Time to get ruff! The Super Bowl racks up millions of viewers each year — but so does the Puppy Bowl. Us Weekly went behind the scenes for the fun-filled, tail-wagging battle, which proved to be ruthless and, well, beyond adorable.
Animal Planet premiered its first Puppy Bowl in February 2005. This year, the 80 furry animals — who are all available for adoption and were chosen to participate six weeks in advance — come from 44 different shelters across the country and range from 12 to 24 weeks old.
“We only work with dogs that are actually from the shelters and are up for adoption,” executive producer Melinda Toporoff tells Us. “By the time the show airs, though, nine out of 10 times they are all spoken for!”
Before breaking in their new homes, the pups will take a few laps in the end zone. They’ll make touchdowns, star on the slow-motion cute cam, slobber on chew toys and try their very best to play by the rules. A player can receive a yellow flag for illegal bathing in a water dish, illegal lounging (a.k.a. “wall-flowering”) and excessive barking.
“The list of infractions is infinite,” Dan Schachner, the game referee, tells Us. “There’s no ejection from the field unless they are being harmful, like physically dangerous to one another. Sometimes that happens. We have Humane Society and animal trainers on set all the time and they make sure everything is safe.”
Schachner has witnessed a lot of crazy tackles over the years. “I’ve seen one dog trying to literally jump over another dog and landing on top of their head. And that was a 10-yard penalty. We set them back 10 yards,” he explains. In fact, Schachner says that making the right call is the toughest part of his job. “[And] watching where you step,” he adds. “You have to have the delicacy of a ballerina to get around that field.”
Indeed, the indoor space is filled with rambunctious wide retrievers — who celebrate the event, win or lose. “[We] reward them with love,” Toporoff tells Us.
Schachner adds: “[They party] by napping and by having treats. I have a pocket full of treats that I don’t use unless I absolutely need to and that’s generally their celebration. And the glory.”
Puppy Bowl XII airs on Animal Planet on Sunday, February 7, at 3 p.m. EST.
Watch the video above for a sneak peek!
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