February is good for dog-watching with Puppy Bowl and Westminster Dog Show

Technically, the “dog days” refer to a period in late summer, usually July and August. But in terms of TV viewing, a case could be made for referring to a few days in February as such. Once again this February, two annual favorites for dog lovers will be hitting the airwaves: Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, and USA Network’s coverage of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

PUPPY BOWL VIII — Animal Planet, Feb. 5, 3-5pm ET/PT (then repeats every two hours until 3am Feb. 6)

I hate to sound like an old sports fan who grumbles about how it “used to be all about the game” and gripes about all the ads and overcrowded announcer’s booths, but watching a preview of Puppy Bowl VIII, I have to admit it’s getting a bit full. I remember watching the first event back in 2005, and how it just kind of crept up on you out of nowhere with its ambient cuteness. At this point though, like in a real sporting arena, the field is crowded with sponsor ads not only on the walls, but on the mini-blimp that flies over the action (and which is “piloted” by hamsters).

And, along with those hamsters, the action is also becoming overpopulated by non-puppy critters. There is the now-familiar kitty halftime show once again, and new this year is a pep squad of piglets squealing on the sidelines. Also new to the scene is Meep the Bird, who will “tweet” all the P-Bowl action on Twitter (@MeepTheBird). This year also marks the debut of a new human into the mix — Dan Schachner, who makes his first appearance as the referee (which is an enviable job when dealing with the cute pups frolicking; a not-so-enviable job when it comes to cleaning up the “fouls” left on the field).

That all being said, the whole thing remains pretty darn cute, and again, all of the animals come from rescues and shelters across the country. A few dozen puppies will be involved in the onfield fracas at some point, but here is your starting lineup:

Sweetie Pie — Catahoula mix

Peter — Dachshund

Baskin — Jack Russell/pug mix

Hunter — boxer

Marbles — terrier

Tattoo — miniature Aussie

Hollie — border collie mix

Anthony — pit bull mix

Augusta — lab/plott mix

Fumble — Chihuahua/terrier mix

Brandy — pit bull/collie mix

136TH WESTMINSTER KENNEL CLUB DOG SHOW — USA Network, Live Feb. 13, 8-9pm ET/PT (switches to CNBC 9-11pm); USA Network Live Feb. 14, 8-11pm ET/PT

Six new breeds officially recognized by the American Kennel Club will be on hand at this year’s installment of the long-running Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Making their debut at Westminster will be two new additions to the Herding Group (the Entlebucher Mountain Dog and the Finnish Lapphund); one addition to the Terrier Group (the Cesky Terrier); two additions to the Non-Sporting Group (the Norwegian Lundehund and the Xoloitzcuintli); and one addition to the Hound Group (the American English Coonhound).

The Feb. 13 night of competition will include Hounds, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups, with the Feb. 14 night of competition consisting of Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups, followed by the 2012 crowning of Best in Show.

A total of 2,077 dogs were entered into this year’s competition. For the second year in a row, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were the highest entry breed, with 40 entrants, followed by French Bulldogs (39), Labrador retrievers (38), golden retrievers (32) and Vizslas (29).

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Puppy Bowl Photo Credit: Kim Holcombe/Animal Planet

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