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Bad Dog: A Love Story

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(A true story.)
Meet Hola. She’s a nightmare, but it’s not her fault if she tackles strangers and chews on furniture, or if she runs after buses and fried chicken containers and drug dealers. No one ever told her not to. Worse yet, she scares her family. Hola may be the most beautiful Bernese mountain dog in the world, but she’s never been trained. At least not by anyone who knew what he was doing.
Hola’s supposed master, Marty, is a high-functioning alcoholic. A TV writer turned management consultant, Marty’s in debt and out of shape; he’s about to lose his job, and one day he emerges from a haze of peach-flavored vodka to find he’s on the verge of losing his wife, Gloria, too, if he can’t get his life—and his dog—under control.
Desperately trying to save his marriage, Marty throws himself headlong into the world of competitive dog training. Unfortunately, he knows even less than Hola, the only dog ever to be expelled from her puppy preschool twice. Somehow, together, they need to get through the American Kennel Club’s rigorous Canine Good Citizen test. Of course, Hola first needs to learn how to sit.
It won’t be easy. It certainly won’t be pretty. But maybe, just maybe, there will be cheesecake.

213 pages, Hardcover

Published April 5, 2011

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About the author

Martin Kihn

6 books13 followers
Martin Kihn is a writer, digital marketer, dog lover, balletomane and spiritual athlete. He was born in Zambia, grew up in suburban Michigan, has a BA in Theater Studies from Yale and an MBA from Columbia Business School. His articles have appeared in New York, the New York Times, GQ, Us, Details, Cosmopolitan and Forbes, among many others, and he was on the staff of Spy, Forbes, New York and Vibe. Until recently, most of his writing could be called satirical or snarky, meticulously researched and office-based.

In the late 1990's, Kihn was Head Writer for the popular television program "Pop-Up Video" on MTV Networks and was nominated for an Emmy for Writing. He lost to "Win Ben Stein's Money," decided to quit writing and got into business school. Ironically enough, the tragicomic world of American business, where everybody seemed to be speaking an impressive language that was not quite English, and not quite clear, provided him with a whole new vein of source material, and his writing career really took off.

Kihn's first book was a humorous expose of the consulting industry called "House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time" (Grand Central 2005), based on the three years he spent working for a large consultancy. The Economist said "a more entertaining book about business is unlikely to appear for a long time," and Salon.com called it "exceedingly smart and funny," echoing Publishers Weekly's reviewer, who declared the book "highly intelligent and deeply funny."

Former co-workers and pinheaded career consultants were less amused, however, spamming Amazon.com with one-star reviews and all but sabotaging the book's chances in the marketplace.

Enraged but unbroken, Kihn reemerged a few years later with a grotesquely satirical stunt-memoir called "A**hole: How I Got Rich & Happy By Not Giving a Damn About Anyone" (Broadway Books 2008). The premise of this reality TV-type firebomb was that a guy who is too nice to get ahead in business (aka Marty) decides systematically to turn himself into a pricktard and reap the rewards. Film rights were sold to Warner Brothers, where it is in development, and Booklist raved "Kihn's got a great ear for dialogue - and a comedic sense worthy of Second City."

For reasons that elude the Author, "A**hole" became a publishing phenomenon in Germany and Austria, sitting for months on the Der Spiegel bestseller list and causing his German publisher to proclaim him "the David Hasselhoff of satirical non-fiction." Notes from his legion of German fans lead some to suspect Kihn's gossamer irony was lost in translation.

Kihn is married to the singer-songwriter Julia Douglass. Her most recent projects include a series of brilliant one-minute animated songs about cooking called ChefDoReMi.com. After twenty years living and working in New York City, the couple recently relocated to Minneapolis, where Kihn works as a digital marketing strategist for a well-known agency.

"Bad Dog: A Love Story," marks the emergence of a mature writer at the height of his powers. At its heart is an intensely charismatic, terribly-behaved 90-pound Bernese mountain dog named Hola. After a shattering personal crisis, Kihn decides to train Hola and together they earn their Canine Good Citizen certification from the American Kennel Club. It's a journey of redemption, as together man and dog reclaim their lives by working toward a common goal.

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5 stars
390 (29%)
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416 (31%)
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92 (6%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 174 reviews
Profile Image for Darcia Helle.
Author 30 books691 followers
April 1, 2011
Rather than a true animal tale, this book is more a story of Martin Kihn's battle with alcoholism, his life falling apart, then the process of putting it back together. In the midst of this, he and his wife buy Hola, a Bernese mountain dog. Kihn's inexperience as a dog owner, combined with the terminal state of his marriage, is a recipe for disaster for both Hola and Kiln.

While the focus leans more toward a personal memoir, Hola plays a large role in Kiln's recovery. The writing is humorous and entertaining, though I could have done without all the minute details and history of AKC skills testing. Overall, a good read.
Profile Image for Rick.
Author 113 books1,009 followers
July 28, 2011
I loved this book because it's about redemption, humility and getting a handle on one's place in the world. The framework of all this is the training of a lovable, possibly untrainable Bernese Mountain dog named Hola. Hola's training is the road back to life for her alcoholic, wife-separated owner, who, along the way, learns just as much about himself as he does about his dog as they make their way--and not always without missteps--toward triumph. A poignant, heartfelt memoir that offers as many life lessons as it does lessons in dog behavior.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,572 reviews22 followers
April 3, 2011
Have you seen the TV shows about how training dogs helps prisoners gain a sense of self-worth, responsibility and joy? This book, Bad Dog by Martin Kihn shows how developing a routine of training and unconditional love
have helped him pull away from the abyss of alcoholism.
It is not so much a story about Hola, a Bernese Mountain dog as a man’s struggle with alcoholism,the destruction of a marriage and the difficult road back.

Dog training can become an obsession, in this case, a good obsession.Martin’s wife had wanted a dog,she didn’t even recognize at the time what she really wanted was for Martin to stop drinking and so that they could rebuild their marriage. She thought a dog would make her happy.

They picked a dog from a breeder and named the dog Hola. Hola was not the typical Bernese Mountain Dog. She was unusually intelligent, gorgeous, exuberantly affectionate and extremely active. Because Hola was different from others of this breed, it made the task of training Hola much more difficult. Marti had never trained a dog before.

I really liked this book. I am a sucker for books about dogs but this definitely had a twist to it.
There is a lot of humor and hope in this book as the author goes on his journey away from alcoholism and towards better human relationships and loving dog relationship.

Since I was curious about the AKA, this breed and different kinds of training I enjoyed it even more but some may not.

I was hooked early in the book and it was difficult to lay it down.

January 16, 2020
Marty, a so called "High functioning alcoholic" (no such animal), and his dog Hola have problems. Marty's wife, after being attacked by Hola, leaves him. After this, Marty gets the idea that if Hola can pass the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) then his wife will come back to him. The book rambles, a lot, and reminds me of my Grandfather when he was drunk. I don't understand it, because Marty was suppose to have not been drinking at this time. This is why I just could not enjoy it. I also have a problem with Marty insisting on keeping a dog that has attacked his wife. I love dogs myself, but if any of our dogs (no matter how much they are loved) had attacked my Mother, that dog would have probably been put down right that hour. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Profile Image for Evanston Public  Library.
665 reviews60 followers
July 1, 2011
Those of you who know me probably know that I am the proud mother of a 70 pound Bernese Mountain Dog puppy named Nora. When Bad Dog (A Love Story) by Martin Kihn was handed to me by a coworker, I immediately thought I would be reading a delightful “tail” of feel-good fluffiness and Bernese bonding. I couldn’t wait to get my paws on this this book. Now, I have to admit that I haven’t read Marley and Me, nor have I read Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. In fact, I do not normally read “pet” books. On the other hand, to add to my collection of romances, spy novels, and other wide-ranging genres, I am also a fan of over-the-top humorous memoirs such as Laurie Notaro’s The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club. Unlike the warm-fuzzy nature of other pet books, Bad Dog is the kind of book that gets written when a cynical recovering alcoholic decides to train his dog to pass the Canine Good Citizen Test.
Martin and his wife, Gloria, are the owners of a feisty, fluffy, but very badly behaved Bernese Mountain Dog. Even though Hola, the dog, is five years old, her attitude is as impetuous as a puppy's. If the story were to end there, it could have been a delightful memoir about the errors of training a dog to pass the Canine Good Citizen Exam. But Gloria, Martin’s supportive wife, has left the dog and the alcoholic to figure things out for themselves. As Martin struggles to make sense of what remains, he realizes that taming Hola might be the key to rebuilding his esteem and his marriage. Unlike other books, the dog does not die in the end, but the journey to the last page is cynical, funny, sad, and well written.
-Juliette S.
Profile Image for Meghan.
243 reviews33 followers
November 4, 2012
I loved this tale of a man struggling with his alcohol addiction, ruined marriage, and ill-behaved dog.

His writing contains dark humor, and I was laughing constantly at his metaphors. And although sections DO seem disjointed, I thought it gave me a better insight into the world as seen through bleary drunk eyes (I still vaguely remember that!) rather than a sign that the author was still drinking when he wrote them.

No, this isn't JUST a dog tale, and that's really what I loved about it. It isn't just another fluffy bad-dog-owner-saves story. It is a REAL story about life and how things can spin completely out of control.. and how hard we have to work to fix them. Owning dogs is never just about owning dogs... it's always mixed up in the rest of our lives, our loves, and our families. I thought Mr. Kihn captured that perfectly.

Although I think this really deserves 4.5 stars, I'm rounding up. I certainly enjoyed it 5 stars' worth.
Profile Image for Sharon.
Author 38 books372 followers
May 11, 2011
Martin Kihn is a cat person -- and an alcoholic. When his wife, Gloria, convinces him to get a dog, they bring home Hola -- a Bernese mountain dog.

Hola runs amok for a great deal of the book ... which seems to match up with Kihn's life. As he enters recovery, and Gloria leaves him, Kihn decides it's time to work on Hola's training. His goal? To pass the Canine Good Citizen test.

The challenges of recovery mirror his experiences in the dog training world; both require self-mastery. Kihn obviously has a good sense of humor about himself, and his descriptions of dealing with his enthusiastic large dog, the cat he acquires from his AA sponsor, and putting his life back together are sure to bring both a laugh and a tear.

Highly recommended.

(Review based on uncorrected advance proof.)
Profile Image for Nancy Brady.
Author 4 books36 followers
May 25, 2016
A memoir of a high-functioning alcoholic who loses just about everything he holds dear except one out-of-control Bernese Mountain dog named Hola. This is his story of reclaiming his life (and maybe even his wife) by becoming involved with competitive dog training.

Trying every method known, Marty works with the dog. In between, he goes to AA meetings and stays busy. At times, it seems as if he is trading one addiction (alcohol) for another (obsession with training Hola).

Can Hola learn? Can Martin? Will the pair manage to achieve the Canine Good Citizen award?

Notable quotes: Depression is anger without the enthusiasm. (p. 43)
Recovering alcoholics, like children and dogs, require routine. (p. 43)
Totes. (his word of mouth advertising campaign on various pages)

Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 7 books44 followers
August 4, 2016

Last night it arrived--I was soooo tired when I went to bed I thought- oh I'll just take a peek and then sleep (we just moved- you know that moving exhaustion)...and then I started reading-
Oh my god- soooooooo good!!
Just so funny and detailed and I feel such a kinship with the writer as a narrator. This book is for anyone familiar with the challenge of living with an insanely unruly dog and the struggle of addiction. Kihn is hilarious and poignant all at once...a dream to read-like if Jon Krakauer and David Sedaris had a love child (with the help of an open minded surrogate).
Thank you for writing this book- I'll be sharing it!!
Profile Image for Linda.
892 reviews141 followers
April 27, 2011
Marty is funny, sophisticated, but at times raw and very real, too. This story of a man, drinking, a dog and marriage - and his recovery from all three - is at times funny and sad, heart-wrenching and joyful. You'll love Hola, too.
A little tale of redemption, not your usual doggy fare. Though I do love the little peeks inside Hola's head. Who knows?
Martin is just that perfect blend of snarky and self-deprecating, with wonderful little cultural and metaphorical descriptions that make you feel you know exactly what he is saying.
You'll laugh, and you'll cry.
Profile Image for Carolyn Amundson.
182 reviews6 followers
October 4, 2011
This book is in chronological order and is superficially about getting and training a dog. At first, the author is bringing out the story of his alcoholism, marriage troubles, and the bad behaviors of his dog. I laughed at the idea at his conclusion that the breeder thought he was a sucker and stuck him with a dog with a bad temperament -- it seems so many New Yorkers live in fear of being taken in by someone. While it's clear that the author was completely unaware of his own emotions at that time, the author discusses events and thoughts that make your realize how unhappy and nervous he was. It made me uncomfortable.

Later, the author works on his alcoholism, emotions, and his dog's behavior. A good part of the story revolves around dog training (loved the pro and anti Cesar discourse) and the Canine Good Citizen test. Through dog training, the author figures out that the dog is sensitive to his emotions and the dog and author learn to deal with their respective issues. As the author points out, all of the work is his. Not surpisingly, I like the uplifting part of the book more.

I agree with other reviewer's that the random thoughts from the dog and cat are kind of weird. Especially the discussion between the cat and the dog. I understand that those thoughts or discussions are really the author's nervous, bouncing thoughts. It reinforced how uncomfortable he was with so much that was going on around him. I give the author a lot of credit for avoiding self-pity and revealing so much about himself.
Profile Image for Barbara.
102 reviews13 followers
April 14, 2012
I don't think this book should be advertised as a dog story. That's marginal at best. This book is about a man who's a lousy husband and a lousy dog owner, but a very good alcoholic. The first third of the book talks about his shortcomings and details his alcoholism. Who cares? I picked up the book because I wanted to read a dog story, not about an alcoholic that thinks he can get his wife back if only he can train his neglected dog. Poor dog, poor excuse for a book.
What a waste of time.
30 reviews
April 27, 2011
This is a charming book about addiction and dog training and the parallels, which, before I read this I had never thought about. The author went to my high school and I was lucky to have met him through my brother. It's an ode to dog lovers with some laugh-out-loud moments and I will be giving it as gifts to all my dog owner friends and relatives.
Profile Image for Carey.
54 reviews4 followers
May 9, 2011
i picked up this book purely for the cover. but it was a pretty good (true) story as well. i love dog books and this one made me want to get one just so that i could train it.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
180 reviews23 followers
April 30, 2019
Loved the dog. Appreciated the insight into dog behavior and training. Not a fan of the writing for the most part. There was quite a bit that made me laugh, mostly self-deprecating quips by the author about the situations his "bad dog" got them into.

My mother gave me this book and when I was about 1/3 of the way into it, I was sure that she hadn't read it because so much of it was about the author's alcoholism and at times it even seemed like he was under the influence when he was writing, it didn't really flow at first. I can't imagine why my mother would gift me a book about alcoholism, but she assured me that she read it and it gets better when he talks more about training the dog.

Mom was right, the story of Hola was pretty good. The author was a little too self-important for my taste. There were comments that maybe were supposed to be funny, but came off as mean-spirited. I'm not a big fan of dachshunds either (every dachshund I've ever met seems to automatically hate my dog upon first encounter), but he calls them rodents. C'mon - he's a New Yorker. He knows what rodents are. That's just mean. The author loves his dog and I enjoyed the story of their bond. But he's lucky to have her and I'm glad their relationship improved because he's not a super likeable guy. I wouldn't seek out more by this author, but I could read dozens of books about Hola. Because she's a good girl. Yes, she is!
194 reviews
June 8, 2020
A Love Story with Teeth.

Bad Dog resonated with me very deeply. It's a love story, and really it's three different love stories if you think about it. Romantic love, companionate love, and most important but most difficult: learning to love yourself. I absolutely adored this compelling book and how it ended.
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books263 followers
September 13, 2011

Lorena leaves me with a handout titled "The Rules of Passive Dominance," which begins: "Ignoring attention-seeking behaviors is the highest form of dominance."

The highest form?

Attention seeking: Grabbing shoes and making you chase her. Soft sweet cries and I say, "What's wrong, Hola, you hungry doll?" Poke and pet, roll over and rub reflexively, even yelling "Drop!" when she's got our neighbor's kid's sandal in her mouth, shaking it like a squirrel that's dead enough already.

Negative or positive--it's all attention seeking.

What she lives for.

"Her job is to train you," Lorena had said. "She's better at her job than you are because she is more focused. It's all she thinks about."

Hola's toolbox consists of annoying me until I do what she wants.

Which I always do.


Because it's annoying, that's why.

And if I don't?

Drama queen.

She'll collapse on the floor like a character in Gossip Girl tossing her Fendi bag onto the davenport.

Now I'm seeing her behaviors through a new frame. Her whining isn't an existential scripture on the brevity of life. The way she pokes her head and makes me pet her isn't a rhapsody on the mutability of love.

No, the new hermeneutics is that she's a spoiled kid throwing tantrums just to get her way. The more I look at her I see she is in a state of perpetual tantrum. She makes spoiled kids look evolved.

How can I have been so wrong for so long?

Ignorance is an expensive occupation.

Martin Kihn was a high-functioning alcoholic, although very few knew it. Like many alcoholics he was expert at hiding the signs. One who loved him wasn't fooled though, and that was his dog, Hola. Untrained and unruly, she exhibited increasingly bad behavior up to the point of threatening his wife.

Martin had been told that his dog reflected his behavior. However, it took his wife, Gloria, leaving to make him take it seriously enough to pursue obedience training. This set him on a a journey of exploration which resulted not only in learning about a variety of dog training philosophies but in healing self-discovery.

Petra Ford opens a door in my heart: she shows me that dog training is a form of art and an act of love. I've never seen two beings listen so carefully to each other or care so much. I think of Gloria. I think of Hola.

Humility is not thinking less of myself. It is thinking of myself less.

I enjoyed this book for the dog training overviews, especially since that technique that worked best for Hola is the one we've had to use in our household of four dogs. I also liked the glimpses that Martin shared about his dawning realization that God ... or as he terms it "HP" for Higher Power ... is out there, reaching out to him all the time. These glimpses are few and subtle so readers who are turned off by such content don't need to worry that they will detract from the story.

Overall, this is the story of a man and his dog and how they helped each other to a more fulfilled life. Recommended.

That night I take an exhausted Hola on a slow walk through a darkening forest, over ruts in the track from horses and ATVs.

We look up at the clouds so close I can almost touch them, and I receive a wordless message from HP.

I need to stop wishing my dog is something else.

I need to stop wishing I was someone else.

This feels like just the first step of the first awakening.

But still, it's the first.

Profile Image for BeParticular.
522 reviews1 follower
March 10, 2016
My overall feeling after finishing this book? Meh. This book is ostensibly about Mr. Kihn finding, if not redemption, at least some type of balance, via his relationship with his dog. In actuality, it is a book about Kihn and his battle with alcoholism. Hola (the dog) is just another player along with Kihn's wife, coworkers, and fellow AA members. Kihn exhibits characteristics I find so irritating in alcoholics--he tries way too hard and everything is about him. As a book about a man's struggle with alcoholism this book may be of interest. But as a book about a man and his dog? Not so much.
August 11, 2016
As a recently converted "dog person," this book definitely resonated with me. In it he describes a connection that I can relate with in several ways, and the author's history with an alcohol problem made it even more interesting because it was as much about his own redemption and journey as it was about his dog. The only downfall was that he at times got too focused on dog training rules than the kind of dog ownership I identify with, but he poured himself into training so that was to be expected. His writing style is way good though and it made for a quick and entertaining read.
Profile Image for Ren.
1,232 reviews13 followers
February 16, 2018
This is actually the story of a man struggling with alcoholism and his "problem" dog. As is often the case with books like these (ones where a dog is labeled as bad), the author got a dog entirely inappropriate for his personality and lifestyle. I admire his commitment to Hola though and finding a way to make it work. Dogs aren't disposable and more people should live up to that responsibility.

This book reminds me a lot of Walking with Peety by Eric O'Grey in that both author's worked through struggles in their lives with the help of a dog.
Profile Image for Veera.
195 reviews15 followers
February 1, 2017
Hauska sattuma että luin tän just kun olen muutama päivä sitten käynyt itse suorittamassa Kunnon koirakansalainen testin oman koiran kanssa. Oli kiva saada lisätietoja testin alkuperästä.

Olin innoissani että jes positiivista kouluttamista, kunnes mukaan astelee joku remmistä kiskoja/murisija koutsi. Aikamoinen pettymys.

Mutta tykkäsin kuitenkin kirjoitustyylistä ja tarinasta, tykkäsin paljon.
Profile Image for Hope Irvin Marston.
Author 31 books14 followers
August 27, 2017
I am a dog lover and former owner of about six breeds. Our boxers were our favorites until we bought our Bernese mountain dog. She was a special member of our family for eleven years and that's why I couldn't wait to read this book. It's the story of an intelligent, but misunderstood, canine. It's well written except for the number of times the "f" word was used. That reduced my otherwise top rating to a three.
Profile Image for Karen.
1,125 reviews
November 7, 2020
Non-fiction about a family struggling with their unruly and untrained Bernese Mountain Dog and the husband's issues with alcohol. Although the storyline of the alcohol plays 2nd fiddle to getting the Bernese Mountain Dog trained, it was interesting to see how they finally calmed the beast. Those are cool dogs. Brought to Switzerland by the Romans 2000 years ago, they are "drafting" dogs...able to pull many times their weight.
1,857 reviews3 followers
May 28, 2021
3.5 stars (rating shown may vary depending on site).

This book was one I picked up at a book sale when I needed a few more to fill the bag. It was more interesting than I thought but also contained a few more twists than I'd realized--most of those related to the humans.

I was glad there was a happy ending.
December 16, 2021
It's a dog book about Canine Training with its owner (Martin the author) separated from his wife. Martin is also an alcoholic. Hola is the dog. Through his obedience classwork and training with Hola, Martin recovers his sobriety and manages to start anew. Having been to obedience classes with two dogs I can relate to the work needed to train your dog. A good read
Profile Image for K Kelley.
192 reviews
January 22, 2019
loved it - combo of AA and dog story - can't lose! Funny, wise in parts, the author wrote his struggles with alcoholic drinking and his behavioral dog with truth and rawness.
Best quote (pg 157): You can't think your way into right living. You have to live your way into right thinking.
Profile Image for Koka.
8 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2022
Bad Dog wants to be three things: a memoir of an alcoholic’s journey into sobriety, and story about a dog, and a history lesson on dog breeds, the AKC, and obedience training. The author needs to decide which story he wants to tell and stick with it.
27 reviews
August 5, 2017
If you have tried to train a dog this will give you courage. True story.
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