It’s Party Time! Check out These Dog Festivals

How does your social calendar look these days? If you and your dog have some free time in the months to come, you can fill it up very quickly. That’s because dog festivals are growing in popularity, with events scheduled all over the continent. Here are a few favorites you can check out with your furry pal:

Woofstock

Toronto, Canada

June 9-10

Woofstock.ca

When Woofstock launched in 2003, the Toronto Star called it “the summer of canine love.” Held in the St. Lawrence Market Neighborhood of Toronto, the festival draws some 300,000 dog lovers and their four-legged friends each year for the ultra-popular doggie love-in.

“Founder Marlene Cook was inspired by her late dog, Barkley, to start the festival,” says Liz Jukovsky, a Woofstock spokeswoman. “She now runs the festival in his memory and takes joy in bringing her two Wheaten Terriers, Addison and Sydney, to the festival each year.”

The Celebrity Doggelganger High Tea event was a huge hit last year, with dog celebrity impersonators doing their best Elvis, Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Lady Gaga and more. Other events include the Mr. & Ms. Canine Canada Pageant, the Woofstock Fashion Show, and the Stupid Dog Trick Contest. “Poo Parks” and water stations take care of canine needs. Guests can stay at the dog-friendly Le Meridien King Edward hotel at special rates.

And be on the lookout for Woofstock in your area too. Jukovsky says the buzz is it could expand to the U.S. in a few years.

Doggie Street Festivals

June 10, San Diego

June 24, Los Angeles

DoggieStreetFestival.org

These street fests are California’s largest pet adoption–focused festivals. Even if you have your dog in tow, you can support homeless pets and have fun for a great cause.

“Last year, 130 dogs found new homes (at just one of the events),” founder and says organizer Jude Artenstein. “This is the go-to dog celebration you just can’t miss!”

Spring Dog Festival

Santa Cruz County, Calif.

June 24

CoastalDogs.com

The proceeds from this fun-raising event for dogs and their people go to the preservation and creation of off-leash doggie exercise options, education about responsible dog ownership, and dog-related charities.

“We have something for everyone -- a doggy costume parade, weenie bobbing contest, doxie races, and various dog sports demonstrations to wow the crowds,” says Suse Kelley of Spring Dog Festival. She adds that lure coursing is always ultra-popular. “Seeing the dogs stand in line for their turn reminds me of kids waiting in line for rides at Disneyland!”

Boxerstock

Atlanta

Fall

Boxerstock.org

Boxerstock is a family- and dog-friendly event created by Atlanta Boxer Rescue Inc. People and their pets enjoy concerts featuring rock, folk and blues musicians. Other planned events include children’s activities, a silent auction, a dog costume contest and canine demos.

“Atlanta Boxer Rescue provides adoption services, fostering and education to aid boxers,” shares Lisa Demma, president of the group. “The funds we raise at Boxerstock, our largest annual fundraiser, will allow us to continue our boxer rescue efforts.”

Howl-O-Weenie

Atlanta

Fall

DreamRescue.org/HowlOWeenie

Yet another great Atlanta dog festival, this event celebrates Dachshunds. In past years, the hot dog–shaped canines have come dressed as the Doxie-Lama, a herd of Doxens, a Flamenco Dachshund Dancer and more. You haven’t lived until you’ve also seen the Dachshund Dash Race, watching their little legs really go.

“Howl-O-Weenie attracts not only Dachshund owners, but dog lovers of all kinds who enjoy the sight of Dachshunds in creative and elaborate costumes,” says Ivy Carruth of DREAM (Dachshund Rescue, Education, Awareness and Mentoring). “While we focus on having fun at the event, our primary goal is to promote awareness of the needs of abandoned Dachshunds and raise money to help those in shelters through no fault of their own.”

Barkfest

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

February

VisitSouthernDelaware.com

Picturesque Lewes Harbor plays host to romantic couples and their dogs right before Valentine’s Day each year. The event started as a way to showcase the area during offseason, since tourists usually visit during warmer months. But Barkfest has turned out to be a hit in its own right. It includes “Delaware’s biggest beach party of the winter” and fun canine events like a “yappy hour” and pet pageants.

We’ve only scratched the surface of dog festivals you can attend together. So if you can’t make any of the above, check local magazines for events held in your area. Please note: Information on organization websites is often updated closer to the event dates.

The Real Story Behind Dog Odors

A dog’s sense of smell is said to be about 1,000 times stronger than ours. As dog owners, we should probably consider that something of a blessing. In fact, we’re often so unaware of our dog’s odor funk that it often takes a family member or good friend to point this out. (With tact, one hopes.)

Or maybe you have noticed that your beloved family pet smells a bit off lately. If so, you shouldn’t make a big stink about it; you should investigate, say experts. That’s because there are a range of possible causes from the harmless (your dog rolled in something) to the dire (cancer).

If you’ve tried obvious methods of alleviating the stench, including giving your dog a bath, a good combing and maybe a trip to the groomer, then you should take a closer look.

Sources of Dog Odors
Dr. Louis Crupi, a veterinarian in Nutley, N.J., says odors most often emanate from the ears and mouth. “Check to see if your dog is pulling at its ears or shaking its head,” which could indicate an infection.

Another common cause of dog funk is a yeast infection, which prompts a sickeningly sweet odor, says Dr. Tracy Dewhirst, a veterinarian based in Knoxville, Tenn., and a regular contributor to Exceptional Canine. “Any time you smell a sweet or sour odor on your dog, you should get it checked out,” she says. Yeast infections often signal an allergy of some sort. While yeast is normally found on the skin and ears in small numbers, a dog with allergies doesn’t have normal skin defenses, says Dr. Corrina Parsons of the Longwood Veterinary Center in Kennett Square, Penn. Yeast infections can be a problem for dogs in an environment that promotes yeast growth, such as a dog that swims and always has wet ears, notes Parsons.

However, yeast infections can also be an indication of thyroid problems or a weak immune system, notes Dewhirst.

Your dog’s breath might never smell like roses. But if it’s excessively malodorous, then it could also connote dental disease, tartar, back molar problems, stomach infections or oral cancer, says Dewhirst, who acknowledges that some dogs naturally have better breath than others. Of course, a regular program of canine dental care, including teeth-brushing, can help prevent dental problems.

You Won’t Miss This Dog Odor
If your dog’s anal sac is ruptured or partially or fully emptied for one reason or another, a telltale, feces-like scent signals something’s amiss. Even if your dog’s anal sac empties outside the house, there’s likely to be a trail of odor on the dog’s coat. Dogs often make it worse by rubbing their bottom on the floor in an effort to scratch the area. Dewhirst says an anal sac rupture or leak is usually an indication of a yeast or bacterial infection, but, in worst-case scenarios, can also be prompted by cancer. Obesity and food allergies are more common causes of anal sac inflammation.

Finally, there’s flatulence. Though it’s normal for your dog to pass gas on occasion, you should watch for an excessive degree, which could indicate a food allergy or, once again, cancer.

The important thing, caution experts, is to not dismiss your dog’s odors as commonplace. “Your dog shouldn’t smell,” says Dewhirst. “It’s not normal.”

Meanwhile, Crupi cautions to not overdo it with bathing, even if your dog is primarily an indoor pet. To get rid of those common smells, Crupi recommends frequent brushing. “You should brush rather than bathe,” says Crupi, noting that three to six baths a year is probably sufficient. “You want to preserve their natural oils.”

Treibball: Will Your Dog Dig It?

Chance, a 10-year-old black Lab and German Shorthaired Pointer mix, loves to play. Now that he’s in his senior years, though, he does everything very slowly. That’s hardly a recipe for sporting success, but Chance gets to experience the thrill of competition and all of its rewards by playing Treibball, a new dog sport.

“We get retired agility dogs, dogs in wheelie carts, older dogs and owners in wheelchairs,” says Dianna Stearns, Chance’s owner and the founder of the American Treibball Association in Northglenn, Colo. “But we also get very active dogs that compete in other sports, younger dogs and younger owners. Treibball can be an all-inclusive sport.”

Treibball’s Origins
Treibball originated in Germany about nine years ago. Dutch dog trainer Jan Nijboer watched his Australian Cattle Dogs push their rubber water dishes around the field after finishing herding lessons and wondered if the dogs would also push large exercise balls around. He introduced the game to his herding students, and Treibball was an instant hit, spreading quickly throughout Germany, Amsterdam and Sweden, where the first official competition was held in 2007.

Stearns, a positive-reinforcement trainer and dog behavioral consultant, saw some videos demonstrating Treibball. “I could see its potential of being used as a positive teaching tool, in line with what I was already doing,” she says. She has since created U.S. Treibball standards, which are now shared with other teachers and players across the country.

Playing Treibball
Treibball consists of your dog working off-leash and obeying your cues, explains Stearns. Your dog uses his nose or shoulders to drive eight balls -- arranged in a triangle, billiards-style -- into a net goal within 10 minutes. “These are just rubber exercise balls, like the kind people use for Pilates,” says Stearns. “The dog’s nose should hit the ball midpoint, so we use smaller balls for smaller dogs.”

At the sound of a whistle, the dog is directed to what’s known as the “point ball,” which should be driven into the net first. Then the handler chooses which balls to bring in for the dog, and in what order. The game stops when all eight balls are in the net/goal and, as Stearns says, “the dog lies down in front of the goal, just like penning sheep!”

Dogs and trainers can earn or lose points throughout each round. “Treibball is all about positive reinforcement,” says Stearns, “so if an owner yells at his or her dog, the duo is disqualified.” If a dog sinks his teeth into a ball, he will also lose. “The balls come to symbolize sheep, so that would be like killing the sheep!” she says. “It’s a gentle sport, but it moves fast.”

Here’s a dog learning to play Treibball. Get more training videos on the American Treibball Association’s YouTube page:

What You Need to Participate in Treibball
Stearns says you’ll need the following to participate in Treibball:

  • A dog that loves to play chase games, is good off-leash and knows some basic cues
  • A fitness/gymnastic-type ball
  • A 20-foot-long line for distance work
  • A soccer goal or some other large enclosure as a goal to hold the balls
  • A 6-foot wooden dowel or staff to help guide the balls into a goal

The Benefits of Treibball
Treibball offers seemingly countless benefits for dogs and their owners. Here are just five:

  • Dogs of all ages and sizes can play. Stearns says that she’s worked with Cairn Terriers, Shelties, Portuguese Water Dogs, German Shepherds, Papillons, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Bull Terriers, Boxers, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Poodles, Jack Russell Terriers and more. “The Cairn Terrier beat out the Border Collies and the German Shepherds,” she says.

  • Both dogs and owners with disabilities can play. It’s a great sport for people of all ages and abilities -- as long as they’re interested and motivated. “I’m an old baby boomer with a bad wrist and knee, so Treibball is perfect for me since it’s low-impact,” says Stearns.

  • It promotes owner-dog bonding and builds confidence for shy dogs. Stearns says that “it can also help reactive dogs with impulse control.”

  • Treibball teaches better off-leash skills. Owners outside of the sport learn how to control their dogs from 30-35 feet away.

  • The sport complements other activities. It’s a great pair to flyball and agility, providing your dog with a well-rounded set of skills.

Treibball takes a bit of time for dogs to learn. But like many worthwhile activities, once the basic teaching sinks in, there’s happily no turning back. “At about five to six weeks, most dogs get it,” says Stearns. “You can see the light go off for them, and when it’s on, the challenge is to contain their enthusiasm. Treibball can be incredibly fun and addictive.”

First Dogs: True Stories of Presidential Dogs

Our first president, George Washington, and our current commander in chief, Barack Obama, are just two of our 30 presidents who have owned dogs. Over the last 200-plus years, canines have often been in the spotlight as much as their famous “pack leaders.”

The First Presidential Dogs
Everyone knows George Washington was our first president, but did you know he was also an avid foxhunter and sportsman? He owned several hunting hounds, including seven Staghounds given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat and American Revolutionary War general. Staghounds find prey with their keen eyesight, but Washington also owned Black and Tan Coonhounds, which rely on their noses to find quarry. Although today we think of Poodles as pampered, well-groomed house pets, in Washington’s day, they were valued as agile hunting dogs. The president’s diary includes references to Pilot, a Poodle that was Washington’s waterfowl hunting partner.

The First Celebrity Presidential Dog
Warren Harding’s
Airedale Terrier was possibly the first “first dog” to be in the public eye. “Laddie Boy was the president’s constant companion and had his own chair to sit in during cabinet meetings,” says Kate Kelly, a historian who has written numerous stories about American dogs. People found the relationship between Harding and his dog captivating, says Kelly, and media coverage demonstrates that by the 20th century, dogs were family members. Indeed, Harding left a cabinet meeting the day after his inauguration in 1921 to greet his new puppy upon the dog’s arrival at the White House. “The papers reported on everything Laddie Boy did, from fetching the morning newspaper to enjoying his dog biscuit birthday cake,” says Kelly.

Kelly considers Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Fala, a Scottish Terrier, the most famous presidential dog. “He was beloved by FDR, who would sometimes delay state dinners to go into the kitchen to feed Fala himself,” she says. Fala became an integral part of FDR’s politics, as evidenced by this excerpt from a 1944 campaign speech. “Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. As soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress had concocted a story [about it costing millions of taxpayer dollars to rescue the dog from an Aleutian Islands presidential visit] his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since.” Kelly says Americans loved the speech.

Bo, the Hypoallergenic Presidential Dog
The Obamas chose to add a Portuguese Water Dog to their family because first daughters Sasha and Malia have allergies. The breed was not as well-known as Beagles, Labrador Retrievers or Springer Spaniels (Presidents Johnson, Clinton and Bush, respectively), but media coverage thrust Bo and PWDs into the mainstream. “They needed a hypoallergenic dog, and the relationship between Ted Kennedy -- who owned Portuguese Water Dogs -- and the Obamas allowed for the family to meet Bo. And the rest is history,” says Julie Parker, who bred Bo’s sire. “I think this new popularity is good for the breed because now more people are familiar with them. They’re smart and high-energy, but for the experienced dog owner who leads an active lifestyle, these are great companion dogs.” Parker says this breed expects to be part of the family and that’s where it’s happiest.

The United States From a Dog’s-eye View
Presidential dogs give us a glimpse into our country’s history from a cultural perspective. Their residency in the White House provides insights about our changing lifestyles and politics. From hunter to companion to media darling, they’ve shared our presidents’ lives and confirm we are a nation of dog lovers.

Photo: Getty Images

Dog Scouts of America: Is Your Dog a Leader?

The Dog Scout owner’s motto reads, “Our dogs’ lives are much shorter than ours -- let’s help them enjoy their time with us as much as we can.” Since 1995, Dog Scouts of America (DSA) has been working with dogs and their owners to do just that, enabling pets and owners to stay active and enjoy the human-canine bond.

If your dog is a couch potato or is super-tiny, don’t despair. Founder Lonnie Olson emphasizes that the organization does not discriminate against any breed. Olson’s own tiny Welsh Corgi, named Weasel, doesn’t let her diminutive size stop her.

“Dog Scouts is all about getting together with dogs and humans and just enjoying all the different things you can do with your dog,” says James Helems, who created DSA Troop 211 in Massachusetts. “Like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, you can earn 70 different badges for activities you do with your dog, like agility, kayaking, rescue and even band.”

Dog Scout Certification
Says Robyn Douglas of Downeast Dog Scouts Troop 159 in Maine: “The Dog Scouts of America is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about responsible dog ownership, the important role of the human/canine bond, and to challenge people and dogs to learn how to better serve each other.” Each troop works toward the goals and missions of the DSA and focuses on the unique needs and interests of the local community, explains Douglas.

According to the DSA, any dog can become a Cadet Scout, which is more of an honorary title, or a Dog Scout. For the latter, the only requirement is that you and your dog must be able to pass a test, proving that you are responsible and that your dog is well-mannered and not aggressive toward humans and other dogs. The test can be completed in front of a certified Scoutmaster or via video.

Dog Scout Camp
Ideally, you and your dog will seek certification at a Dog Scout Camp. It’s a six-day learning adventure for you and your dog, with topics each year varying among things such as backpacking, water rescue and flyball. Says Karen Deeds, who has worked as an instructor at the DSA Texas mini-camp: “The relationship between dog and human is truly amazing, and I am proud to be able to promote positive training throughout the community, which strengthens that relationship.”

Once your dog has become a Dog Scout, you get to officially put “DSA” after his or her name. Your pet is eligible to earn and receive Dog Scout merit badges for achievement in different activities.

Dog Scout Badges
“The badge program is going strong, and many people are taking advantage of the ability to earn the badges by video,” says Chris Puls, current president of DSA. Badges are grouped in overall categories, such as trails, agility, obedience and water safety. Then there are subcategories. For example, backpacking, hiking, biking and overnight camping are some of the subcategories under the trails category. You’ll also find badges for less traditional skills, such as PhoDOGraphy.

Fun Prevails
Community service projects, such as those leading to the Clean up America badge, are popular. For example, Mart and Cindy Ratliff of Troop 119 in North Texas helped organize a Meals on Wheels for Pets project. “We get donations from many dog-product companies, as well as a lot of private donations,” say the Ratliffs. “We have a great time at the baggin’ party, where we all get together, decorate the bags, fill them up and then load the van. The smiles and tears (from the recipients) are always worth it!”

Troops organize all sorts of enjoyable activities, depending on the needs of their members. Some like leisurely picnics, but others allow dogs and their owners to participate in sporting events. And then there are more creative activities, such as the Connecticut Renaissance Faire in which Troop 188 participated. According to Kelly Ford, co-leader of that troop, Zora DSA played the piano and Lucy DSA shook a metal pail for tips. By the end of the event, these efforts and more raised a lot of money for a local pet charity.

So what’s stopping you and your dog from joining the DSA? Helems thinks that “most dogs don’t get out enough; they don’t get opportunities to socialize and just be dogs together.” Your own social life might need a boost too. Check out the DSA at DogScouts.org.