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For any dog owner that’s ever played a game of fetch with their pet, the sight of a bouncing or rolling ball is enough to send even the most laid-back dog into a frenzy of excitement as it chases the object down.
But, what is it about balls that make them so attractive and intriguing for dogs?
In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at some of the main reasons why dogs love playing with balls. We’ll also look to answer a number of the frequently asked questions.
While dogs are friendly, loyal, and sociable animals in today’s society, they haven’t always been domesticated. This is because in earlier times dogs didn’t have the luxury of comfy beds and ready-made food. Instead, they had to use their predatory instincts to hunt and survive.
Therefore, a dog’s body has been structured for these very purposes – with lean muscles, excellent vision, and sharp claws. All of these characteristics combine to make dogs natural predators with refined hunting instincts to easily catch prey.
Needless to say, these predatory instincts have significantly dulled over time, with dogs demonstrating far less-pronounced predatory instincts compared to many of their ancestors still living in the wild. But, at a basic level, dogs still find the process of eyeing and chasing to be second nature.
So, when it comes to objects such as tennis balls and bouncy balls, these are great for mimicking the desperate behavior of prey with sporadic and jumpy movements. For example, the mere sight of a rolling or bouncing ball will immediately ignite a dog’s natural chasing instinct.
Dogs are fully aware that a tennis ball isn’t a rabbit or another form of prey, but the very act of chasing after a ball and retrieving it can replicate the natural hunting instincts that are deeply rooted in their genetic make-up.
It’s important to note that this type of behavior doesn’t mean that your beloved dog is dangerous as the natural instincts of dogs have been channeled over time to suit human needs. Your dog just needs to serve up to its instinctual drive every now and then.
Feeling Of Reward
Aside from fulfilling their predatory instincts, dogs find games which involve balls such as fetch enjoyable because it makes them feel good. To put it simply, when they chase down the ball and successfully retrieve it, they’ve effectively accomplished their task.
This is a rewarding feeling for dogs, because not only have they achieved their goal, they’re also spending quality time with their owner and making them visibly happy.
Keep in mind that not all dogs will enjoy and find reward in ball-related games such as fetch. This depends on a number of factors, including the breed, age, and temperament of your dog.
What Makes A Ball So Attractive?
There are several features of a ball that work as triggers for the vast majority of dogs. These triggers activate an urge inside dogs which makes balls more attractive than any other type of toy. Listed below are three of the main features which attract dogs.
The more vibrant the color of a ball is, the easier it is to detect and chase down from longer distances. Dogs can see neon colors more clearly than any other, which explains why they’re so obsessed with tennis balls.
Shape And Size
Dogs tend to be attracted to circular objects, whether it’s balls, tires, or frisbees. Animal behaviorists haven’t been able to pin down why this is the case, but looking at it objectively, the circular shape of balls allows them to travel through the air faster due to a reduced air drag, and as all canine owners can vouch for, dogs love a good run.
What’s more, tennis balls and other similar balls are the perfect size for dogs to easily grip in their mouths. This makes them perfect for retrieving and ball games which involve plenty of running.
Consistency And Hardness
Dogs love to chew on things, and balls can often make the most effective chewable toys. The hard, flexible consistency of balls mean they don’t break apart easily when chewed, and they’re also incredibly bouncy which is always a bonus.
Setting Important Boundaries
While a dog’s love for balls is almost always nothing to worry about, if you take your dog to a local park or another public area, it might be a good idea to set some boundaries.
This is because it’s important to make sure that your dog is chasing the ball and using their energy in the right way rather than acting out on their natural instinctual behavior.
There may be rabbits and other animals around which may distract them, so do your best to keep your dog focused solely on chasing the ball and playing with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Dogs Get Addicted to Playing with Balls?
Yes, it’s possible for some dogs to become addicted to playing with balls, but this can easily be prevented by establishing a suitable routine. For example, you can turn to other toys that might engage your dog’s interest such as squeaky bones or stuffed animals.
Another effective method is to give more of your time and attention to your pet. Yes, dogs might love balls, but they love their owners even more. With this in mind, if you give your dog plenty of love and attention and keep their ball firmly out of sight, you’ll quickly become the number one priority.
Are There Any Benefits of My Dog Playing with Balls?
Using a toy ball to give your dog regular exercise and enjoyment is a vital part of your responsibilities as a dog owner. What’s more, there are also some toy balls which provide effective dental care for your pooch as they chew into the material of the ball.
Can Dogs Choke on Balls?
Yes, balls can sometimes be deadly for dogs if they’re too small. For example, if your canine has been enthusiastically slobbering over a ball while playing with it, it can quickly become slimy and potentially slip down your dog’s throat, causing them to choke.
Can a Ball Be too Big for a Dog?
If a ball is too big for your dog to hold in their mouth, it’s highly likely that their enjoyment level will quickly wane as they struggle to pick it up. However, as mentioned above, don’t try and solve this problem by giving them a ball that’s small enough to be a choking hazard.
To conclude, the main reason that dogs love to play with balls is all down to their natural predatory instinct. Balls often replicate the behavior of prey, so from the moment they’re born to the time that they’re fully grown and mature, dogs will always be intrigued and excited when it comes to ball-related games.