4 min read

How Do Dogs Get Selected for the Puppy Bowl?


Written by Leslie Ingraham

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 01/22/2022, edited: 01/22/2024

It’s almost here: Super Bowl Sunday! Football fans can hardly wait for the big game! But if you’re a football AND puppy fan, (and who isn't?), you can satisfy your need for gridiron action twice in one day! Welcome to the Puppy Bowl!

Every year, the Puppy Bowl aims to raise awareness about dog adoption, and in its 18 years, more than 300 competitors have found their fur-ever homes through their exposure in the event. Coming from shelters and rescues across the country, these baby pooches meet in a puppy-sized 10- by 19-foot stadium to compete for fame, honor, and a chew toy! Multiple cameras catch their every adorable move as they cavort, tug, and roll around the field! The team that carries or drags the most chew toys across either goal line wins! The captain of the winning team takes home the chewable "Lombarky" Trophy, and the player with the most pizzazz during the game is declared the MVP!

As in NFL football, calling penalties keeps everyone honest. Any pups engaging in unnecessary ruff-ness, pass inter-fur-ence, or premature watering and fertilizing of the field are taken out of the game and replaced by second-string fur balls. A human ruff-eree on the sidelines keeps it all moving smoothly and safely. There's even a team doctor in case of on-field boo-boos, and rest periods and water bowls keep everyone ready to go.

What makes these puppies so special? How do they get chosen to play in this game of all games? Let's find out how a puppy goes from napping to playing in the Puppy Bowl!

brown puppy looking off into distance

Can any pup be in the Puppy Bowl?

Many first-time viewers of the Puppy Bowl often wonder if their pawdorable puppy can bring their A-game to the arena. Unfurtunately, not just any pup can qualify for the Puppy Bowl. Since the Puppy Bowl is an initiative to help find families and homes for homeless pups, they only accept puppies that haven't yet been adopted.

While your pup may be the cutest, most energetic and playful doggo around, they are not eligible to be a Puppy Bowl player. Thankfully, they have already won the jackpot by finding a place in your heart and home. Host your own Puppy Bowl to bring all the excitement of the game to your pup and their canine cohorts!

What makes a puppy right for the Bowl?

The Puppy Bowl is a collaboration between Animal Planet and Petfinder, the online pet adoption service. Months before the event, Petfinder reaches out to their rescue and shelter partners to find puppies to take part. Each shelter submits names, photos, and descriptions of the pups', including their history, age and pawsonality. All breeds and mixes can play, and you’ll find many cute-as-a-button contenders.

Animal Planet reviews the information provided, looking for pups that are:

  • Adoptable
  • Are 12 to 21 weeks old
  • Small enough to fit within the puppy-sized football stadium¬†
  • Active, social dogs who love to compete
  • Physically able to participate in all the fun action

After arriving at a pool of players that meet their criteria, Animal Planet chooses the starting line-up for each team. All of the qualifying fur babies are posted on Animal Planet/Discovery and Petfinder’s web pages, sporting orange bandanas for the Ruff team, and blue for the Fluffs. Visitors to the sites can apply to adopt from the list of candidates, and most of the pups land fur-ever homes before Puppy Bowl filming even begins in November.

Prior to the event, puppies receive training in good manners so they will play nicely with others. Their doggy caregivers and pet parents put them through their paces in preparation for the big day to be sure they're in tip-top shape. Needless to say, this competition has created a lot of top pup athletes that have broken records and kept the antics rolling!

Filming for the Puppy Bowl takes two to three days, and after hours of editing, the show is ready to go on in February on Animal Planet and Discovery+! 

different colored puppies in a group - How Do Dogs Get Selected for the Puppy Bowl

Where do Puppy Bowlers come from?

Any rescue or shelter participating in the Petfinders online adoption service can enter one or more puppies in the Puppy Bowl. Some shelters specialize in certain breeds, like Pit Bulls and Basset Hounds, while others rescue any small dogs, large dogs, sleek dogs, and fluffy dogs. 

Here are some of the rescues and shelters that have dogs participating in this year's Puppy Bowl XX:

These are just a few of the 36 shelters and rescues that have sent fur babies to Puppy Bowl XX this year! But that's not all! Rescues also contribute the kittens in the Kitty Half-time show, the hamsters who keep score, the cheerleading squad which has consisted of hedgehogs, dwarf goats, bunnies, piglets and ducks in past games, and any other animal mascots or commentators seen in the game, and every one of them are adoptable too! 

And while many pups in Puppy Bowl XX have found their fur-ever homes, they'll be adoptable puppies and kittens featured during the game that are still waiting for that someone special to make their dreams come true! Check participating shelters for your new best pal and remember that many of the pups in the game also have siblings waiting for their new families too!

Don’t fur-get to tune in and cheer on your picks for the 2024 Puppy Bowl on February 11th at 2 PM ET on Animal Planet or Discovery+!  And vote now for your Popularity Playoffs fur-vorites!

Follow along on social media for Puppy Bowl updates from Wag! and Animal Planet!

Comments (9)



I've always wanted a cat

Loni Illingsworth


I would like information to get our puppies to qualify for the puppy bowl to enhance their options of getting adopted. I am involved with Seventh Heaven Rescue in Syracuse, NY and Wanderers Rest Humane Association in Canastota, NY.
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