If my dog could choose between a tennis ball and a treat I wave in his face, he always goes for the ball. It’s like my dog is obsessed with tennis balls, but why is this? Well, I didn’t know, so decided to find out why some dogs love tennis balls so much.
There’s a concise answer below which I will then expand upon with my thoughts on canine evolutionary traits, psychology, and behaviors relating to tennis ball obsession.
Why do dogs love tennis balls? Dogs love tennis balls for reasons including their in-built predatory instinct. There is also the way the ball behaves and feels (for example, the “hairy” texture of the ball) compared to other balls, making it mimic prey when chewed.
Why do some dogs love tennis balls so much?
Now let’s get into the detail about dogs being obsessed with chewing and chasing yellow tennis balls. What makes tennis balls so appealing to our furry friends?
Is it the texture, or the way the ball bounces? Or is it the bright yellow-green color that seems to entice them so much?
At first glance, the answer may seem pretty straightforward, but it is actually more complicated than what you may first realize.
Dogs love tennis balls for a myriad of different reasons, all of which can vary in interesting ways.
For example, one dog may love a tennis ball because it bounces up high, whilst the other may love it because it is their favorite toy to chew.
However, despite these differences, there are a few main reasons why dogs love tennis balls in general – these we will explore later.
Furthermore, there is the added question of whether tennis balls are suitable for our dogs, or if they are, instead, harmful for their health in the long run.
Many owners find themselves wondering if tennis balls should be banned from the house, having listened to the opinion of other dog owners who have brought this topic up in conversation.
So, is there any truth to these rumors? Are tennis balls harmful to our dogs? Or are these rumors just a load of old wives’ tales? Why do dogs love to chew tennis balls so much?
Lastly, you may be reading this in hopes of finding out how you can stop your pooch’s unhealthy obsession with tennis balls.
Similar to humans, dogs can quickly become obsessed with things they enjoy or like – whether this is food, treats, toys, or even people. This can then make life unpleasant for both owners and dogs.
The evolutionary reason why dogs love tennis balls
The majority of dogs love tennis balls because they fulfill their predatory instincts to chase prey. However, to better understand this we have to take a brief albeit interesting look into the past.
I believe that one of the main reasons why are dogs so obsessed with tennis balls is to do with their evolution.
Historically, dogs in the wild had to rely on their strong instincts to survive. Regardless of their breed, all dogs would have utilized their predatory behaviors to help them catch prey and avoid starvation.
These predatory behaviors consisted of eyeing, orientating, stalking, chasing, grabbing, killing, and dissecting. Without these instincts, dogs in the wild would have quickly died out.
Interestingly, these behaviors were not learned and instead came naturally to dogs over many years.
Instead of being taught how to hunt, puppies were born with these instinctual behaviors already ingrained into their psyches, quickly becoming proficient and skilled hunters as they grew into adulthood.
Fast-forward to more modern times, these behaviors were changed and adapted by humans eager to utilize them in their lives.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in breeds of dogs who have historically been bred for hunting and rat-catching. If you own a Rat Terrier or English Setter you will have probably noticed how they love to chase tennis balls, for example.
One change, now present in most domesticated dogs, was responsible for watering-down their instinctual drive and almost entirely removing their behavior of biting and killing prey they have caught.
It is partly because of this change that working dogs can safely be used in sheep herding and other jobs involving livestock.
When it comes to hunting dogs, they will regularly retrieve shot birds without puncturing or harming the skin of the quarry. Similarly, some dogs are used only to chase and flush out birds so that their master can focus on shooting.
In a world in which most dogs no longer have prey to chase, tennis balls and other toys have essentially become a substitute for wild animals.
Their erratic bounces and random behavior mimic small animals such as rats or mice. It’s also worth considering the hairy texture of tennis balls. This more than a standard rubber ball, is enough to get a dog into the chase and kill mood – and this is why dogs love tennis balls as much as they do.
Are tennis balls ok for dogs to play with?
Despite the love our canine friends have for tennis balls, are they safe for them to play with?
Well, the truth is there are a lot of mixed opinions on the subject. Some people advocate allowing dogs to have tennis balls whilst others are firmly against this.
In many households around the country, tennis balls are banned, and increasingly more and more owners are opting to use them only for their original purpose.
Although throwing a tennis ball for a dog to fetch is completely harmless, the main concern centers around whether they should be allowed to use them as chew toys.
Unfortunately, there is some evidence that suggests that tennis balls can cause dental wear to dogs who use them in this way. This is because tennis balls are designed to withstand multiple bounces on hard surfaces and heavy hits by rackets.
You could instead buy something like the special dog toy ball below (on Amazon).
Although the fuzz on a tennis ball might seem soft at first glance it can quickly wear down the enamel on a dog’s teeth, especially after extensive chewing. This, in turn, can have a detrimental effect on your dog’s oral health and cause issues with their teeth later on in life.
Therefore, you should avoid giving your dog a tennis ball to chew on, instead only using it as an object to throw for them occasionally.
Another concern for owners is the potential risk tennis balls can prove to be in regard to choking. Despite this being a rare occurrence, dogs have choked on tennis balls, and many have died as a result.
Here’s a report from the UK where a dog nearly died, which is also quoted below.
“A dog owner has implored fellow animal lovers to stop giving pets tennis balls after her Alsatian nearly choked to death on one. The ball became lodged in his throat, so Mr. Riley grabbed a car to take the beloved pet to an emergency care service in Bury.”
Likewise, the materials and fuzz found in tennis balls can wreak havoc on a dog’s intestines if ingested, causing blockages and other internal problems.
However, it is worth mentioning that choking can happen with any sort of chew toy and is not just a problem related to tennis balls. With the proper caution and observation, tennis balls can still be thrown for your dog to chase.
However, if this deters you from using tennis balls there are plenty of alternatives on the market.
For example, most pet stores sell balls and toys specifically designed so that they do not damage your dog’s teeth or cause choking. Additionally, many of these products can easily be found online and can be ordered at the click of a button, arriving within no time at all.
How do you stop a dog’s obsession with tennis balls?
Many dogs love chasing and chewing on tennis balls, this is completely normal behavior. However, if you notice your dog is fixated on tennis balls and is not interested in anything else (be it other dogs, toys, or people), then this can quickly turn into a problematic situation.
Just like humans, dogs can develop obsessive traits that are detrimental to their overall enjoyment and happiness in life.
Although an obsession with a tennis ball might not seem that serious, it can have far more devastating effects than what you might first realize.
For example, dogs who are obsessed with tennis balls can quickly become possessive, biting and snarling at other dogs and potentially causing serious injuries to them.
Not only that, fixations can often lead to disobedience, which can result in dogs not listening to commands and chasing balls into traffic or other dangerous situations.
Anxiety can also cause issues, with certain dogs being unable to relax until you throw or retrieve their tennis ball.
However, you will be pleased to know that there are several ways in which you can help your pup get over this obsession.
Firstly, creating a fetching routine with your dog can go a long way in curbing their behavior. Once your dog knows that there is a set period in the day that you always throw the ball for them, they should begin to relax and become less obsessive.
Additionally, limiting your dog’s access to the tennis ball outside of playtime is also a good idea. When not being used, tennis balls should be placed somewhere out of view, preferably up high or locked away where they cannot get access to them.
Diversifying your dog’s toys can also help. Try introducing them to various types of balls, in all different shapes, sizes, textures, and materials.
You can then play a game of fetch with these different toys.
Lastly, you should make sure that your dog is getting enough exercise. A tired dog is a lot less likely to exhibit obsessive behaviors compared to one that is full of energy.
If your dog could list its favorite things in life, chances are chasing and chewing tennis balls would be pretty close to the top. Just like going for walkie, chewing on toys, and eating treats, most dogs will go completely bonkers when it comes to playing with these fuzzy yellow balls.
In fact, some owners even struggle to pick up a tennis ball without their pup reacting excitedly (heaven forbid if they open a new tin of balls ready for a tennis session).
Hopefully now you know why it could be.
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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/doggy-jack-russell-terrier-animals-2648198/