark My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog

By Stanley Coren

A few of our dogs stand out as exceptional—changing our lives in some way. For psychologist Stanley Coren, that was Flint, a gray Carin Terrier, the same breed as Toto in The Wizard of Oz.

Coren had many episodes as a child that led him to study psychology and dogs. One was of a dog saving him from a copperhead snake when he was very young. Another was of his dog saving his youngest brother from a speeding car.

His mother encouraged him to read and study about dogs at an early age. But as a young adult, his parents wanted him to study physics. Coren had always dreamed of becoming a Doctor Doolittle—a person who could understand and communicate with dogs. One of his dogs when he was in college, persuaded him to follow his path and not his parents. Born to Bark book cover

He gave most of his dogs a voice, and would have deep conversations with them. I’m sure everyone who has been close to a dog has talked with them. But Coren admits to having conversations that altered the direction of his life.

Flint enters about a third of the way through the book as Coren approaches middle age. He describes Flint as a hurricane, which appears to be typical of terriers. Flint was inquisitive, barky, a hunter, and always busy.

Joan, Coren’s wife, did not find Flint’s actions amusing. She preferred a quieter dog. After a few years, Coren bought her a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Wizard.

I’ve never owned a terrier, although my boss has several Jack Russell terriers, and has told me of their antics. Terriers are very spirited and independent. They love to bark.

Coren entered Flint into obedience competitions, which for a terrier, were quite challenging. Anything could distract Flint from obeying and activate his hunting instinct. Coren took Flint’s antics in stride. But Joan, embarrassed by his poor behavior, only attended once.

Joan had little tolerance of Flint since they had opposing personalities. So did Wiz and Flint. Wiz did the bare minimum during obedience competitions, while Flint jumped and barked with enthusiasm. Coren was persistent with Flint, who eventually became the highest rated Carin terrier in Canada.

Coren studied the difference in the personality of these two dogs that were similar in size, but so drastically different. This prompted him to develop a research project where he questioned trial judges to rate the intelligence of various breeds. This led to his first dog book, The Intelligence of Dogs, a work that bolstered his writing career as a dog expert. He gave interviews on Oprah, Larry King Live, Charlie Rose and other talk shows. Several of these interviews occurred at Coren’s house and Flint, as usual, often caused chaos.

Only a few of our dogs have a public face that affects many people outside of our families. Flint was such a dog. He had friends from Coren’s university, where both dogs often occupied his office. Plus Flint had obedience trial friends and Coren’s fans from his studies and writing.

This is the first book by Stanley Coren that I have read and I plan to read many more. I learned a lot about owning a terrier and about obedience competitions.

I rate this book with 4.5 out of 5 stars. This review represents my own opinion and was not solicited in any form.

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16 thoughts on “Book Review: Born to Bark My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog

  1. This sounds really interesting. Terriers are definitely spirited dogs! I’m amazed by the heroics of his childhood dogs and amused by Flint’s antics, LOL! I’m glad he followed his true passion.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  2. I need to get his book! I love that he followed HIS passion!
    We had a lovely Jack Russel / Pit mix and boy was she active!
    Miss her – our sweet Brandy R.I.P.
    I will check this book out! Thanks for the review on it!

  3. This sounds like such an interesting read! The author and his family were SO so lucky to have such amazing, heroic dogs in their lives. I’m pretty sure I would have made a similar career choice after miraculous events like that.

  4. I love people who study dogs, how they behave … what they know … I am always stunned at our tiny boy. At 3.5 pounds he is not unaware of his vulnerability and that makes his fearlessness … bravery. He is very public facing, with the travel blog and kids books and I am so happy to see him be an ambassador for small dogs debunking the “armpit piranha” myth attached to the breeds. I love how no two dogs – even from he same litter, same home environment etc. are not the same.

  5. This is so interesting. Terriers are indeed incredible barkers and they make awesome watch dogs. I had one growing up and he held his own against bigger dogs all the time. As for dog books, I have a book on my shelf about Secret Service dogs that I’ve been meaning to get to.

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