They line up on the 50-yard line, ready to take a bite out of the opposition. Nothing will stand between them and the other team’s end zone.

Except for the occasional urge to relieve themselves on the field.

This is Puppy Bowl IX.

Animal Planet will air its ninth annual Puppy Bowl right before the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers in this year’s Super Bowl.

The two-hour show pits players against one another in a dog-eat-dog game to see who can paw their way across a miniature football field to the other team’s goal line with chew toys in mouth.

Back for his second year as “The Ref,” actor Dan Schachner tries to keep the cuddly creatures under control.

“It’s an honour,” he said. “I’m the only human on the field, which is pretty exciting in and of itself.”

Schachner said he’s not on his own if the puppies get too wild.

“Behind the scenes there’s an entire crew ready to leap up at any moment,” he said. “Sometimes dogs get rambunctious, or they get tired and literally fall asleep on the field – in those cases, they’re not ready to play, so I have to call a foul on them.”

IN PICTURES: Puppy Bowl IX features fuzzy, ferocious competitors

Puppy penalties are an important job of the referee, and Schachner calls everything from delay of game to unnecessary ruff-ness to excessive cuteness. Yes, excessive cuteness.

“It’s usually not applied to one puppy, it’s for a group of puppies who are kissing, licking each other or rolling around on the floor – just being unbelievably, adorably cute,” he explained.

“If it illicits ‘awww’s,’ I’ve got to call it because it’s distracting players. Some cuteness is, of course, permissible.”

As adorable as it is, the Puppy Bowl provides more than a charming alternative to Sunday’s big game.

With 63 puppies from all over the U.S. participating in this year’s event, adoption is the name of the game.

Schachner said the Puppy Bowl partners with every year to highlight the ongoing search for adoptive puppy parents, and not just for the all-star athletes seen in the show.

“It’s hard for us to say, ‘Here are these 63 puppies, here you go American or Canada,’” Schachner said. Most of the puppies shown in the game are usually adopted within days of the game airing.

“But that’s okay, because the message isn’t ‘Please adopt this one puppy,’” he said. “It’s more like, ‘there’s great puppies just like this one.’”

Canadians can and have adopted animals from the show in the past, Schachner said. is an online service that connects potential pet owners with their own furry bundle of joy, and the BC SPCA website has information for those interested in adopting animals, or just helping out by fostering a cuddly creature.

In 2011, the BC SPCA rescued more than 30,000 animals that were injured, homeless, or neglected and abused, according to its website.

As an Animal Planet fan for years, Schachner said he’s finally arrived at his dream job.

“I’ve had people from all walks of life and opinions talk to me about how much they love the Puppy Bowl,” he said.

And burly football fans aren’t exempt from that list.

“Unlike human football, the entire mood is very relaxed. If people are getting too stressed out by the Super Bowl, the Puppy Bowl offers a nice alternative,” he said.

If things are looking bad for either team, just take a deep breath and flip over to Animal Planet.

“We’re there to soothe you and tell you it’s going to be just fine.”

Catch the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet (Discovery Channel), Sunday, Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. PST.