Unnecessary ‘ruffness’: Team Ruff and Team Fluff collide at Puppy Bowl XIV

Taylor Ploeger, Editor-in-Chief

     Want to watch adorable, adoptable puppies run, wrestle and score touchdowns? Well, you’ll have to watch the highlights of this year’s Puppy Bowl XIV. Animal Planet’s annual puppy showcase aired on February 4, just hours before the human equivalent, Super Bowl LII.

      The Puppy Bowl first aired in 2005 and since then every puppy that’s played has found a forever home. This year 90 puppies were featured, including a handful of special needs puppies who often have a hard time getting adopted: a visually impaired Husky, a deaf Dalmatian, a sight-impaired and deaf Border Collie and a Pomeranian mix with a cleft palate, just to name a few. All have been adopted since the show’s filming.

      The show is usually shot in October, so by the time it airs in February most of the puppies have already found homes. However, with 58 shelters and rescue groups from all across the U.S. featured in the show, equally adorable pups are easy to find, sometimes from the same litters as those shown on the program.

      While Puppy is the name of the game, Animal Planet also showcases a variety of other adoptable animals such as the kittens who participate in the Kitten Halftime Show and this year’s pig, bunny and duckling cheerleaders. In the past, the cheerleaders have been different species including chickens, penguins and hedgehogs.

        Kitten group KitteNSYNC was on hand (paw) for the halftime show, performing “Meow Meow Meow” to the tune of NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye”.
The show also has animal regulars; Meep the cockatiel is the Puppy Bowl’s social media manager, “tweeting” updates during the game, and Surge the hamster keeps the scoreboard running as he scurries in his hamster wheel.

     This year, human “Rufferee” Dan Schachner kept the game fair for his seventh year in a row. Shirley the rescue sloth helped Schachner (sort of) keep the pups in order during the game.

     All of the puppies participating are divided up into two teams, Ruff and Fluff, and are released onto the field a few groups at a time. The smaller breeds often start the show before subbing their larger teammates in at the end.

    Under Schachner and Shirley’s watchful eyes, the game ended with a win for Team Fluff, their second consecutive win over Team Ruff.

     Bear, an American Staffordshire Terrier/Foxhound mix from Virginia Beach was voted the MVP (Most Valuable Pupper) by viewers of the program. A sleepy Shar-Pei from Florida named Mr. Wigglesworth took home the Underdog Award, beating out the three-legged Goldendoodle Sophie Jo, who now works as a therapy dog.

    The Puppy Bowl aims to convince the public to “adopt, don’t shop” when looking for an animal companion.

     Erin Wanner, Vice President of Production at Animal Planet, says, “We want a variety of puppies, because different puppies appeal to different people and this is all about connecting somebody at home that says, ‘Oh, my gosh, I need to go adopt a puppy just like that.’”

     The show is so successful that it has inspired spinoffs like Hallmark Channel’s Kitten Bowl, which airs before the Puppy Bowl, and the Dog Bowl, aired by Animal Planet for the first time this year on Saturday, February 3. The Dog Bowl is meant to raise awareness for adult and senior dogs who are often passed over for the cute puppies at shelters.

     This summer, the producers of the Puppy Bowl will start all over again and begin their cross-country search for new pups to compete for the coveted Lombarky Trophy at Puppy Bowl XV.



Since its inception in 2005, the Puppy Bowl has grown into a sports spectacle to rival the Super Bowl itself.