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The Magic of Dog Bowl – Dan Schachner Interview

Dog with glasses on a football field

When it comes to the love dogs give us, their age is nothing but a number! 

You probably know TV personality and adoption activist Dan Schachner from his iconic (and enviable) role as Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl Referee. After all, even die-hard football fans can’t resist changing the channel on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the cutest players EVER! But Dan’s dedication to helping dogs find “furever” homes doesn’t end when the cameras stop rolling…and doesn’t stop with puppies, either.

Since February 2018, Schachner has also been hosting Dog Bowl, a companion program to Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, which will celebrate its 16th year on the air in 2020. The Dog Bowl puts the “all-star spotlight” on adult, senior and disabled dogs looking to conquer the field and find loving homes to call their own. 

We had the pleasure of speaking with Dan to learn more about what makes Dog Bowl unique from its predecessor, and some of the surprising advantages that can come with bringing an adult or senior dog into your own home.

“Puppies have been a mainstay of the [Animal Planet] network for many years, and the center of our dog adoption initiative,” Schachner said. “For Dog Bowl, the thinking was that adult dogs have a much harder time getting adopted then puppies do…they are the ones really suffering in shelters and languishing the longest…We know this, but the rest of America may not know it.” 

According to Dan, the most significant way Dog Bowl differs from Puppy Bowl is that it explores the backstory of each dog featured – even if that background was a little tough or traumatic (so prepare to have those heart-strings tugged this February).

“We tend to show less action on the field, and more background on the dogs because when they are older they have more of a history to tell,” Schachner explained. This type of format means viewers have more opportunity to get to know the personality of each dog better – and get emotionally invested. 

But don’t get too attached – it’s common for dogs featured on both Puppy Bowl and Dog Bowl to be spoken for and adopted before the show even finishes airing…which is the best thing for dogs that have spent significant time in shelters already.

“Every single dog that appears in Dog Bowl has gotten adopted…We have a 100 percent adoption rate each and every time.” 

The presence of disabled or special needs dogs in each Dog Bowl also sends an inspirational (and enlightening) message, and believe it or not – these dogs come to the field ready for action! 

“We had a three legged dog in last year’s Dog Bowl, and some people wondered if this dog would do well, because, again, we’re playing doggy football…in a very physical situation. But the dog did BEYOND great – he played as well any other dog we’ve seen in Puppy Bowl!” 

The decision to include dogs with physical disabilities – such as those who are vision or hearing impaired, missing limbs or have mobility issues – is not exploitative, but rather to showcase that these dogs keep up with the best of ‘em – and still can be an incredible addition to a new home.

“We just want to show that these dogs are also viable options for a lot of people if you’ve got a little extra time, a little more patience, more room or maybe another dog at home that can show them the ropes…a special needs dog could be perfect for you,” said Schachner. Bringing attention to the adoptability of ALL dogs – including adult, senior and special needs – is really the core message of what the Dog Bowl is all about. 

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For those considering bringing another doggy friend into their home, Dan shared with us some surprising advantages to choosing an adult or senior dog over a puppy, a topic on which he’s personally become an expert: 

“We’ve been fostering non-stop for 7 years…and having gone through the puppy crate training and house training process more times than we can count…an [adult] dog that’s used to being in a home can be a breath of fresh air.”

It’s no secret that puppies – while adorable- require a significant amount of time and energy, and are often…spirited, to say the least. An adult or senior dog can be an incredible source of love, companionship and comfort and generally won’t require the type of time commitment and activity level a new puppy otherwise would. 

That’s not to say that every adult dog you bring into your home will be a guaranteed perfect fit…like any relationship, sometimes things just aren’t meant to be. But according to Dan, there’s an easy way to make this determination: foster to adopt.

“It doesn’t cost anything to foster, it doesn’t require one to commit to anything…it’s essentially the same as giving your dog a test drive and we don’t say that lightly, we say that sincerely.” 

Schachner stresses the importance of such a “test drive” to ensure that any dog you’re considering bringing into your home is a good fit with your household, whether that includes children or other pets. 

“[Fostering] gives YOU, the care giver, a real sense to what this dog is going to be like in a home environment…unless that dog is inside your home and spending time with your routine…you’re not going to know it until they’ve stepped foot in the house, so fostering to adopt is great.”

An added benefit? Fostering to adopt not only gives you the invaluable experience of seeing what life with a new dog would be like, risk free – it also frees up space in the shelter for another animal, essentially allowing you to save two lives at once. 

If you’re concerned about having less time with your new, older family member and reluctant to experience the heartbreak that comes with losing a pet, we advise you to remember that the love dogs give us is priceless, and any time we are able to share with them is a gift.

Not only that, but dogs also literally help heal us – physically, mentally and emotionally. We’ve always considered dogs to be natural healers, but studies have shown that there are measurable physical benefits to owning a dog – lower blood pressure and deceased stress, to name just two. 

There are plenty of ways to help adult and senior dogs remain vital for as long as possible. Regular moderate exercise, fresh air, and, of course, lots of love and affection all help dogs thrive. Nutrition also plays a huge role in longevity and overall health for dogs, which is why a high quality diet (including healthy treats!) is so important in making sure they get the essential vitamins and minerals they need.

We also recommend targeted nutritional supplements like liquid Coenzyme Q1O (CoQ10 for short) for adult and senior dogs. CoQ10 expert and Ageless Paws founder, Dr. Sinatra, gave CoQ10 to his own dogs to promote longevity after decades of successful clinical experience using CoQ10 with his (human) heart patients. Both humans and pets need CoQ10 to make cellular energy, yet our bodies make less and less of it as we age, starting at about middle age. 

We’re grateful to Dan for chatting with us and sharing some of his experiences with the Puppy and Dog Bowl canine all-stars. Be sure to tune into this year’s Dog Bowl on Animal Planet – Saturday February 1, 2020 at 8pm ET, and keep an eye on Dan’s Instagram @danschachner for the latest Puppy Bowl and Dog Bowl news and a special Ageless Paws shout-out! 

© 2020 Stephen Sinatra, MD. All rights reserved.

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