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B.A.R.K.-ing for Attention

By Amy Fernandez

Hate to admit it, but I’ve become somewhat cynical regarding AKC’s latest big thing. They try, and repeatedly miss the mark; we won’t discuss the website. But this time I think they might be tapping reality. Their newest pitch into that universe, the AKC B.A.R.K (BA Reading Kid) Program might actually strike a chord where it counts.

I suspect that I wasn’t the only dog crazed kid that rerouted that longing into reading dog stories. And looking back, it came at a fateful moment. I was failing first grade long before dyslexia and all was a legitimate excuse. But I remember wanting a dog so badly that the next best thing was checking out every library book on the subject and somehow deciphering whatever I could learn to cultivate my fantasies of actually having my own dog.

I quickly graduated from the iconic Go Dog Go, which I read until it fell to pieces. (Incidentally, it’s great so check it out) The point is that I defied all predictions and I pretty much taught myself to read because I was highly motivated. Old Yeller, White Fang, those classics never lose their charm.

And that’s the thing about reading, or any other skill for that matter. To master it you need motivation. So, AKC has launched B.A.R.K to offer children an appealing path to educational enrichment via canine camaraderie.

So, here’s how it works. Once enrolled in the program, the child reads to a canine friend of their choice-and here’s the good part- in case the child doesn’t happen to have a dog, their parent/guardian can arrange to get one onboard via the AKC Canine Ambassador program. It’s the next best thing to actually having a dog. It’s about as close to an ideal incentive formula as I can imagine. Along the way, participants receive rewards for various milestones logged into their reading accounts. But you still get to hang out with dogs, so that’s probably secondary.

If you’re not convinced, consider the peer-reviewed studies confirming the number of kids that happily interact with dogs in preference to adults. (Hey, I still got this problem.) In that sense, this program addresses two issues. It also encourages bonding with dogs, which most kids do naturally, but empathy is in short supply these days. It never hurts. Moreover, B.A.R.K. has an admittedly more self-serving, but equally powerful purpose. As AKC puts it, “It introduces kids to the value of purpose-bred dogs, responsible dog ownership and safety around dogs.”

That concept has lost ground lately, but it remains the gold standard of our sport. We grew up loving and appreciating well bred dogs. Let’s not lose that appreciation. Anyway, if you want to check it out or, better yet, sign up a child or dog to participate visit  Either way, I recommend that you definitely read Go Dog Go.

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Posted by on Apr 9 2019. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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  • June 2019