Guidelines are for all who want to have fun and not reinvent the wheel! (Simple elimination methods are suggested so all can play at least once.)


Dog Bowl is an educational experience in which youth enrolled in the 4-H program may participate in team competition with youth from other clubs or counties to demonstrate knowledge of Dog-related subjects. The focus is on fun.

Rewards include: candy and dog biscuits.

Basic Conduct

It is implicit that all participants use 4H guidelines for good conduct and behavior at all times. This means respect other teams, players and officials with proper language and actions.


One goal would be to have teams from the same county. However, teams can be mixed. Coaches should use every effort to balance teams with respect to age categories.

Selection of Teams: Each team will consist of 4 youth. A team may also have 1 alternate who may be substituted in case of a team member’s illness or other inability to participate in that contest. Only 4 team members may be seated and compete on the panel at any one time. If a team member becomes ill or otherwise unable to compete, and the team does not have an alternate to substitute in, that team will compete with 3 members, consistent with the rules of play.

Junior Division: Youth must not have achieved their 14th birthday prior to January 1 of the current calendar year.

Senior Division: Youth must be at least 14 years of age but not yet 19 years of age by January 1 of the current calendar year. Counties have the option to allow younger youth to move up to the Senior Division to fill a team if needed.

Youth must be on one team- they are not allowed to switch back and forth between teams during a contest.

“Extras” from a county may join up with “extras” or incomplete teams from another county to form “mixed-county” teams.

There is no limit to the number of teams a county may send to a contest. Counties may have more than one team at each level, as long as each team member is on only one team.

All team members must be enrolled in a 4-H Dog project in their county.

Prior to the beginning of the contest, each team shall designate its members as player #1, #2, #3, #4 or “alternate.”

If a team is competing with fewer than four team members, it must designate which position is unfilled. Team members may not switch positions with another team member other than the alternate. If a team member withdraws from the contest and the alternate fills that player’s position, the team member who withdrew may not rejoin the team in that match.

Rules of Play

  • Match time will be agreed upon at the start of play. Match times may vary from 5 minutes to 15 minutes depending upon the total number of participants.
  • Each contest round shall consist of up to 32 questions.
  • For example, 16 “one-on-one questions” and 16 “team” questions may be asked.
  • Play will commence with 4 “one-on-one” questions. The first question may be answered only by the team members in the #1 position. The second, third and fourth questions may be answered only by the persons designated as #2, #3, and #4 respectively. If a team is competing with fewer than 4 team members, it may not shift a team member into the vacant spot; it forfeits the opportunity to answer the “one-on-one” questions for that position. *The team with 4 members does not automatically earn points for uncontested questions. All points must be earned by providing correct answers to questions.
  • Questions 5-8 are “team” questions which may be answered by anyone on either team.
  • Play will continue with alternating repetitions of 4 “one-on-one” and 4 “team” questions as described above until all questions have been asked.


The moderator will read all questions. Upon request, the question may be repeated once, if no correct answers are given. If a team member activates a buzzer during the reading of a question, the moderator will stop reading the question as soon as a buzzer is activated. Once a team member activates a buzzer, they must be acknowledged before they can answer the question.

If a buzzer is activated by a player who is ineligible to answer, that player’s team forfeits its chance to answer the question, and the entire question will be read to the opposing team.

A contestant who responds more than twice to a “one-on-one” question directed to another contestant will be replaced by the team alternate.

If an alternate is not available, the remainder of the match will be played with less than a full team and all questions normally directed to the eliminated player will be addressed to the player in the corresponding chair of the opposing team.

After the team member has been acknowledged, they must initiate a response within 5 seconds. Repeating the question will not be considered the initiation of an answer.

A judge or referee will determine if the actual answer was initiated within the 5 second time period. The goal is to have 3 judges to rule on any questions that may arise during play. The first answer given will be considered the official answer. If the answer was not clearly heard, the contestant may be asked to repeat the answer.

If a question is read to completion, and the answer is different than the one expected, or if it is technically or logically correct, the answer may be accepted. If the answer given is “in the ballpark” the judge(s) may request the contestant to be more specific, expand, explain, or clarify the answer.

If the question is interrupted, the judge(s) may not ask for any kind of clarification. The answer is either correct or incorrect according to the way the question was written. An answer may be correct for a portion heard of a question that was interrupted, but wrong for the way the question was written. The judge(s) may not ask any questions, and the answer will be counted as a wrong answer. If the answer is correct for the way the
question was written, it will be accepted.

No assistance may be given by other team members, coaches, parents, audience or other people. Friendliness and sportsmanship are expected of all participants. Unsportsmanlike conduct will result in dismissal from the match.

Scorekeeper(s) There shall be at least one score keeper to keep track of scores. They may confer with moderator or judges if necessary.

If the answer given is the same as or means the same as the expected answer, it will be accepted and two points awarded to the team, which supplied the correct answer. If the answer is different from the expected answer, it will be referred to the judge for decision.

If the acknowledged team member answers incorrectly, the moderator will read the entire question to the opposing team if the question was not a true/false question. (No “second chance” for true/false questions.) If a player to whom the question was directed initiates the correct answer within 5 seconds of being acknowledged, 1 point will be awarded.

The team with the highest score after 32 questions wins the match. If the score is tied, one question will be pulled at random from another game packet. The team, which correctly answers this question, will be declared the winner. If neither team answers correctly, questions will be drawn and read until a correct answer is given.

In the spirit of Dog Bowl the hosts of the match may elect to keep score by awarding dog biscuits (candy) for correct answers. Teams may either keep their (candy) dog biscuits or donate them to the Humane Society of their choice.

Questions and Resources

To get started, the Washington State 4-H Dog Bowl database is recommended for sample questions. Questions may be reworded, and do not have to be asked/answered exactly as the samples on Washington’s list.

Another source for sample questions to play at a group meeting for practice and fun may be found from the University of Kentucky

The Washington State Quizlet can be used as a study material or source of questions.

To aid in development of future questions, we ask that all who are interested submit questions, answers and reference source (including page number) to your local 4-H youth development educator. Also see the CALS Department of Animal Science webpage for more suggestions. The Ohio State University – Learning Lab Dog Kit is another excellent reference and available for 4-H Educators to borrow.

Question packets currently being developed by 4-H volunteers in NY consist of approximately 25% conformation/dog body part identification, 25% dog health/nutrition/disease, 25% obedience show, and 25% AKC Breed Groups. 4-H trivia questions may also be asked. It has been suggested that we use the 4-H Skills For Life Series and the Complete AKC Dog Book as sources of new questions. We would also like to add questions on flyball, agility, tracking, fieldwork, earthdog, shutzhund, lure course, rally-o, sled dog, AKC rules, and other dog organizations such as TDI, UKC, search and rescue, Guiding Eye, Hearing Dogs, etc. As we develop questions, especially in the areas in which most of our youth have little personal experience, we’ll be trying to “hit the highlights.” We don’t want the questions to be “too easy” but we also don’t want them so difficult that no one wants to play. Enjoy!

For more information

Contact Brian Aukema at bja14 [at] (bja14[at]cornell[dot]edu).