‘Puppy Bowl’ turns 20 this year


New York (AP) – Annual “Puppy Bowl” Turned 20 this year, well past the middle age of the Year of the Dog. But does its sheer beauty ever really get old?

“Who doesn’t want to watch dogs play all day long?” asks Laurie Johnson, director of Florida Little Dog Rescue in St. Cloud, Florida, which has been a part of the “Puppy Bowl” for a decade.

There are some changes to the canine football broadcast this year: Four past puppy players have returned to be inducted into the new Puppy Bowl Hall of Fame and the show, which has joined armadillos, hedgehogs and chickens, will focus on dogs.

“What we’ve done this year is flip the whole script because it’s like celebrating the fact that it’s the 20th year,” says “Puppy Bowl” referee Dan Schechner. “We decided to focus solely on the puppies, making this “the most puppy-friendly ‘Puppy Bowl’ ever.”

The “Puppy Bowl” made its debut in 2005 as counter-programming to the Super Bowl. When dogs cross the goal line – any goal line – with a toy, they score a touchdown on the gridiron carpet.

This show is really just an excuse to spend time watching adorable, clumsy puppies in colorful sweaters playing with chew toys, vigorously wagging their tails and licking the camera. A deeper reason is to encourage animal adoption.

“We always say the same message every year: Adopt, don’t shop,” Schechner says. “There are responsible breeders out there, but it defies logic that anyone looking for a dog would look beyond their local shelter or rescue.”

According to the ASPCA, Approximately 390,000 shelter dogs are euthanized each year and 2 million shelter dogs are adopted. Schechner says the number of animals living in shelters is back up after a decline during the pandemic. “It’s worse than before,” he says.

Florida Little Dog Rescue, which like all puppy groups is vetted by Animal Planet, has sent seven puppy players and two Hall of Fame inductees this year. Johnson, who volunteers her time, says it’s an honor that Animal Planet chooses her puppies year after year.

“It brings attention to our rescue, which helps some of our other dogs get adopted. But, honestly, the biggest excitement for us is that we’re helping dogs get into homes all across the country, because rescue is not a competition, it’s a collaboration,” Johnson says.

Most of the puppies are usually adopted on airtime, as the show is filmed in the fall. But the point is to show that animals like the ones featured on the show can be found in any shelter at any time.

Schechtner also has some advice for anyone falling in love with a particular puppy on the broadcast: “That animal is probably part of a litter, right? So maybe there are siblings out there who are still up for adoption or their parents – their mom, their dad – are in the shelter and looking for a forever home.

Florida Little Dog Rescue was the first to send a Shar Pei to the “Puppy Bowl” — the puppy, Wrinkles, was immediately adopted by a crew member at the taping — and Johnson says many viewers may not know that all types of breeds. – includes Corgis, Westies, Doodles and Cavapoos – available at shelters and rescue groups.

The inaugural “Puppy Bowl” was watched by approximately 6 million viewers. Last year, 13.2 million viewers watched it, the largest reach for the event in the last five years. In comparison, the emmy awards The broadcast on Fox reached just 4.3 million viewers this year. This year’s show will be simulcast on Animal Planet, Discovery, TBS, TruTV, Max and Discovery.

The dogs are divided into two teams – Team Fluff and Team Ruff – and each dog is given a nickname – such as “Slick Rick” or “J-Paw” – and a specialty, such as “Epic and Zone Dance.”

They’re free to have fun, but they can face penalties for things like “unsportsmanlike conduct” and “litter barking.” Awards are given to the most valuable pups and, new this year, an Underdog award for the more introverted pups.

This year’s broadcast built on the work of dozens of volunteers as well as 600 pee pads, 200 poop bags, 10 bags of treats, 30 water bowls and 18 cameras. The Cats Halftime Show will also return.

Schechner started refereeing 13 years ago, when 59 dogs were invited. “I’ll never forget it because I thought there were a huge number of dogs in one place trying to do a job.”

That number has now more than doubled, with 131 puppies featured in this year’s broadcast. “The scope and size of the show from when I started 13 years ago to now is impressive.”

This time dog entries came from 73 shelters and rescue groups in 36 states and territories. Entry requirements include being healthy and strong enough to be on the field with players between 3–6 months old and without any training.

“We don’t want dogs that are show dogs, sitting there with a trainer. We want to see them in their full puppy glory. Part of it is to show what the puppies are like in their true state,” says Schechner.

“They’re playful, they’re curious, they’re going to get into trouble, they’re going to do crazy things. And every once in a while, they’ll score a touchdown and really impress you.”


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