Born to Bark
My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog
So begins Born to Bark, the charming new memoir by psychologist and beloved dog expert Stan Coren of his relationship with an irrepressible gray Cairn terrier named Flint. Stan immediately loved the pup for his friendly nature and indefatigable spirit, though his wife soon found the dog’s unpredictable exuberance difficult to deal with, to say the least.
Even though Flint drove Stan’s wife up the wall, he became the joy of Stan’s life. The key to unlocking this psychologist-author’s way of looking at dog behavior, Flint also became the inspiration behind Coren’s classic, The Intelligence of Dogs. Undeterred by Flint’s irrepressible behavior (and by the breeder’s warning that he might be untrainable), Coren set out to prove that his furry companion could pass muster with the best of them. He persevered in training the unruly dog and even ventured into the competitive circles of obedience trials in dog shows, where Flint eventually made canine history as the highest-scoring Cairn terrier in obedience competition up to that time. (Stan chose not to tell his wife that the highest-ranking obedience dog of that year, a border collie, earned a total score that was fifty times higher.)
The longest-running popular expert on human-dog bonding, Coren has enlivened his respected books and theories about dogs with accounts of his own experiences in training, living with, loving, and trying to understand them. A consummate storyteller, Coren now tells the wry, poignant, goofy, and good-hearted tale of his life with the dog who (in the words of his own book titles) taught him How to Speak Dog and How Dogs Think and whose antics made him ask Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Illustrated with Coren’s own delightful line drawings and photos, and interwoven with his heartfelt anecdotes of other beloved dogs from his earlier life, Born to Bark is an irresistible good dog/bad dog tale of this extraordinary, willful pooch and his profound impact on his master’s insights into canine behavior as a research psychologist and on his outlook on life as a whole.
Read an Excerpt
For Christmas the woman who would become my wife bought me a dog—a little terrier. The next year her Christmas gift to me was a shotgun. Most of the people in my family believe that those two gifts were not unrelated.
The dog’s name was Flint. He was an oversized Cairn terrier, mostly gray with black pricked ears and a black mask. Weighing about 23 pounds and standing something over 13 inches at the shoulder, he looked for all the world like a jumbo version of Toto in the original film version of The Wizard of Oz. For thirteen years he was my dearly...see more
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Reading Group Guide
1. Coren's love of many breeds of dogs comes through so beautifully in Born to Bark, as well as his other books. His fondness for his Cairn terrier Flint is particularly strong, however. What is it about the terrier personality that you think he found so appealing?
2. Coren suggests that most people talk to their dogs and that there are different ways that people do this. Do you ever talk to your dog? What do you talk about? Do you actually supply the dog's answers, as Coren does, or do you just think them?
3. Coren's wife Joan, seems to have many more problems with Flint than with Wiz. Do you think that these had to do with the personality of the dogs or her personality or both?
4. Flint clearly had a helpful, therapeutic effect on Alice and helped break through her depression. Are there other places in the book, or in your own life or experience that you have seen dogs providing a psychological boost or improving a person's mood and combating depression?
5. Coren did not want to tell the members of his dog obedience club that he was a professor of psychology at first. Do you think that see more