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The Puppy Bowl!

We thought we had the best job ever at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, but I’m thinking all the folks that…

We thought we had the best job ever at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, but I’m thinking all the folks that put together the Puppy Bowl each year have a pretty darn good job too! Can you imagine working (and cuddling) all those puppies?!

The Puppy Bowl is the cutest thing ever! Whoever came up with it is genius! It just so happens, I did some digging and found out. I thought you’d like to know the scoop (pun intended) on the Puppy Bowl.

What Is the Puppy Bowl?

18 years ago (can you believe it?), Animal Planet executives wanted to come up with something to compete for airtime over the Super Bowl. They were kidding… kind of. To this day, Animal Planet execs say it was a joke – ‘cause you just can’t compete against the Super Bowl (101.1m viewers this year, BTW!). Usually, there is a lot of calculated effort behind a show before it goes to air. In the case of the Puppy Bowl, they just decided to “go with it” and see what happens. So they got a 10 x 19-foot box, added a little artwork to make it look like a football stadium, added puppies from local shelters, and the rest is history.

When Did the Puppy Bowl Start?

The Puppy Bowl’s popularity has soared since its start in 2005. While the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles battled it out on one channel, the Puppy bowl captured an audience of 5.5 million in the very first Puppy Bowl.* The Puppy Bowl ran for 12 hours against Super Bowl pregame shows and the game itself. The puppies did not really compete like they do today (if that’s what you want to call it)… it was just cute puppies frolicking around in front of the camera. Today, the Puppy Bowl does not air at the same time as the Super Bowl, but rather during the same day. That gives dog-loving football fans the ability to enjoy both events.

Where Do The Puppies Come From?

If you’re like me, you’re wondering where all these cute pups came from and how they are chosen to be in the Puppy Bowl. With about an $80,000 budget for the first Puppy Bowl, pulling in dogs from local shelters in Silver Spring, Maryland, the Animal Planet headquarters, was the most cost-effective choice. Since that time, Animal Planet has partnered with, which has taken over the selection process of adoptable puppies.

Can You Adopt the Dogs in the Puppy Bowl? gets in touch with various rescue organizations throughout the United States to see if they have any puppies up for adoption and if so, are they interested in them being in the Puppy Bowl (duh, yes!)? The puppies must be between 8-16 weeks old. There are size requirements as well. They also need to play well with other puppies and be toy motivated. And, oh, they must be cute (Have you ever really seen a puppy that wasn’t cute? I haven’t!)

Since the Puppy Bowl has been so successful, animal shelters will often contact directly with candidates for the Puppy Bowl. The Puppy Bowl highlights the shelter during the introduction of the puppy. While the show is in process, you can go to or and be connected with the shelter. It’s good publicity for the shelter, many reporting an increase in adoptions after being featured on the Puppy Bowl. Animal Planet has experienced a 100% adoption rate of all the dogs featured on the show, often before the show even airs!

Just out of curiosity, I asked Tabitha Treloar, Director of Communications at the Richmond SPCA, if they ever had a pup featured in the Puppy Bowl. She said they had not. However, she remembers receiving a casting call/email from in 2014 for the Puppy Bowl! The logistics involved were definitely prohibitive. Oh well… maybe someday!

When is the Puppy Bowl Filmed?

In October or November (sorry to disappoint, but the bowl is not “live), selected puppies are flown in from across the country to a film studio in New York – where the bowl is now filmed – for their big debut. There are a ton of crew members and volunteers waiting to receive them. Each dog is assigned their own handlers. I imagine there is a period of acclimation for the pups, as their world just got really scary, right? These handlers see to the puppy’s every need… food, water, safety, and comfort. Veterinarians examine each puppy and provide medical care during the game if needed. The Humane Society is present to supervise.

The puppies are kept in a room next door to the studio where the filming is taking place. The pups are separated by size and allowed to play only for a limited time. The perfect balance of play and rest is so important – just like at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts’ Dog daycare – but it is particularly important for a puppy. They are filmed for only 20 minutes at a time to make sure they are safe and, of course, having fun.

The dogs are separated into two teams: Team “Ruff” and team “Fluff”. The teams score a touchdown by carrying a toy across the finish line. My favorite part is when the puppies “stand” and pretend to gaze at the flag during the Star-Spangled Banner. Lots of treats involved in that maneuver, I’m sure. There are penalties for “unnecessary ruff-ness”, “paws-interference” or “pass inter-fur-ence”, “illegal fur-mation”, and premature watering of the lawn – you can guess what that is. There are also “illegal napping” and “excessive cuteness” penalties. The teams even compete for the “Lombarki” trophy, and one player is awarded the MVP, “Most Valuable Puppy”. I’m sure you football fans get the play on words. A “personal foul” means some little puppy couldn’t “hold it”, or just got too excited!

What a huge undertaking it is to produce the Puppy Bowl! We are talking about puppies that have not been trained, many not even potty trained, and most have very limited socialization. Can you imagine the coordination for such an event? How many bags of treats and jars of peanut butter (the Animal Planet’s choice of bribery) do they have to go through while cajoling the puppies? Can you imagine the poop scooping, the mopping, the bathing? We can!

In 2014, we had our very own Puppy Bowl at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts! In fact, the feature image of this blog is one from our games. Even on the very small scale we had undertaken, the preparation was incredible. But it was worth it. The puppies did not let us down. We had junior varsity and varsity teams to separate the smaller puppies from the larger ones. We even had a beautiful turf football field and goal posts! And the tailgating was scrumptious. It was such a fun event.

Many other animals have been added to the Puppy Bowl over the years. The favorites have always been the kittens, whether they are cheerleaders, or in the kitty halftime show. One year there was a sloth referee. There have been skunks, dwarf goats, hedgehogs, piglets, ducks, penguins, chickens, ferrets, tortoises, and even a baby kangaroo (I’m sure there were others!)!

Is There More Than One Puppy Bowl?

There have been several spinoffs of the Puppy Bowl. In 2008, “Puppy Games” aired during the Summer Olympics, with dogs competing in gymnastics, swimming, and other “Olympic-type” things that dogs do well! The Hallmark channel’s answer to the Puppy Bowl was the Kitten Bowl. The Kitten Bowl started in 2014 and ran through 2019. The “Great American Rescue Bowl”, in association with North Shore Animal League America, replaced the Kitten Bowl on another channel. In 2018, Animal Planet started the “Dog Bowl”, which features older dogs available for adoption. The teams are the “oldies” and the “goldies”. Isn’t that adorable?

Who Referees the Puppy Bowl?

The most coveted job of all time has to belong to Dan Schachner, referee for the Puppy Bowl. He’s been doing it for about 11 years now. He has the best job in the world and he knows it. He says his reward at the end of a long day of filming is a “Puppy Pileup” when he just collapses on the 50-yard line and the puppies pile upon him. Where do I apply?

*Actual audience number for the first puppy bowl is suspect as I have read many discrepancies.

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