Meet the Adorable Special Needs Pups Playing in Puppy Bowl XVI

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Forget the jerseys and helmets.These little athletes are donning bandanas and fur in the cutest sporting event of the year.

The Puppy Bowl is back for its 16th year and is unleashing more dogs than ever — 96 adorable rescue pups from 61 shelters will rep teams Fluff and Ruff on the field.

And filling out the lineup again are a puptastic group of dogs with special needs. Meet the five charming canines below!


Ferris the Labrador Retriever mix

black Labrador retriever mix with white spot on chest
Animal Planet

Recruited for team Fluff, this floppy-eared sweetheart has three legs and is from AHeinZ57 Pet Rescue in De Soto, Iowa.

According to pet experts Best Friends, missing limbs can lead dogs to feel vulnerable and have difficulty balancing on slippery surfaces. But Ferris here is living their best life — like the many pups who go one to live happy, long lives as they adjust to their new lifestyle!

Filbert the Shetland Sheepdog mix

Filbert the Shetland Sheepdog
Animal Planet

Over on team Ruff we have Filbert, who came to Double J Dog Ranch in Hauser Lake, Idaho, as a 7-week-old fluff ball. The ranch is a sanctuary for dogs with special needs, which has been crucial to Filbert's development because he is deaf and sight impaired.

Dogs with no hearing and limited sight rely on smell and touch when moving through their day, according to petplace.com. To help their fur friends, it's important for owners to establish a routine and refrain from moving around objects in the dog's environment.

Kismet the Great Dane 

Kismet the Great Dane
Animal Planet

Standing tall on team Ruff, Kismet is an affectionate and playful puppy who's deaf, according to the Green Dogs Unleashed rescue in Virginia that took her in. "She enjoys long walks and cuddles on the couch," said a post on their Facebook page.

Deaf dogs are good at learning hand signals instead of human speech as commands, according to Best Friends. Some owners use signs adapted from American Sign Language or come up with their own gestures. 

Paprika the Chihuahua mix

Paprika the Chihuahua
Animal Planet

Paprika is a spunky little guy playing for team Ruff. He is hearing impaired, but that won't stop him from putting his best paw forward for team Ruff!

"It's estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of dogs in the United States suffer from deafness, either in one ear or both ears," The American Kennel Club said on its website. "But most dogs with hearing issues cope well with their disability, are very trainable, and can even go on to compete in dog sports."

Rooster the American Staffordshire Terrier/Bulldog mix

Rooster the American Staffordshire Terrier, Bulldog mix
Animal Planet



This little guy is affectionately called "potato" by the Virginia rescue that's caring for him. He has a cleft palate, a birth defect that can make it difficult for newborn puppies to nurse.

Feeding equipment must be used to make sure these lovable pups receive adequate nutrition when they're young, according to Best Friends. And Rooster was certainly fed well, making for some tough competition on team Fluff!

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