Images courtesy of Victoria Schade
By Victoria Schade
The adorable action you get to see on the field at the Puppy Bowl is really only half of the story—it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make the show come to life!
I’ve worked on Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl as the lead animal handler for the past 12 years or so, and I’ve seen (and snuggled) it all.
The following are some of the behind-the-scenes secrets from the Puppy Bowl that give you a closer look at what it takes to make this amazing show happen.
The Puppy Bowl Field Is Smaller Than You Think
The Puppy Bowl set might look stadium-sized on your screen, but that’s the magic of TV.
The field is actually only about 20 feet long and surrounded by walls on three sides. During the show’s early years, the front section was walled off with plexiglass; however, that made it difficult for the camera operators to capture all the adorable action. (Plus, keeping paw and nose prints wiped off the plexiglass was impossible!)
The front wall was removed a few years ago and now the cameras have a completely unobstructed view of the game.
Being a Puppy Star Is Exhausting
When the pups are out on the field, they play hard, so when it’s time for a time-out, many opt to nap in the chill-zone.
The puppy “holding room” is exactly as adorable as you’d imagine. It’s a large space filled with exercise dog pens, where the players, their handlers and the volunteers can hang out in between quarters.
Since nearly all of the puppies are up for adoption, it’s like strolling through the world’s cutest rescue facility!
There Are Between 15-20 Cameras Recording During the Show
Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl has a crew of human-run cameras at the edge of the field as well as a variety of cameras and microphones that are tucked away on the field during play.
This includes cameras hidden inside the field posts, beneath the water bowl and even inside some of the dog toys sitting on the field!
There Are More Than Just Puppies at the Puppy Bowl
You may have noticed a non-puppy participant in that previous photo. That’s because the Puppy Bowl always includes cameos from a variety of adorable animals.
This year was definitely no exception! The porcupines and capybara were amazing, but I was enamored with the baby kangaroos. I even had the opportunity to be a temporary bag-mom while the kangaroo handler was on set, and—as you can see—I was super excited!
Even though that tail looks like it’s part of a stuffed animal, there’s a real-deal ’roo hanging out in the bag!
Dan Schachner’s Referee Uniform Takes a Beating
Every time Puppy Bowl referee Dan Schachner steps on the field, the pups flock to him. If you watch the show, you’ll know that he usually ends up on the ground getting “pup” close and personal with them, which is totally adorable.
What viewers at home don’t realize is that the field gets dotted with … “deposits” … all day, and even though the cleanup crew works hard to keep it tidy, the evidence lingers. That means that by the end of the game, Dan’s uniform is ready for a thorough cleaning.
The Kitten Skybox Is a Cool Visual Trick
While the skybox looks like a full-sized hang-out space, it’s actually just a small, elevated set.
They have just shrunk everything down to be kitten-sized—from the couches to the coffee tables. It takes the kittens a few minutes to acclimate to the set, but once they do, they’re ready to play and explore.
I Act as an Off-Screen Cheerleader
When the puppy players run onto the field, it looks like they’re professionals just strutting their stuff. In reality, I’m kneeling on the far edge of the field doing everything I can to get the pups to run to me.
Coming out of the hallway and onto the field can be a little stressful for puppies (who wouldn’t be nervous about facing a bunch of cameras?), so I use tons of tricks to encourage the pups to take to the field.
I make kissy noises, whistle, crinkle treat bags and squeak dog toys to help the puppy athletes find their stride. When they reach me, they get a goody and a big kiss! (Note the mat underneath me—that’s to avoid kneeling in “deposits.”)
Participating in the Puppy Bowl Is the Best Job in the World!
Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl is filmed in New York every October, and it’s a week’s worth of good people, good dogs and good fun.
Everyone involved with the show is thrilled to be a part of the magic. It’s an incredible event that raises awareness for rescue and adoption.
I consider it the highlight of my year!
Want more of the Puppy Bowl? Check out A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Kittens of Puppy Bowl 2019