WIN a Year’s Supply of Dog Food!

Want to win a year's supply of dog food plus puppy toys and treats? Think you have the most exceptional puppy on the Web? Then starting July 26, enter your best friend in Exceptional Canine’s Exceptional Puppy Photo Contest!

It’s easy to enter:

1.    Go to http://www.facebook.com/ExceptionalCanine.

2.    “Like” Exceptional Canine's Facebook page.

3.    Upload a pic of your exceptional puppy (he/she must be currently 2 years old or younger to be eligible).

4.    Get your friends and family to vote. The more votes you get, the better your chances of winning!

10 exceptional puppies chosen by our panel of judges get a gift basket valued at around $600, which may include:

  • 12 vouchers for 20-pound bags of any Eukanuba canine food
  • Eukanuba Healthy Extras Puppy Growth Biscuits
  • Chuckit! Mega Ball Launchers
  • KONG Wobbler Dog Treat Dispensers and Feeding Toys
  • Top Paw Rubber Grooming Gloves & Gentle and Tearless Puppy Shampoo
  • Nylabone Puppy Double Action Chews
  • And more!

Winners' photogenic pups will also be featured on the Exceptional Canine website and Facebook page!

The competition begins at 10a.m. on July 26, EST, and ends at 8 p.m. on August 29, EST. The picture must be a color .jpg file and no larger than 10 MB. Only owners are permitted to post a photo of their pets. One entry per person. Entrants may vote for their own dogs, but are limited to one vote per day.

Enter your puppy now, and check out www.ExceptionalCanine.com for more extraordinary advice for active dogs from the experts!

Take Your Dog to a Ball Game

Bratwurst isn’t the only dog at baseball games these days. Increasingly, major- and minor-league teams are hosting events to which owners are invited to bring their dogs and enjoy a game and related activities.

“My black Labrador, Mike, loves it,” says Scott Kelly, CEO of Black Dog Promotions, which has helped with an event called Bark in the Park for the Arizona Mesa Miners minor-league baseball team. “Mike got to smell a lot of other dogs, and that’s a pretty good day for a dog,” says Kelly. He and others share what it’s like to be in a dog-filled stadium -- and offer advice on how you and your best furry friend can prepare for a memorable summer outing.

Bark in the Park
Kelly and the Mesa Miners co-hosted Bark in the Park, which demonstrates that such events aren’t just about the baseball game. For this event, held at Hohokam Park in Mesa, Ariz., 800 to 900 dogs and their owners enjoyed contests for the cutest, ugliest and best-dressed mutts. “One of my favorites was the contest that determined the owner who looked the most like his or her dog,” says Kelly.

Fans and their pets were allowed to run the bases after the game. Attendees were also treated to discounted food, along with baseball-themed prizes and giveaways. “Aside from a few errant bathroom accidents, it was a perfect day out at the ballpark,” says Kelly.

Dog Days of Summer
In August 2011, the San Francisco Giants will host their 15th annual Dog Days of Summer for canines and their people. This event, like many of its kind, benefits a charity. “Every year, the San Francisco Giants open up hundreds of seats for ticket-holders and their dogs, and we’re the beneficiaries,” says Jen Lu, communications manager for the San Francisco SPCA.

Dogs and their owners sit together in a reserved set of bleachers with great views of the playing field. From start to finish, everyone is kept entertained and active. Last year, while patrons waited in line to enter the stadium, a skateboarding bulldog stole the show. Before the game, pets parade on the field. And some dogs also participate in a costume contest; Tina Ahn, director of communications and development at the SPCA, recalls seeing impressive canine versions of Giants stars Buster Posey and “The Beard” (pitcher Brian Wilson).

Before the event, professional videographers film dogs that are up for the adoption. As fans enjoy the game, images of these homeless canines are advertised on the enormous JumboTron screens.

Rules of the Game
Chances are your area hosts a dog-friendly ball game. The Philadelphia Phillies have opened up their games to canines. The Florida Marlins have their own version of Bark in the Park, as do the Atlanta Braves. Even cats come into the picture, as Seattle Mariners fans enjoyed a night based on LOLcats by ICanHasCheezburger.com. But there’s little doubt that dogs rule at baseball games.

If you’d like to take your dog to a game, Ahn suggests you consider the following:

  • Your dog should be well-socialized and always on a leash. Players might fight with the umpire, but you don’t want your pet to get in a scrap.
  • Ask if proof of vaccinations is needed. The Giants, for example, require proof that your dog has been protected against rabies.
  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and pooper-scooper bags, and a few of your dog’s favorite treats and toys. Organizers often provide water and treats, but it helps to have your own stash too.
  • Consider bringing something to shade your dog. It can get hot in the stands.
  • Take frequent breaks to allow your dog to stretch its legs, relieve itself, and work off some energy. A separate field at the Giants games is open to leashed dogs throughout the event.

Finally, “Be sure to buy your tickets early,” advises Ahn. Nearly all these events sell out early. It seems that a mix of hot dogs, canines and baseball make for an ideal warm summer’s day.

Photo: Eukanuba

Team up With Your Dog for Flyball Fun

It’s the equivalent of drag racing -- but for dogs -- so no wonder the action-packed team sport of flyball is gaining plenty of new players and fans.

“Flyball is the extreme sport of the canine world, requiring skill, athleticism, balance and plain old guts on the part of both dog and handler,” says Glenn Hamilton of Some Ruff Competition in Ontario. It’s Hamilton who refers to the activity as drag racing for dogs.

Are you and your dog up to the challenge? Be aware: Flyball is highly addictive; once you and your dog participate, you’ll never look back.

What Is Flyball?
Flyball is among the fastest-growing dog sports in North America, according to Brett Williams of The United Flyball League International. This canine relay race features teams of four dogs and four handlers competing head-to-head with other teams to complete the flyball course in as little time as possible, says Williams.

“Each dog covers a total distance of 102 feet on the course and has to negotiate eight hurdles,” explains Williams. “After jumping the first four hurdles, the dog must trigger, release and catch a ball from a spring-loaded box. The dog must then carry the ball back over the four original hurdles.” After the first dog completes the course, the other dogs take their turns. Check out the video to see a competition in action.

Lead dogs have been clocked at up to an incredible 20 miles per hour. The canine players are so fast that an electronic sensor system is usually used to start the dogs and to judge their passes. Some dogs can complete the course in just 3.7 seconds, with entire teams zipping through at just more than 15 seconds.

Flyball Training and Strategy
Leerie Jenkins, chair of the board of directors of the North American Flyball Association, first became involved in the sport in the late 1990s. “I joined a dog club, looking for activities I could do with my first dog, a Border Collie named Bella,” he says. “That dog club was mainly a disc dog club, and we decided to try this sport called flyball. So we bought a book on training flyball and never looked back.”

He adds, “It’s addictive and a lot of fun. The dogs absolutely go crazy over flyball.”

Training consists of going to classes, team practices, and/or training at home. Seminars are also available. “You need to build a good working relationship with your dog and also have them love to work for you,” says Jenkins. “They need to learn how to come to you when called, even when there are distractions.”

Dogs need to be speedy, but not too eager. If a dog takes its turn too soon, the dog is fouled and must rerun, most likely spoiling the team’s chance for a win.

Who Can Participate?
“Flyball is a very inclusive dog sport,” says Jenkins. Here are the requirements:

  • Flyball dogs must be at least 1 year old.
  • Your dog must be physically able to safely compete. Have your pet checked out by a veterinarian first.
  • Your dog should get along well with other dogs.
  • Border Collies and Jack Russell Terriers tend to ace flyball -- but all breeds and breed mixes are welcome!
  • Small dogs are part of the game’s strategy. Hamilton explains that since each team’s hurdle heights are dependent on the height of their shortest racer, teams usually include a smaller dog to reduce the hurdle height.
  • Senior dogs can play too. Jenkins explains that a veterans’ class for dogs over the age of 7 has “less strenuous requirements, so the older dogs can enjoy playing too.”
  • Keep in mind that human participants must be in good shape, given flyball’s fast-paced action.

Interested?

Check out a flyball competition first to see what you think. Guests are always welcome. Jenkins suggests that you “talk to people, observe, and sign up for a class or practices.”

Check out the NAFA Flyball Locator Board online to find a club near you.

Send Your Dog to Camp

When you start planning that trip to the Bahamas, do you ever wonder if your dog needs a vacation too?

That’s right. Instead of sending your dog off to a kennel, consider a dog camp, where a typical day may include splashing joyfully in a river, tumbling in the snow, or racing in a pack down a grassy field. It’s all about giving your dog much-needed exercise, socialization and the freedom to just be a dog -- and also about assuaging your guilt as you lie on the beach.

A Real Nature Experience
That was the thinking behind Glencadia Dog Camp in upstate New York. Will Pflaum, a Brooklynite, opened the camp in 2005 with a notion to offer city dogs some country living. His camp is 15 acres of unfenced, unfettered fun. “Camp is just a good way to describe it -- it’s rougher, exciting and fun,” he says. Camps are often a distance away from metropolitan areas to offer that authentic nature experience. Glencadia is 135 miles outside New York City, but it offers free shuttle service.

To send your dog to camp, you’ll need to meet some requirements. Like kennels, most camps require spaying or neutering your dog; vaccines for rabies, distemper, parvo and kennel cough; plus a dog license. Prices range from $20 to $40 daily -- a rate comparable to those of kennels in big cities -- with no extra charges for additional play times.

For that money, your dog gets a pretty good deal. Up in the snowy mountains of Southern California, for instance, at Double Dog Ranch , “dogs can run and play all day and have companionship,” says owner Dana Ridland. “It’s for dogs that like to be dogs and not little humans.” The camp environment is perfect for retrievers, pointers, herders, terriers and other breeds that are social and active, says Ridland.

What to Expect From Dog Adventure Camps
Be aware that being in the great outdoors can come with a risk of minor injury, Pflaum says. However, the benefits far outweigh those risks. “Better to have a physical injury, like a nick or a scratch, than a psychological one from being alone all day,” he says.

Good camps also ensure that everybody gets along. Michaela Hewett, a Glencadia regular, expects the humans to monitor canine clashes. For example, Pflaum put Hewett’s puppy retriever on a long leash until they were confident her dog was welcome in the pack. Technology can help ease any concerns you might have and let you know your dog is thriving. “When I check the webcam, I see the dogs are having a fantastic time,” says Hewett. That peace of mind can help you enjoy your vacation too.

If you’re looking forward to spending quality time with your dog after your time away, though, be warned: Your dog might need a vacation after its vacation. Dogs often come home bone-tired from all the excitement and play. But it’s a good kind of tired.