Butt Sniffing Allowed

How many bad canine puns, allusions and stupid pooch lines can we pack into 400 words? Just watch:

The dog days of summer have just gotten a little cooler. The Astro World Series of Dog Shows is offering four days (that's 28 in dog time) of competitions, thrills and other poochie performances guaranteed to attract canines (and their owners) like a bitch in heat. "Meet the Breed," an educational event, allows attendees to come right into the showring to pet their favorite breed. Experts are on hand to help teach you a new trick or two, and dispel those doggone media-inspired myths. MTB's coordinator, Carol Williamson, feels strongly that understanding the personality of a particular breed will minimize those blues associated with mismatched pet-owner personality profiles. Dalmatians, for example, will always be high-strung and strong-willed, no matter how adorable they might have looked in the Disney film.

For some paw-biting action, it's dog-eat-dog competition in the "Flyball" relay race, which will boast 6,000 dogged entrants just whimpering for action in 40 separate contests. The proper canine athlete requires extensive training, agility, speed and a steady supply of puppy uppers (just kidding). Teams of four race each other down a 51-foot course. These hot dogs clear four hurdles, back and forth, then trigger the release of a flying tennis ball, which the pup then has to catch. Border collies, reportedly top dog in this event, can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour.

For a more intimate time with your puppy-love, the musical freestyle might do the trick. (We don't know whether they cha-cha or do the Bus Stop.) Don't expect any "dogs playing cards" paintings in the citywide art show in the north foyer of the Astrohall, where student artists create works revolving around the "Man's Best Friend" theme.

And to dispel any accusations that these sorts of events are only for specimens so finely crafted through selective breeding that their hind legs crumble at the touch of a finger, all mutts and mongrels can join their elitist, purebred brethren in taking the "Good Citizenship Test." But we say let sleeping dogs lie.

The Astro World Series of Dog Shows opens Thursday, July 20, and continues through Sunday, July 23. Tickets are $8 for adults per day; $5 for children 12 and under and senior citizens. Astrohall and AstroArena, 8400 Kirby. For more information, call 1(800)884-2443 or visit www.awsds.com.

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Laura Crowell