On the set of Puppy Bowl XIV

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This Sunday marks one of the biggest sporting events of the year — the Puppy Bowl, of course. We went behind the scenes of Puppy Bowl XIV, and it was even cuter than you might’ve imagined. Ninety-two puppies from 51 shelters across the country competed for the title of MVP (Most Valuable Puppy), and we had the chance to see them in action. Teams Ruff and Fluff spread out across the bone-shaped field to carry toys across the end zone, taking nap and water breaks as needed. The water-bowl and lick-cams documented every wet nose and slurp, so fans can get up close and personal with their favorite players.

Although we couldn’t get enough of the puppies, the game isn’t just about them. Dan Schachner returns to the field for his seventh year as the Puppy Bowl referee. We left him with a few questions to answer before the big game, which airs simultaneously on both coasts Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT on Animal Planet.

<p>Does Schachner think Team Ruff or Team Fluff will win this year? “All I can tell you is this: After being humiliated for multiple years in a row, Team Fluff came back with a vengeance last year, and pummeled Team Ruff by a 60-point margin. This year, it’s anybody’s guess,” he says.<br>(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment) </p>
The teams

Does Schachner think Team Ruff or Team Fluff will win this year? “All I can tell you is this: After being humiliated for multiple years in a row, Team Fluff came back with a vengeance last year, and pummeled Team Ruff by a 60-point margin. This year, it’s anybody’s guess,” he says.
(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment)

<p>“They say cuteness wins championships, but that’s only half the battle. Once cuteness gets you selected to play, it’s QUICKNESS that wins the game. Too often players are distracted by the lights, the sounds, the toys, the water bowl, the beautiful green turf just asking to be peed on. All it takes is a quick move from an enterprising pup to snatch the ball and run it in for a TD,” he says.<br>(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment) </p>
The game plan

“They say cuteness wins championships, but that’s only half the battle. Once cuteness gets you selected to play, it’s QUICKNESS that wins the game. Too often players are distracted by the lights, the sounds, the toys, the water bowl, the beautiful green turf just asking to be peed on. All it takes is a quick move from an enterprising pup to snatch the ball and run it in for a TD,” he says.
(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment)

<p>How does Schachner determine an excessive cuteness penalty? “It can’t just be an adorable face, we have tons of those,” he says. “It has to be cuteness overload, for example if three puppies all pile up together and snuggle their noses together right on the 50-yard line. … I mean, you see that and you’re like ‘Come <em>on</em>.’ Cuteness overload.”<br>(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment) </p>
The players

How does Schachner determine an excessive cuteness penalty? “It can’t just be an adorable face, we have tons of those,” he says. “It has to be cuteness overload, for example if three puppies all pile up together and snuggle their noses together right on the 50-yard line. … I mean, you see that and you’re like ‘Come on.’ Cuteness overload.”
(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment)

<p>What should Puppy Bowl fans expect to see this year? “Only the biggest, craziest, cutest athletic competition ever! We have 90-plus adorable pups, amazing kitten performers, barnyard animal cheerleaders, a sloth as my assistant, and an insanely cool renovated stadium,” he says. <br>(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment) </p>
The angles

What should Puppy Bowl fans expect to see this year? “Only the biggest, craziest, cutest athletic competition ever! We have 90-plus adorable pups, amazing kitten performers, barnyard animal cheerleaders, a sloth as my assistant, and an insanely cool renovated stadium,” he says.
(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment)

<p>Does Schachner have any favorite players this year? “Remember when Pete Rose got banned from baseball for betting on games? I am <em>not</em> picking favorites, no way. I plan to <em>keep</em> this job forever,” he says.<br>(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment) </p>
The locker room

Does Schachner have any favorite players this year? “Remember when Pete Rose got banned from baseball for betting on games? I am not picking favorites, no way. I plan to keep this job forever,” he says.
(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment)

<p>But has he ever adopted any Puppy Bowl players? “That would be like an NFL ref marrying Tom Brady, which, come to think of it, would be awesome,” he jokes. “In all seriousness, I am a foster dad to shelter pups in my area. I recently fostered one puppy — Biscuit the chiweenie — who was selected to <em>be</em> in Puppy Bowl. Let’s see how she performs on the field!”<br>(Photo: Animal Planet) </p>
The one to watch

But has he ever adopted any Puppy Bowl players? “That would be like an NFL ref marrying Tom Brady, which, come to think of it, would be awesome,” he jokes. “In all seriousness, I am a foster dad to shelter pups in my area. I recently fostered one puppy — Biscuit the chiweenie — who was selected to be in Puppy Bowl. Let’s see how she performs on the field!”
(Photo: Animal Planet)

<p>Has Schachner ever been recognized on the street as the Puppy Bowl referee? “Only when I’m in my stripes. Or blowing a whistle. Which is every day,” he says.<br>(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment) </p>
The Touchdown

Has Schachner ever been recognized on the street as the Puppy Bowl referee? “Only when I’m in my stripes. Or blowing a whistle. Which is every day,” he says.
(Photo: Leah Neuberth/Yahoo Entertainment)

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