The Puppy Bowl Is What The Super Bowl Wishes It Could Be

Every year since 2005, Animal Planet has used the Puppy Bowl as counter-programming to the Super Bowl. What started as a small scale affair blew up quickly into one of the most-watched programs on Super Sunday. With over 90 adoptable puppies on display, the 2018 airing of the big game reached 3.05 million viewers. While that’s not close to the 100 million viewers the Super Bowl gets, it is a big difference from the 690,000 viewers the second Puppy Bowl got. This is everything you need to know about the Puppy Bowl — the game the Super Bowl wishes it could be!

The Humane Society Is On Hand To Keep The Puppies Safe

puppies and humans before the puppy bowl
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

The Puppy Bowl is filled with dogs from shelters looking for forever homes. To make sure every dog plays fair during the game’s taping, a representative from the Humane Society is on hand to monitor.

A veterinarian and representatives from each shelter that the puppies are from also keep an eye on the events. There is nothing more important than the safety of the animals involved, and you never know when a game day fight might break out!

The Puppy Bowl Is Taped Months Ahead Of Airing

puppy bowl referee dan schachner
Paul Zimmerman/WireImage
Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

Contrary to what some readers may want to hear, the Puppy Bowl is not a live event. It is usually filmed in October, months before the Super Bowl. The shoot lasts for two to three days and uses 21 different cameras.

Once cameras stop rolling, all that footage is edited into the presentation seen in February. During editing, a follow-able version of the game is made with commentary from the booth. When head referee Dan Schachner tells people this he says that it “takes people aback.”

The Cheerleaders Change Almost Yearly

Penguin-Cheerleaders from the puppy bowl
Animal Planet
Animal Planet

Five years after the Puppy Bowl aired its first match-up, the game began including cheerleaders. In 2010, the first set of Puppy Bowl cheerleaders (bunnies) were introduced. In 2011 the bunnies were replaced with chickens, which were then followed by pigs, hedgehogs, penguins, dwarf goats, rescue rabbits, and guinea pigs.

For the 2020 Puppy Bowl, the cheer team will consist of goat kid cheerleaders, aka baby goats. These young bucks will do their best to cheer on Team Ruff and Team Fluff!

Meep The Bird Is A Social Media Guru

meep the bird from the puppy bowl
Pet Finder/Pinterest
Pet Finder/Pinterest

Meep the bird began tweeting out the action at the Puppy Bowl in 2012. Since then, the quick-witted cockatiel has gained a social media following of over 42,000 fans. Every year, Meep makes sure his fans are satisfied with his Twitter smarts.

Some Meep highlights include, “i. am. SHOOK. ONLY ONE WEEK UNTIL GAME DAY. #PuppyBowlXV is going to be big this year. I just know it.” and “Last year, Shirley, the assistant ref, made some tough calls… do you think she’ll be as critical this year or do you think she’ll be a little more ~sloth~ ?”

Napping Puppies Get Penalized

a puppy napping during the puppy bowl
Animal Planet
Animal Planet

When a puppy decides during the Puppy Bowl that it needs a break but doesn’t get substituted, it can get hit with a penalty. Referee Dan Schachner will flag the pupper for “excessive napping” or “illegal napping.” And any puppy that naps too long can be disqualified.

The opposite penalty can also be applied to puppies that have too much energy. Don’t forget, the first rule of Puppy Bowl is to keep the puppies safe!

Teams Were First Introduced In 2015

a puppy bowl team helmet
John Parra/Getty Images for Discovery.com
John Parra/Getty Images for Discovery.com

Today we can’t imagine the Puppy Bowl without it being a competition between Team Ruff and Team Fluff. It might surprise you to find out that the first ten years of the game weren’t team-oriented.

It was in 2015 that Animal Planet first introduced Team Ruff and Team Fluff. Team Ruff has won three Puppy Bowls since then while Team Fluff has won two, but will be looking to even things up in 2020.

It May Have Been Inspired By The Yule Log

puppy bowl debuted in 2005
Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

In 2008, the New York Times wrote an article about the meteoric rise in popularity of the Puppy Bowl. In the opening, the writers claimed that executives at Animal Planet hoped the game would become their version of the famous Yule Log Christmas video.

The Yule Log video, as you may recall, is just a still shot of a burning log that airs for several hours on Christmas. The Puppy Bowl is similar. As one executive describes it, “I sort of think of it as when you walk by a pet shop window and you just can’t help but sit and stare in awe.”

There Was An Olympic Spin-Off

puppy games olympics
Animal Planet
Animal Planet

Based on the popularity of the Puppy Bowl, Animal Planet doubled down on counter-programming and debuted the Puppy Games in 2008. The competition took the Olympics and added puppies, airing in conjunction with the opening ceremonies of the game.

The Puppy Games consisted of several sports including boxing, soccer, and swimming. Other spin-offs include the Dog Bowl. Competitor networks have also created their own versions, including the Kitten Bowl, which first aired on the Hallmark Channel in 2014.

“Accidents” Happen

the midfield logo for the puppy bowl
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery, Inc.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery, Inc.

Not all puppies are housetrained, which means there are a lot of accidents that have to be cleaned up during the Puppy Bowl. And when we say a lot, we mean more than you can imagine. Schachner says:

“I’m picking up poop and pee all the time. [People] forget that there’s an amazing grounds crew here on staff. They’re like little elves who come in and magically erase all the pet poop that’s left on the field so that when the game is actually playing and those cameras are rolling, you’re not going to see too many fouls.”

The Puppy Bowl Promotes Adoption

a rescue dog in its forever home from the puppy bowl
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Every puppy you see during the Puppy Bowl is adoptable. So is every cat that performs at the Kitty Halftime Show. During the show, anyone can go online and see which puppies might still be available.

Because the game is taped in October and doesn’t air until February, many of the rescued animals have found their forever homes. Regardless, part of what makes the Puppy Bowl so special is that it promotes adopting dogs and cats from rescue shelters.

There’s More Than Just The Puppy Bowl

kitten bowl on hallmark channel
Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Hallmark
Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Hallmark

The Puppy Bowl has become so popular that other networks have created their own animal-themed bowl games to cash in. The most prominent one of the Kitten Bowl, which airs on the Hallmark Channel.

There is also the Cat Bowl on the Hallmark Channel, which is similar to the Dog Bowl on Animal Planet. On National Geographic you can also watch the Fish Bowl, although that doesn’t sound nearly as cute as watching puppies play with toys for three hours!

Special Needs Puppies Get To Compete

two puppies face off in the puppy bowl
Animal Planet
Animal Planet

The Puppy Bowl had another first in 2017 when it allowed special needs puppies to compete for the first time. The 2019 Puppy Bowl included three of these incredible pooches: Pippi, Bumble, and Will.

Bumble is a hearing impaired and blind Australian Shepherd mix. Pippi is a Jack Russell Terrier who is blind. And Will is a doodle missing one leg. These dogs stole the show in 2019, and we can’t wait to see what other heart-warming hounds show up in future years.

The First Double Touchdown Was Scored In Puppy Bowl VIII

puppy bowl double touchdown
Animal Planet
Animal Planet

In an NFL game, it is impossible for two players to score a double touchdown. In the Puppy Bowl, the rules are a little more relaxed. The first double touchdown in Puppy Bowl history came in the contest’s eighth year.

As Schachner recalls, “we had a simultaneous touchdown and that had never happened before. Two puppies dragged two chew toys into the end zone at the same exact time. I didn’t know what to do, so I talked to our control room. We did an instant replay and determined that it counted. Each puppy was then awarded one touchdown point.”

The Crew Uses A Lot Of Peanut Butter

puppy sitting and listening to directions
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Working with upwards of 90 dogs can make one aspect of filming the Puppy Bowl difficult. In order to get as many close-ups of the good bois and girls as they need, the crew uses peanut butter.

Cameras are smeared with the gooey treat and hidden in toys. When the dog runs up to grab the toy, the crew has an instant close-up. That also explains why the pups drink so much water during the big game!

A Second Ref Was Added In 2018

puppy bowl shirley the sloth
Animal Planet
Animal Planet

Although Dan Schachner can referee the Puppy Bowl just fine by himself, he decided to bring in help in 2018 anyway. That second referee was named Shirley and she was a rescue sloth that stole the hearts of America.

Shirley was so popular she was brought back for another Puppy Bowl in 2019, and it’s hard to imagine she won’t continue to be a part of the “aww” inducing competition for every year moving forward.

It Gets More Popular Every Year

a back lab puppy from the puppy bowl
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery Communications
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery Communications

The 2018 Puppy Bowl was the highest-rated game on record. Over three million viewers tuned in, with the coveted 25-54 demographic scoring a 1.46 rating. The increase was a massive 17 percent over the previous year.

The 2018 game changed the team names from Ruff and Fluff to the Pawtriots and Beagles. A minor drop in ratings happened in 2019, but that was expected after such a huge increase the year before.

Pancaking Is Not Allowed

a puppy from the puppy bowl posing
Animal Planet
Animal Planet

One of the strangest penalties Schachner says he ever had to give a puppy was when one was uncontrollably jumping on the others and flattening them. He says it’s normal for puppies to tackle each other, “But there was one puppy that was literally jumping up and landing on the backs of the other puppies.”

On the spot, Schachner came up with a new penalty, “So we made up a foul then called pancaking. We sent her back 15 yards.”

Puppies Get Breaks Every 30 Minutes

puppy bowl puppy with human
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery Communications
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery Communications

Filming days for the Puppy Bowl can last as long as 12 hours. To ensure that the stars of the show don’t get too worn out, they are given breaks every 30 minutes. Making sure this break happens is part of the job of the safety crew on site.

The next year the crew was able to film more dogs on the field at one time, which meant they could take breaks more often. The puppies were given breaks every 20 minutes, and filming was spread out across two days.

There Are Size, Weight, And Age Requirements To Be A Puppy In The Game

a picture of a puppy taken at woofstock
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

Because not every puppy comes with a standard size and weight, Animal Planet has had to give requirements for puppies to appear in the Puppy Bowl. First off, puppies must be between 12 and 21 weeks old. Next, any dog featured cannot be so large its a danger to other dogs, or so small its a danger to itself.

Every year, shelters across the United States submit puppies to be featured in the Puppy Bowl, and only a select special few are chosen for the big game.

The Running Time Can Vary From Year To Year

puppy bowl puppy party
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

The running time of the Puppy Bowl can vary year to year. For example, Puppy Bowl IV, including commercials, was 180 minutes long. The next year the game was decreased to 120 minutes, while more time was added in for other things.

Jessie Dinh works as a producer for the Puppy Bowl and gave this reasoning: “We only did two hours this year so that we had the opportunity to include some other fun elements.”