Many young people have it awfully rough. Some do not know their parents, some are abused by them, and many succumb to the trappings of substance abuse before they hit their teenage years. These individuals are seen by most as a lost cause, people who will re-offend. They don’t have a path that will lead them to a satisfying life.

Enter the Backtrack Boys.

The Backtrack Boys is a program designed to help young people in these situations focus on a positive future. The main element of the group is Bernie Shakeshaft’s dogs, each one free to choose the young person they want. His idea behind this is a dog will not judge. If a kid can’t read or write, a dog will never judge. They are shown how to train their dog and this activity grabs their interest almost without fail. It also helps in keeping their minds away from what originally got them in trouble at home.

Backtrack Boys

They also train the dogs to jump over walls, which they then turn into a show of friendly competition for the public.

Backtrack Boys is both a heartbreaking and heartwarming documentary. Talking to these kids, director Catherine Scott captures the sense of pride they feel for the first time when seeing their dogs perform and the praise they receive for their work. They experience emotions that they didn’t know were possible, as nearly all of them had no sense of self-worth whatsoever.

Of course, the program isn’t perfect as some find themselves back in trouble when they return home. Some are thrown back into the system because of one silly mistake; which is discouraging for Bernie, but he knows it is a reality of dealing with troubled youths.

Regardless, Backtrack Boys makes a compelling case for why Bernie’s program is an amazing idea that should be expanded on a larger scale.