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Puppy Bowl XVI: Who's the Best Pup? Our Data Science Model Calls The Ball

Unless you’ve been stuck in the doghouse, you’re counting down the hours to Sunday in anticipation of the biggest game of the year, Puppy Bowl XVI! This year’s starting lineup features 42 very good girls and boys, all on the hunt for victory and their fur-ever homes.

After losing to Team Ruff by a wet nose in last year’s 59-51 finish, Team Fluff is on a mission to right the ship and bring home the Lombarky Trophy. Our rrrigorous scientific process unearthed a model that could help us predict not only the winning team, but the pups with the most paw-tential to lead the pack in 2020!

As in the NFL, players get 7 points for each touchdown and 3 points for each field goal. If you’re new to the game, check out this great Vox article for a breakdown of all the Puppy Bowl rules.

To train our model, we used lots of treats, positive reinforcement, and data from past pup-ticipants including stats from previous Puppy Bowls and breed characteristics such as age, energy level, drool potential, and full-grown weight and height. These features helped us roll over a prediction on how many points each pup will score in Puppy Bowl XVI and which team will take home the bone.


Data Collection & Modeling Approach

Unfortunately for mankind, Puppy Bowl data is not readily available for download, so we had to dig up our own. With the help of the four(-legged) resources below, we uncovered exactly the data we needed.

Animal Planet

Animal Planet’s photo gallery was the foundation of our efforts, providing detailed information on each of the pup-ticipants of the past four Puppy Bowls, including their name, team, breed, age, shelter origin, and a fun fact.

Various Post-Game Recaps

After scouring the internet for detailed recaps of Puppy Bowls from 2016 forward, we sniffed out which pups scored touchdowns and field goals and which received penalties for unnecessary ruffness—or leaving a stinky surprise on the field.

Dogtime Breed Characteristics

Dogtime is a fantastic resource for quantifying breed characteristics such as adaptability, friendliness, health, grooming, trainability and exercise needs. For mixed breed pups, we averaged these characteristics to create a representative profile.

American Kennel Club & Wikipedia

The American Kennel Club and Wikipedia were great resources for obtaining data on each breed's height and weight at maturity. Although only puppies participate in the event, we used these values as proxies for their puppy size.

We then fed these features to our Pup Predictor (or P.P.), a multilinear regression model, to make point projections for each puppy. Our predicted top dogs are showcased below.

Gameday Predictions

Contrary to popular predictions, our P.P. projects Team Ruff to beat Team Fluff for their fourth victory in six years, with a final score of 67-49. For more info on the starting lineup, including adoption resources, click these links here and here.

Puppy Podium


Breed: Labrador Retriever & Chow Chow mix

Age: 12 weeks

Fun Fact: Still trying to master the bottle cap challenge

Team: Ruff

Gina may still be trying to figure out how to kick a cap off a bottle, but we think she’ll have this football thing down! Frustrated by the paw-litics in D.C., she’s going to put her best paw forward to get adopted out of Last Chance Animal Rescue in Maryland. Our model predicts she will be the game’s top scorer and MVP.


Breed: Bichon Frise & Papillon mix

Age: 16 weeks

Fun Fact: Favorite band is Salt-N-Pup-a

Team: Ruff

Our model says Poppy will “Push It” to the limit for Team Ruff. She will “Shoop” her way to being the game’s second highest projected scorer. Watch out for this paw-esome pup!

Granny Smith

Breed: Catahoula & American Staffordshire Terrier mix

Age: 12 weeks

Fun Fact: Spent 2019 strengthening her core

Team: Fluff

Our model predicts that the planks Granny Smith did in 2019 will definitely give her a leg up on the rest of the pack. The P.P. puts her on the podium as the game’s third highest scorer and Team Fluff’s highest scorer.

Hall of Underdogs


Breed: Bulldog

Age: 17 weeks

Fun Fact: Is 100% that pooch

Team: Ruff

Betty the tough-looking Bulldog from Florida. Most likely to trip on her rolls…


Breed: Pomeranian & Siberian Husky mix

Age: 13 weeks

Fun Fact: Never misses a blow out

Team: Fluff

Theodore the Pom-sky from Iowa. Most likely to stay in the tunnel. Or to play hide-and-poop! Along with the rest of Team Fluff, P.P. says he definitely won't miss a blow out this year!

Who will come out on top, and who will get caught chasing their tail? Tune in Sunday to find out!

Where to Watch

Date: Sunday. February 2nd

Time: 2pm CST

Channel: Animal Planet