It’s easy to get caught up in the adorable action on the field at Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl XV, but did you know there’s a ton of cool stuff happening behind the scenes as well? As the key animal handler on the show for over 12 years, I’ve been lucky enough to see it all firsthand—from the puppy players to the incredible special guests.
Working on the Puppy Bowl is the highlight of my year, so I try to capture moments throughout the shoots to remember the details from each one. Here are some of my favorite behind-the-scenes observations and interesting facts from Puppy Bowl XV that highlight what goes into making this incredible program.
1. There’s play you don’t see on screen.
There are many cute puppies romping in the middle of the field, which makes for adorable entertainment for those watching at home (get tips on how to throw a Puppy Bowl viewing party here). But sometimes the action moves to the very edge of the bone-shaped stage. The players are naturally very curious about everything around them, and that includes the volunteers sitting on the floor and the camera operators capturing the fun. It usually only takes a few minutes until the pups realize that their hustle only counts if it’s captured out on the field.
2. Some teammates prefer to chill.
Most pups are ready to play like champs on game day, but there always are a few who prefer to be spectators. This adorable fellow opted to sit as close to the edge of the field as he could, content to watch his teammates fight on to victory.
3. The jib camera captures the good stuff.
Most of the cameras remain stationary at the edge of the field, but the jib moves all over the set. Throughout the day you’ll hear “watch your head!” as the camera swoops down to capture the sweet moves on the field. Our sloth, the assistant referee, was especially fascinated by it, which led to some incredible up-close-and-personal moments!
4. My sideline spot is crammed with goodies.
I spend game days standing on the left edge of the field, watching the puppy action to make sure everyone is having a good time. I keep an assortment of dog toys and dog treats close to my post, as well as clean-up supplies for the inevitable messes on the field.
Also nearby is my personal stash, which includes game-day necessities like my glasses, lip balm (kissing cute puppies = chapped lips) and a pile of human treats to keep my energy up.
5. You never know who you’re going to meet!
The Puppy Bowl is known for the puppy players and kitten cheerleaders, but the co-stars are pretty incredible as well. I’ve had the opportunity to hang with baby goats, hedgehogs, owls, penguins, sloths, chickens, rabbits and, this year, porcupines and—wait for it—BABY KANGAROOS!
Getting to observe these animals at close range is pretty eye-opening. For example, I never noticed that kangaroos have one weird, long toe on their back feet or that they make little throat-clearing chattering noises when they’re nervous. Learning about the different animal co-stars is one of my favorite parts of the shoot.
6. Gotta keep the stars happy.
On that note, I learned that one of our other special guests, the capybara, is a huge fan of fresh corn on the cob, which wasn’t in season when we taped the show in October. Fortunately, a crew member managed to track some down so he could nibble to his heart’s content and rock his moment in the spotlight.
7. Taking breaks is necessary.
It’s all fun and games out on the field, but naps do happen. The puppy holding area where the dogs and kittens hang out between play is a mix of exuberant frolic and hardcore sleeping. Some puppies and kittens prefer to rest on volunteer laps, while others just collapse on the ground after proving their hustle and heart during the big game.
8. There’s always something going on.
The Puppy Bowl shoot is busy all week, even when there’s a break in the official action on the field. There’s sideline reporting, interviews for various news outlets, team photos, commercial integrations and a bunch of other special programming happening in rooms all over the building. It’s hard to keep track of everything!
9. Sometimes we get to snuggle.
We do get to snuggle the players any chance we get! People always ask me if I get tempted to bring home my very own Puppy Bowl MVP, and the answer is, yes, every single year. The adoptable pups from shelters across the country are almost too cute to resist, and the same goes for the kitties! Even though it hasn’t happened yet, there’s always next year, and a new crop of too-cute-for-words draft picks.
Victoria Schade has been a dog trainer and writer for over seventeen years. Her dog duties have included working on Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl as the lead animal wrangler, appearing on two seasons of the Animal Planet show Faithful Friends, creating dog training content and appearing in videos for a variety of sources, and writing two dog training books, Bonding With Your Dog and Secrets of a Dog Trainer.
You can keep up with Victoria, Millie, the Smooth Brussels Griffon and Olive, the mixed breed dog, on her blog www.VictoriaSchade.com, on Twitter @VictoriaSchade or on Instagram, @LifeontheLeash.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Victoria Schade