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‘Puppy Bowl XII’ Referee Reveals 3 Players to Watch, Recalls Animal Planet Audition

Dan Schachner pooh-pooh’s theory that puppies are too young to hump: ”I’ve learned the hard way“

“Puppy Bowl” referee Dan Schachner has been bitten, peed on, and even humped on-camera every year since 2005, but the actor, host, and voiceover artist still swears, “This is the greatest job I’ve ever had — it truly is.”

While the lovable balls of fur look innocent, “You’d think they’re too young to hump, but I’ve learned the hard way that they’re not too young to do anything,” he told TheWrap during a recent interview.

Schachner, who announces for “The Meredith Vieira Show” and handled the promos for Tyra Banks‘ now-canceled “FABLife,” has also guest starred on “Blue Bloods” and “The Mysteries of Laura” — but it’s the “Puppy Bowl” that takes up most of his time and brings in fanfare.

However, Schachner admitted, “If I’m not wearing [referee] stripes, they won’t recognize me.”

Like so many of his jobs, “Puppy Bowl” started out as a simple audition. Fortunately, Schachner had an “in” as an existing Animal Planet personality, where he hosted dog-and-cat-product show, “Your Pet Wants This.”

Upon Animal Planet’s request, Schachner sent in a three-minute confessional-style tape explaining why he’d be a good host for this new, weird Super Bowl exploitation. By his own description, what he filmed was “ridiculous.”

Schachner went to dog parks around Manhattan, where he “begged the owners to let me blow a whistle at their dog and pretend to officiate games.” In his sister’s backyard, Schachner gave a dachshund he was fostering a “puppy pep talk,” like Al Pacino in “Any Given Sunday.” It probably had fewer F-bombs.

Finally, the canine zebra edited in a montage of all the animals he ever owned — including the fish — and set it to stirring music. The play worked like a charm. Fast-forward 12 years, Schachner’s still got a gig getting paid to play with puppies, and the hit format now includes a Kitty Halftime Show, a bird “Tweeting,” and even virtual reality.

TheWrap asked Schachner to feed us a few sleeper pooches for MVP — Most Valuable Puppy.

First up was Wrinkles, a Shar Pei, who has “defensive talent to the nth degree,” per the supposedly impartial official. Others included Chi-Chi the Chihuahua — a speedster — and Boris the Havanese, who simply has a nose for the end zone.

Finally, with two animals being repped as opposing Super Bowl 50 team mascots [for the Broncos and Panthers], we asked the Animal Planet human for a real big game prediction. The New York Jets season ticket holder with a soft spot for Peyton Manning is smelling an upset: Broncos 24, Panthers 13.

“Puppy Bowl XII” kicks off Sunday at 3/2c. The two-hour program repeats all day, but with different MVPs crowned for each of its first three airings.

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