How The 2018 Dog Bowl Is Actually Saving Senior Pets

Animal Planet

Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl has become an essential part of the Super Bowl season, giving even those who aren't a fan of football something to look forward to. While the Puppy Bowl is the weekend's main event for lovers of pets everywhere, Animal Planet is showing some love to older generations of dogs as well. The 2018 Dog Bowl airs Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET, and is basically the more mature version of the Animal Planet fave. Those interested in bringing one of these dogs home will be happy to hear that the competitors in The 2018 Dog Bowl are up for adoption.

As part of the lead-up to the Puppy Bowl, Animal Planet will be airing a new spin-off entitled The Dog Bowl, featuring former puppies who have aged out of that other competition. While there's no such thing as too much dog-based football programming, The Dog Bowl isn't just an excuse to air more canine touchdowns. It's also drawing attention to an important concern in dog shelters. While the Puppy Bowl has been promoting the adoption of puppies since 2005, the Dog Bowl is putting the focus on adopting dogs who are older than puppies and will still make a great addition to a family looking for a pet. The dogs from the Dog Bowl, like the puppies of the Puppy Bowl, all come from various shelters and rescues throughout the country.

Dog Bowl host Jill Rappaport explained to Today that for dogs of a certain age, the chances of being adopted are distressingly low. She said:

"Senior pets are often the last ones left languishing at shelters. These dogs have been dumped in the twilight of their lives through no fault of their own. They’re not damaged goods. They’re the most special, beautiful animals in the world, but people keep walking past their cages."

While the reality of shelter pets isn't always pretty, the Dog Bowl is shining a light on the need for older dogs to find forever homes in the most fun way imaginable — by letting them play football. The Dog Bowl is an hour-long special on Animal Planet the night before the Puppy Bowl, giving these dogs a primetime showcase to show that young pups don't have all the fun. Today reported that The Dog Bowl has already helped some of the older dogs featured on the big game find full-time homes, proving that giving these dogs a platform is already having a positive effect on their lives.

Because the dogs featured on The Dog Bowl are older than their puppy counterparts, the entire program has a slightly different tone to it. Dan Schachner, long-time referee of the Puppy Bowl, told USA Today, "We don't get fights like the puppies when they yip at each other. [The dogs] seem a little more aloof." It seems that while the puppies are playing a very physical game, the dogs of The Dog Bowl are playing a more intellectual game that involves players "[staking] their claim," as Schachner put it.

The dogs may not be as active as puppies, but Schachner believes that their more reserved nature will make them appealing to possible adopters. "Part of the message that we're trying to get out there is sometimes older dogs are more sedate and low-key for families that might be looking for that," he said to USA Today.

The message of The Dog Bowl is that dogs are amazing companions, no matter their age. And that every sheltered dog deserves a chance at finding a forever home. The Dog Bowl could get by on merely being a showcase for cute animals, but by helping educate audiences on the options for dog adoption, it also provides a vital service and has already changed some canines — and human — lives for the better.