Behrens, Andy. The Fast and the Furriest.
Kevin's life is difficult because he prefes fantasy football to the real thing. The problem? His dad played for the Bears and is a local celebrity who expects Kevin to excel at sports. Kevin's "part beagle, part potato chip" dog, Cromwell is also lethargic and unmotivated-- until he sees a dog agility contest on television and starts begging to go on walks. Kevin's friend Zach thinks this idea is great and could ultimately lead to product endorsements and a lot of money, so he helps Kevin enroll Cromwell in a local agility training school. For the sake of appearances, Kevin tries (and fails miserably) at a football camp, and is far more successful in taking Cromwell for this training.
Why this is a great middle school novel-- even though Kevin is 12, he exhibits independence from his parents. He and his friend are involved in an unlikely but almost probably scheme. The characters are realistic, well written and highly amusing (the father's Bear decorated minivan embarasses Kevin; the owner of the agility school e mails Cromwell directly, etc.). There is action, a little adventure, and a lot of slapstick comedy with Cromwell bounding about. There is also a search for personal identity that is done very lightly-- Kevin breaks away from the influence of his father to find things that he enjoys, and ends up improving himself, which would of course be irrelevant if this weren't such a funny book. Boys will like it for the football and the humor, and I've had an odd number of students wanting books about dogs this year.
Andy Behrens is also the author of Beauty and the Bully, which is a great teen book, as well as the much older teen book, All the Way. Perhaps I shouldn't mention this. It looks like Mr. Behrens is starting afresh as a middle grade author and is denying his other works. As long as he writes some more funny books with sports for boys, I'm not complaining!