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.

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