Review: Why We Love the Dogs We Do

Why We Love the Dogs We Do, by Stanley Coren

Another book from the dog pop psychologist Stanley Coren! And this book is especially “pop-py.” I read this one because I’ve owned it since I was about 12 and I found it while rummaging through my parent’s attic on a recent visit home. I thought I’d try it out again and see if I learned anything new.

Verdict: Not really. It’s a cute book, especially if you like stories about celebrities and their dogs. Coren certainly did a lot of research on that. But I’m not sure how valid the rest of his “science” is. In Why We Love the Dogs We Do, Coren attempts to provide readers with a personality test that will tell you what type of dog you should get.

He rejects the AKC categories of dogs and instead creates seven new groups of breeds based on the breeds’ typical temperaments:

  1. Friendly (e.g., golden retrievers, labs)
  2. Protective (e.g., akitas, rottweilers)
  3. Independent (e.g., greyhounds, huskies)
  4. Self-assured (e.g., all terriers)
  5. Consistent (e.g., most toy breeds, weirdly)
  6. Steady (e.g., scent hounds, newfoundlands)
  7. Clever (e.g., herding breeds)

Coren then creates a little quiz for his readers to take. After you score your results, you can group yourself into ranges (high, medium, low) on scales of extroversion, dominance, and warmth. From these “scores,” Coren will tell you which of his new breed groups you’ll be most likely to fall in love with. Throughout the book, he gives examples of celebrities and tries to decipher their personalities and evaluate why they loved the dogs they did. For example, Queen Elizabeth II, like myself apparently, scored medium on all of the ranges, which means that she’ll prefer dogs from the Clever group. Her beloved corgis just happen to fall in that group.

I took the quiz and my results recommended that I will love breeds from the Clever group. This turns out to be true for me: Australian shepherds, German shepherds, and border collies are members of this category. I love almost all of the dogs in the Clever or herding group. However, Coren’s quiz also told me that I would like dogs from the Consistent group. In Coren’s schema, Consistent dogs are almost exclusively toy breeds. I turned up my nose at this. I know I wouldn’t enjoy life with a chihuahua or a dachshund.

So, take it with a grain of salt. I don’t think it’s scientific at all, but it is a fun diversion. Kind of like the personality quizzes you’d take in Cosmo or something. If you are absolutely clueless about what type of dog you might like, Coren’s book may be helpful to you. But if you’re already pretty sure what you want, Why We Love the Dogs We Do might just tell you a lot of stuff that you already know.

Review: How to Speak Dog

How to Speak Dog

Stanley Coren has written a handful of popular books about dogs. He is probably most well known for his famous (and occasionally controversial) ranking of dog breeds according to intelligence. Coren is a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia but he seems to prefer the psychology of dogs to the psychology of people. One can’t blame him.

I started reading Coren’s books when I was in late middle school, right before we got our first family dog, but I had never read this particular title before. How to Speak Dog fit well with my current interest in dog behavior and animal psychology.

Coren is first and foremost a psychologist and this background plays heavily into this book. I appreciated his generous explanations of science and scientific history and his various chapters on the messages dogs convey in each of their primary appendages (signals through ears, tails, eyes, mouth, tongue, etc.). Overall, I do find myself watching dogs a bit more closely to try to read the signals they’re sending.

The book is a helpful primer for anyone who is generally unfamiliar with dogs and canine body language. I won’t say that I learned a ton of new information, since I felt like I was already pretty adept at distinguishing between an anxious, shy dog and a friendly, attentive one. I’m also not hugely impressed with Coren’s skill as a writer; the book does seem to jump around in places and provide occasionally unhelpful or superfluous information.

All that said, I’d recommend this book to anyone who was having trouble reading his or her dog. Coren’s thorough chapters would give you plenty of fodder to re-energize your canine conversations.