Is your dog just obsessed with tennis balls? Some dogs can be absolutely hypnotized by a tennis ball, and you can throw it, with them retrieving it for hours. I once had a Jack Russell terrier that would bring you a tennis ball repeatedly for a game of fetch. You actually had to hide the ball from him in the end, because he honestly would probably not stop chasing it until he died of exhaustion!
So, what is it about tennis balls that has our dogs hooked on them? Such a simple toy, and yet it is universally loved by dogs across the globe! That is what we are here to find out. Why do dogs love tennis balls, are they safe for dogs to play with, and how do you stop your dog from becoming obsessed?!
Why do some dogs love tennis balls?
If you have a tennis ball centric doggie, then you may be wondering why they are so obsessed with them. The short answer is that dogs have a built in, natural instinct to like tennis balls, and prefer them over all other types of balls.
This is largely due to the fact that tennis balls have a furry and hair like texture that mimics the feeling of prey in their mouths. As wild animals, dogs would naturally hunt their own prey, and would carry their kill in their mouths. The feeling of fur in their mouths is natural to them, and so, it is deeply ingrained within dogs to enjoy carrying tennis balls!
Why is my dog obsessed with tennis balls?
Your dog is most likely obsessed with tennis balls because of their natural instinct to hunt, catch and retrieve prey. You may have noticed that your dog will go to extreme lengths to get a tennis ball, even if it rolls down a hill into a river, or across the street, your dog will go get it.
So, what is the obsession with tennis balls? Well, the great thing about tennis balls is that they are versatile, which is probably why they are universally beloved by dogs. Tennis balls can be soft and squishy, so that dogs can chew them, they can also bounce around, and they make loud noises when they bounce.
In addition, tennis balls have a soft, fuzzy and furry texture which can ensnare the senses of a dog, and be stimulating and fun to play with. So, where does this excitement come from, and why do dogs love tennis balls so much? The reason may surprise you!
The evolutionary reason dogs love tennis balls
It is not just about the bright color of a tennis ball, or the fact that it bounces, makes noises and has a fuzzy feel. There is actually a much deeper reason as to why dogs love playing with tennis balls, and this is because of an inner natural survival instinct that dogs have.
Dogs love chasing balls as they bounce as it reminds them of chasing prey and it unlocks that inner animal inside of them. Before dogs were domesticated and bred for purpose, they would have been wild dogs, descended from wolves.
In the wild, wolves and dogs would have to rely upon their survival instincts, skills and tactics in order to survive. They would also have to become predators, hunting, chasing and capturing their prey. Regardless of what breed your dog is, even as a small toy breed, the dog will have survival instincts passed down from generations through evolution.
Without the instinct to hunt, orient themselves, stalk, chase, attack, kill and tear apart their prey, dogs would not exist today, and so they still have some instincts in them. That being said, dogs today have been bred for entirely different purposes, and so some instincts are benign, and dormant.
Nowadays, dogs have adapted to change, and no longer need the ability to hunt, stalk or kill their prey. Instead, these instincts are found in their behaviors, such as their desire to chase balls, bring their owners sticks, and carry items in their mouths.
Dogs have lost their need for their survival instincts after humans bred them specifically for other purposes. For instance, Labradors and Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve prey, whereas German Shepherds and Sheepdogs are herding animals. Other breeds such as Setters or Terriers were bred for hunting and rat-catching. This is why you may notice that these breeds love to play with tennis balls, as the feel of a tennis ball replicates that of a rat or rodent.
In addition, the way that a tennis ball bounces around in different directions is similar to the way a rodent would run away or flee from the dog, and so chasing a tennis ball is incredibly stimulating and enjoyable for dogs to do.
However, humans taught dogs not to bite and kill the prey, but simply catch it and bring it to us. This is where that change in instinct comes in. Now, instead, dogs catch and retrieve balls or toys for us, and we are given the ball as the fruit of their labors.
Are tennis balls safe for dogs to play with?
We know how much dogs love tennis balls, but are they good for them, and safe to play with? In the case of my dog, who loves destroying, chewing and eating anything she can get her paws on…we do not let her have them, as she pulls and eats the fluff off them!
Other dog owners love letting their pets play with tennis balls, and see no problem with it. Whether tennis balls are safe for dogs is highly debated among dog owners across the world, as many people warn against it, and others think that they are fine.
The reason many dog owners advise against allowing your dog to play with tennis balls is because they are not designed for dogs. Tennis balls are designed as very durable sports tools, and can therefore withstand a lot of hits from rackets, and many bounces on the floor. This makes tennis balls very strong, sturdy and tough, which can be hard on some dog’s teeth, and cause dental problems if used as a chew toy.
In these cases, many dog owners believe that dogs should not use tennis balls, and should instead chew on specifically designed dog toys or balls for the sake of their dental health and well being. For instance, why not try this dog ball toy or a rubber ball puzzle toy to keep your dog engaged and stimulated.
In addition to being tough on a dog’s teeth, the fluff of a tennis ball can also get dirty, rot and become hard after extensive use, which can also have adverse effects on your dog’s gums, teeth and oral health. Also, if the fuzzy part of the tennis ball is ingested, this can cause digestive problems, a blockage or other health issues that will need to be treated.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with throwing a tennis ball every now and again for your dog, just make sure that it is not being used as a chew toy, as this will most likely damage the teeth.
In some rare cases, dogs can even be at risk of choking on a tennis ball, as this has happened in the past, and can cause blockages in the intestines if swallowed, or even result in the death of the dog, and so you should exercise caution. If you are concerned, then you can instead purchase a wide variety of different types of balls, made specifically for playing with dogs, to ensure yours is safe.
On the other hand, any toy that you leave with your dog alone and unattended can be a risk. You should not let your dog chew on a toy alone as they may ingest parts of the toy, eat it or choke on the toy itself. This is why you should always have your dog in sight or under observation when eating, chewing or gnawing on an item.
The best thing to do is exercise caution when playing with tennis balls. Your dog will need to be supervised, and you should only really use them for throwing, and fetching. If your dog loves retrieving them for you, then praise and reward them!
Just remember not to let them gnaw on or chew the tennis balls by themselves, or let them become obsessed with playing with tennis balls.
How do I stop my dog from being obsessed with tennis balls?
Does your dog seem to have an unhealthy relationship with its tennis balls? You’re not alone. A lot of dogs can grow too attached to playing and chewing on tennis balls, and sometimes it can be a hard habit to break. Unfortunately, you are going to want to break it.
Some dogs can become completely fixated on playing with tennis balls, and may avoid contact with people, other dogs, and other types of toys. Fetching, chewing and playing with a tennis ball can become an obsession for them, and this can actually be very stressful and dangerous for the dog in the long run.
The obsessive behavior can sometimes become tiring for a dog, as they may ask you to throw the ball, so that they can get it for you. Some dogs will repeat this back and forth until they pass out, as they think that they are pleasing you, and so you should not throw it repeatedly after a while.
By continually throwing the ball, you can actually stress out the dog, and make them anxious or nervous, unable to calm down until they retrieve it for you, or until you throw it again. Although you may think that you are playing with them, this behavior should be stopped, and the dog needs to be calmed.
Other dogs can become possessive and dangerous if anyone tries to take the tennis ball from them. For instance, they can become aggressive, and may start biting, attacking or growling at people or other dogs that come into contact with their tennis balls.
In the worst case scenario, your dog could be harmed, injured or killed. As we mentioned earlier, some dogs can become obsessed by chasing a tennis ball, and they will go through hell and high water to retrieve it. This can lead them into danger, as they may not look where they are going, and simply follow the ball. This means that they could run into traffic, be hit by a car, or jump into a river with a fast current, and get swept away. None of which has a good outcome.
Therefore, it is paramount that you try and sway your dog away from the tennis balls, and break the unhealthy obsession with them. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can do this safely.
One of the easiest ways to stop your dog obsessing over tennis balls or fetching them is to have a set time and routine for when you play fetch, instead of doing it all day with your dog until they are worn out. If you set aside a time point during the day to play fetch, your dog will stop obsessing over it, and may relax about playing with the tennis balls.
This is because they know before, and after this time has passed, you are not going to play fetch with them, and so they will save their energy for when the time comes.
Another way you can break the habit is by limiting the time your dog has with tennis balls, and keeping them out of reach. Offer alternative toys and games to play, and try to distract them from tennis balls with a variety of different and interesting toys.
Finally, make sure that your dog has a good exercise routine, and has enough long walks. This will help burn off extra energy, and they may not be as interested in playing fetch with you!
To conclude, dogs are obsessed with tennis balls because they have a natural instinct to chase, run, catch and fetch things. This is due to a survival instinct that dogs have to catch and retrieve their prey. Like with any obsession, you should try to avoid letting your dog get too attached to tennis balls, and offer other means of expelling energy, and other toys to engage with.