Puppy Bowl ref Dan Schachner on job, fostering and more

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 23: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Dan Schachner visits People Now to discuss the 2020 Puppy Bowl on January 23, 2020 in New York, United States. (Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 23: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Dan Schachner visits People Now to discuss the 2020 Puppy Bowl on January 23, 2020 in New York, United States. (Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 27: Actor/host Dan Schachner attends the Build Series to discuss “Puppy Bowl XVI” at Build Studio on January 27, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 27: Actor/host Dan Schachner attends the Build Series to discuss “Puppy Bowl XVI” at Build Studio on January 27, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images) /

Puppy Bowl referee Dan Schachner talks about his love for dogs, the importance of mental health and sports fandom.

Dog O’Day – Have you always been a pet person? Dan Schachner – Yeah, I grew up with dogs. My father was raised on a farm in South America in a little country called Uruguay, and he moved here right before I was born. And he grew up not just with dogs but with every other animal you could think of – and so we had Doxies and German Shepherd growing up, we still have Doxies in my family. I guess the last eight years or so, since I moved into this new place and had kids, we have two small boys, we basically started fostering permanently. In other words, we have an endless parade of foster dogs, basically, that come in and out of our house, some of them need rehabilitation, some of them don’t, but the point is, as I’m sure you’re aware, fostering is a crucial part of the rescue process. So we get these dogs to where they’re ready for adoption, it’s been great.

We’re on Foster No. 35, moving on to Foster No. 36 next week, we’ll be getting a little puppy.

With the pandemic in general, that’s caused a lot of stress for most people. How do you think our pets have calmed people, helped them get through the days? Nearly every shelter that I’m partnered with has reported a tremendous uptick in adoption inquiries over the past year, and that’s no surprise, given that everyone’s home and we’re all thinking “Well, it’s a perfect time to train a new dog, you know?” But you’re right, there is that mental health aspect to it that we need to take into consideration for both pets and humans. So for humans, it’s been tremendous. We all know that dogs are huge stress relievers, it’s been proven by science that the mere act of petting a dog can lower your blood pressure.

I think it’s done a tremendous service to humans to have animal companions, especially in tough times. For those who are in lockdown quarantine situations, a dog not only entertains us while we’re home, but also gives us an excuse to go outside and get some much needed exercise and socialization – safe, distanced socialization. Where on the other hand if you didn’t have an animal you might not be as motivated to get out and get your exercise, get your steps in. So I think that’s been part of the tremendous help for humans, and on the other side of it, for our dogs, having that much undivided attention – most of us are working from home, for the four fosters we’ve had over the past year, each of them has received way more attention that they ever would have otherwise, because my kids are at home, learning school at home. My wife is a teacher, she’s actually at school now, she’s in a hybrid situation right now, and of course I’m at home, most of the stuff I shoot here, except for things like at the hockey arena.

And so for them, it’s been great, too. They get full attention, they really become acclimated much quicker than they normally probably would, it’s less over-stimulating, learning a new process. Something to keep in mind as 2021 rolls on and we hopefully become vaccinated and things open up again, some of us start going back into the offices or back out of the house more frequently, we’re going to need to take our dog’s mental health into consideration, too. Especially for the newly-adopted dogs, they’ve only ever known us as being home 24/7. So when that life changes for us, it’s gonna change for them. That’s just something that I’d want people to think about and remember, as things sloooowlly return to normal, we have to take into account that our dog will be affected, too.

That’ll definitely be a rough adjustment for some, and something to keep in mind. You said you had Doxies growing up, do you have a favorite breed or breeds?

I like them all! But because I’m a city guy, the big dogs aren’t practical – given our confines here and actually, the limits of the building I live in, we’re limited to a certain weight. So I can’t – those obviously wouldn’t work. My father, he has a farm where he’d welcome any dog of any size. I tend to be partial to medium to smaller dogs.

However, for Puppy Bowl, they’re all relatively small, even the baby Great Danes are about 15 pounds. But as far as a particular breed, I grew up with Doxies, we’ve fallen in love with a Puggle mix lately – the mix has been around forever but we fostered one last year and fell in love. So yeah, honestly I do try to rotate my inclinations, as much as possible. It’s one of the reasons I foster, because it allows me, in this job, to learn about a ton of different breeds that are out there! It’s been great.

If you were a dog, which breed do you think you would be, and why?

I think…I might be…let’s see. I might be a mix. I would not be a purebred. [static] My father is from a farm in Uruguay, and his dad was Jewish from Germany, and my mom is a Spanish Catholic from Spain, and we’re all Americans living in New York now…I think I’d be a mutt. That’s a good one, hmm…I’m gonna say a Labradoodle? Labradoodles are a very good mix of two very good family breeds, and I’m a family-oriented person, so I’m gonna go with that. A Poodle has the intelligence – Labs too – and a Lab is known for its loyalty and a little bit of the size, so yeah, I’m gonna go with Labradoodle.

With Puppy Bowl being filmed in the style of the Super Bowl, have you always been a big sports guy, have you always had that element to your personality? Or did you kind of have to work on it in developing the character of the referee?

That’s a great question, I think the reason I got the job was because I had the sports background to begin with. Growing up I played a lot of sports, and now as a parent I coach youth sports, I’ve coached baseball here for almost ten years I guess, now. And now I’m coaching flag football, which is hilarious. It’s not that much different than puppy football, to be honest – kids playing football is really pretty similar in the level of chaos.

I had hosted a sports trivia show for a network here in New York called SNY, where I would go around and quiz people on their knowledge of great sports figures of the past. I think the network seeing that I had that element of a sports background, together with my animal background, I’m sure that probably helped me in terms of my resume.

Nice. Just as a fan, do you have any favorite teams?

I’m a Yankees fan here in New York City, we’re in the offseason here right now, and then with football both of my teams – the Jets and the Giants – are both obviously out, they weren’t ever in it this season. So because I’m married to a girl from Boston who is partial to Tom Brady, I’m going to go with the Bucs in the big game this year.

That’s about it from the human element, and then you have the Puppy Bowl element with Team Ruff and Team Fluff. They’ve each got history and they’ve each got beef with one another, Ruff had a dynasty for a couple of years and then Fluff came back with a vengeance. Over the last two years they’ve each won one game, so this year is anyone’s guess. Both teams are stronger and bigger and better than ever.