What better way to celebrate the four-legged members of our families than at the American Kennel Club (AKC) Museum of the Dog? Returning to midtown Manhattan after 32 years in St. Louis, Missouri, this unusual museum is all about — yes, dogs! The museum’s new location in the Kalikow Building is an easy two-block walk south from Grand Central Terminal.
In light and airy rooms across two floors, dog lovers of all ages will find something of interest — from fine art for the adults to interactive experiences for the kids and kids at heart. My 12-year-old niece is crazy about dogs and didn’t know which way to turn first. She was captivated right at the entrance by the virtual dog scroll where silhouettes of every breed romp their way along an overhead screen.
Throughout the museum, art and artifacts are interspersed with digital activities and displays. The rotating and permanent exhibits include oil and watercolor paintings, photographs, and figurines. On the day we visited the life-size bronze dog statues thrilled some kids so much they couldn’t help but hug them. The DogNY sculpture of a German Shepard honors the search and rescue dogs of 9/11. Queen the Carousel Dog is slated to return this fall following restoration. Among the unique dog memorabilia are early collars, a Victorian child’s dog cart and dog house, and a Roman-era paw print set in terra cotta.
For many visitors, the real fun at the AKC Museum is its digital activities. Meet the Breeds is an interactive source of canine facts. Different breeds scamper across the table’s screen until you find one you want to learn about by putting it in your doghouse. The Story of the Breeder is another interactive screen that highlights the work of outstanding breeders.
Find Your Match is a quirky digital activity that matches your facial expressions to your type of dog. Take your picture and the visual recognition software shows you which dog looks like you. You can learn about your matching breed and email the photos to yourself.
Dogs on the Job explains the functions of working dogs and shows you how to train a police or therapy dog. Then try your skills in Puppy Training 101 by training a virtual Labrador named Molly to respond to your hand signals and voice commands.. My niece could have stayed for hours throwing a virtual ball and teaching Molly how to fetch it. Molly also wags her tail as she responds to your hand signals and voice commands to come and stay.
In the museum’s library, children and adults were seated around an activities and craft table working on projects related to the exhibits. Crafts correspond to the Breed of the Month exhibit; for October, it’s the Basset Hound.
Worksheets like Dog Breed Word Search puzzle, All About Dog Art, and coloring pages of different breeds kept everyone busy. The adults were as into the word search puzzle as were the kids. The breed crossword is also a scavenger hunt. My niece enjoyed hunting down the information in the exhibits to complete the crossword and earned an AKC pencil.
Visitors are also encouraged to create original dog art and display it on the museum’s Community Wall and its online Instagram page.
The gift shop stocks all things related to dogs. Kids can choose from plush dogs, books, and souvenirs, and museum-branded wear. Adults will find artwork, jewelry, and other gift items.
The museum does not have dining facilities or vending machines, but there are several options on Lexington or Madison Avenues. A better bet is the Lower Level Dining Concourse at nearby Grand Central Terminal which offers 20 dining venues.
Plan to spend at least two hours at the museum. The kids — and many adults — will want to stay at the virtual games and library activities, but try to give equal time to the art and dog memorabilia that remain tributes to man’s best friend.
Henrietta Toth writes middle-grade nonfiction and enjoys visiting historic places.
When You Go …
THE AKC MUSEUM OF THE DOG
101 Park Ave., New York, N.Y.
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed on Monday
Admission: $15 for adults, $5 for children under 12.