‘Puppy Bowl’ Ruff-eree Dan Schachner Teases ‘Bigger and Better’ Ruff vs. Fluff Face-Off

Dan Schachner has had the cutest gig in showbusiness for 12 years. As the ruff-eree of Animal Planet’s annual “Puppy Bowl,” he’s tasked with running the show as hundreds of doggy players compete for the coveted Lombarky Trophy. 

When Team Ruff and Team Fluff take the field, he’s there for all the touchdowns, field goals and, yes, potty accidents. This year’s event boasts a 100% adoption rate — all 122 pup players have already found their forever homes. Fan-favorite elements will return to the show, including the puppy cheer squad, the water-bowl cam, the slo-mo camera and the end zone pylon cams to catch all the puppy vs. puppy action.

“Puppy Bowl XIX” premieres Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. ET/ 11 a.m. PT and is simulcast across Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, TBS, discovery+ and HBO Max. Schachner sat down with Variety to reflect on his years of hosting and to tease this year’s event. 

You’ve been with “Puppy Bowl” for 12 years now. What drew you to the gig in the first place? 

I’ve been a fan since it began 19 years ago. Animal Planet knew me because I had hosted shows for them. They were like, “We need an audition video.” Because there’s no blueprint for this job, I did this like confessional type video of me officiating for random dogs, wherever I would see them. It’s bananas, because I’m sitting there going, “I have worked my whole life for this job.” They still thought I didn’t look old enough — which is funny, because now I’m ancient. But back then, I guess they thought I didn’t look mature enough to be the authority of the Puppy Bowl. I had to go in for a live interview, and I remember my agent was like, “Look as mature as you can.” I tried to dress up. And I guess they gave me the job! I had a tremendous amount of support that first year, and then I realized how large the show was, and it was growing each year. And here I am, 12 years later. 

What has made you want to come back each year? 

When I first started, I think we only had like 60 dogs in the puppy bowl. Now this year, we have 122, which is an insane amount of dogs — not all on the field at the same time! What keeps me coming back is seeing how can we grow our roster. This year, we have the most amount of dogs ever, plus we’re repping 67 different shelters from across the country. 

What can viewers expect from this year’s “Puppy Bowl”? 

We only started keeping score eight years ago — up until then, it was every pup for himself or herself. So when we started keeping score, people actually got behind teams: Ruff vs. Fluff. Ruff has won the Lombarky Trophy four times. Fluff has won four times. They’re tied up, so this year it’s really on the line for bragging rights between the two teams. We have international dogs as well: one from the island of Dominica in the Caribbean named Cocoa Bean. And we have a red carpet area now. It used to be that when the pups would pull up to the game on the team bus in the barking lot, the handlers would have to carry them in their little crates over to the play area. Now there’s a red carpet area where we have the pup-arazzi on one side, and then the red carpet area leads to a tunnel that goes directly into Puppy Bowl stadium. 

You seem to love the dog puns. Have you exhausted them all? 

I don’t think so. The Eskimos, for example, have like 50 different words for snow. Well, I have 50 different ways to say “peeing on the field.” Tinkle on the 20. Turd in long. Timeout for a tinkle. Piss interference. The puppies continue to surprise you, so the puns can continue to grow every year as well. 

Why should fans tune in? 

Tune in to “Puppy Bowl” because we’re bigger and better than ever. We’re a three-hour event. You can watch us and then watch the human football game, but I guarantee you ours is cuter. Ours has more cuddles. Ours has more kisses. Ours will make you fall in love. And no matter who you’re rooting for in that other game, everybody’s a winner at the Puppy Bowl, because they all get adopted. 

What’s the most rewarding thing about this experience each year? 

Obviously, the most rewarding thing is that they all get adopted. But the better part is that the shelters who are working with us all report an uptick in adoptions during that time. We’re making an impact. 

What do you foresee as the future of the Puppy Bowl? 

I think puppies should not just be limited to football. I think we should have a puppy World Cup. I think we should have a puppy NHL — I’d love to see them on the ice, can you imagine them sliding? They themselves could be the puck! The only one I think is maybe a challenge is baseball, because of the whole opposable thumbs thing. (laughs) There’s very little that dogs can’t do in the world of sport. So I would like to expand puppy sports to all year long. And that is not a joke.

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