Why Do Dogs Love Tennis Balls?

by Sundays

Black and white collie mix dog holding a tennis ball in mouth by green bush

Not much can top them in a dog's eyes, here are all the reasons most dogs go nuts for tennis balls.

To us, a tennis ball is a tennis ball–it’s round, it’s yellow, and it bounces. But why do dogs love tennis balls so much? 

To a dog, a tennis ball is a magical, irresistible sphere that unlocks untold adventures. It means games of fetch, which mimic the thrill of the hunt and give them quality time with their favorite person. And let’s not forget the hours of chewing and ripping it apart once the game is over. 

Some pups are much bigger tennis ball fans than others, but it’s hard to find one that doesn’t like them at all. Once you understand the mystery of this neon yellow orb, you’ll start seeing tennis balls like your dog does. Here are all the reasons most dogs go nuts for tennis balls.

They lead to spending quality time with you

This one makes total sense. If you’ve played fetch before with a tennis ball with your dog, then they are going to equate the tennis ball to another fun game of fetch with you. 

Depending on your dog’s age and personality, they may be obsessed with the thrill of fetching or only mildly amused. Even if your dog isn’t particularly into running after a tennis ball, they might go along with it just because it means they get to spend some quality time with you. After all, the tennis ball isn’t going to throw itself, and your dog can’t throw it, so you are an essential part of the whole game.

Tennis balls unleash your dog’s prey drive

You can domesticate a dog, but you can’t erase their prey drive. This is why dogs chase cats, squirrels, and any other animal that resembles prey. 

A tennis ball that’s flying through the air and bouncing unpredictably moves like a prey animal that they have to chase after, catch, and bring back to their family, which is you. This activity is instinctual for dogs in general, but some dogs have a higher prey drive than others, and some breeds were specifically bred to retrieve prey. 

If your dog is in the sporting, terrier, or hound family, they may be way more interested in running after that tennis ball.

Fetching a tennis ball gives them a rush

Whether it’s about hunting down and capturing their prey, or because their love language is spending quality time, a game of fetch with a tennis ball stimulates a dog’s body and mind. 

When they run after the ball and catch it, they get a rush of adrenaline and a feeling of satisfaction. Just make sure your dog isn’t becoming obsessed with the ball or with fetch, because that can become compulsive and lead to all sorts of issues.

Another thing you should keep in mind is to not overdo it. When their wild ancestors chased after real prey, they would bring it back and enjoy their meal after it was caught. That gave them time to rest up. They wouldn’t be chasing nonstop after prey, so you don’t want to keep throwing the ball repeatedly, trying to wear your dog out. 

Several trainers and researchers have pointed to the potentially negative effects of fetch. For one, it releases cortisol, and too much of this hormone flooding a dog’s body all the time can make them hypervigilant and hard to calm down. Too many chases or games of fetch can also be super hard on their joints and muscles. There are quick starts and stops, twists, and changes in weight distribution and gait that can all become harmful.

To keep the game safe, follow these guidelines:

  • Never play in hot weather
  • Don’t throw the ball high into the air or too far
  • Only throw the ball a few times
  • Don’t play fetch every day
  • Get the right size ball for your dog

A tennis ball is chewy and tasty

Imagine all the smells a tennis ball rolls over and collects in its fuzzy felt. Gross to us, but not to dogs. Every added smell makes it that much more interesting. They can also smell their own scent on their ball, which is comforting.

Aside from loving the smell, some dogs also love chewing on tennis balls. Just the act of chewing is a stress-reliever because it’s a natural instinct for dogs. And there must be something exciting about the chewiness of the rubber inside the ball mixed with the soft outer covering that mimics fur. After they catch their “prey” in a game of fetch, they might instinctively want to try to eat it.

Be vigilant with dogs that like to chew up their toys, especially tennis balls. The pieces of rubber can cause a choking accident or all kinds of problems inside if they swallow them. It’s probably not great for them to be chewing the outer felt, either, so don’t let your dog chew on the tennis ball. Instead, give them a dog-safe chew toy like a KONG filled with a snack like plain yogurt.

If your dog is big-time into tennis balls, just remember to keep them safe. Only throw the ball a few times and not every day. And don’t let your pup chew on them or become obsessed. 

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