Why Do Dogs Love Tennis Balls?

Are you wondering why your dog is absolutely obsessed with tennis balls? Here are the reasons why.

Why Do Dogs Love Tennis Balls?
Find out why dogs love tennis balls so much.

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Why Are Dogs So Obsessed With Tennis Balls?

It's no surprise that dogs love tennis balls. Nearly every dog that's ever had access to a tennis ball loves to play with them—whether it means chewing on one, playing fetch, burying one in the yard, or bouncing one around. Tennis balls are a simple and fun toy that most dogs enjoy.

Because dogs love tennis balls so much, you might be wondering why exactly. Compared to other enticing dog toys, tennis balls are still a household favorite. There are several reasons why this might be, so let's go ahead and dive in.

Chasing tennis balls reminds dogs of prey.

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5 Reasons Why Dogs Love Tennis Balls

There are several reasons why dogs love tennis balls, all of which are pretty standard across different types of dogs.

1. Instinct

Dogs are predatory by nature and are often driven to chase things that imitate small prey, independent of breed type, breed blend, size, or age. The way a tennis ball bounces and rolls may imitate prey and trigger hunting instincts. A rolling or bouncing tennis ball may move like a bird, rabbit, squirrel, or another somewhat similar animal. The unpredictable movement of the ball, therefore, will keep the dog wanting more. Some dogs love to chase, herd, fetch, or retrieve, all of which can be satisfied with a tennis ball.

2. Play and Exercise

Tennis balls are easy to play with because they are lightweight and effortless to toss. They are also easy for dogs to grab by mouth. We also know that dogs love to play fetch as a way to bond with their owner. The simple act of chasing and fetching a ball is great for physical and mental stimulation, too. This engagement of the dog's mind and body is a great way for them to expend pent-up energy from boredom, anxiety, and other conditions of being housebound.

3. The Color

Dogs are interested in the color neon yellow thanks to the types of colors that are visible to them on the color spectrum. Tennis balls also offer great contrast when compared to the natural greens or natural hues of outdoor environments. This makes the ball easy to track and easy to see. Over time, dogs may even recognize the color of the tennis ball as a symbol of "playtime," making them even more excited.

4. Habituation/Learning

If your dog knows you will throw the ball for them each time they bring it to you, they will obviously take a liking to the ball. Dogs also love to be active, so they will readily run, chase, or retrieve upon sight of the ball. It's a game to them. Other dogs are obsessed with the ball's bounce. Dogs may also become habituated to the scent of the ball. Fresh tennis balls are pretty pungent in scent and recognizable. The odor might then trigger all kinds of positive feelings. They may also enjoy the ball's texture and want chew on it, as the ball is easy to grab and quickly satisfying.

5. Bonding

Tennis balls offer an opportunity for your dog to bond with you. The shared games equate to spending time with you, and such a mutual activity brings about positive experiences via positive reinforcement.

Watch your dog's teeth for table-wearing.

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Can Tennis Balls Be Dangerous to Dogs?

While tennis balls are generally safe, some dogs should be supervised with them. Dogs that love to chew balls might experience something called “table-wearing" (or attrition), which is when the teeth start to flatten over time due to constant, repetitive chewing. This can cause further dental issues.

Other dogs can destroy the ball and try to ingest it. This can be of risk especially with larger breeds or if a dog gets ahold of a miniature tennis ball. This too, and dogs can accidentally ingest the ball upon impact, possibly blocking off their airway or throat.

Dogs that play with tennis balls in water might also ingest more water when trying to grab it. Watch your dog carefully and make sure that they don’t swallow and inhale water, toss after toss. This can cause issues like pneumonia or “dry drowning", which

Safety First

Make sure your dog's tennis ball is size-appropriate. Use small tennis balls for smaller dogs and vice versa (never let a larger dog play with a ball that is too small for them as this can quickly become a choking hazard).

Why Do Dogs Chew Tennis Balls?

Dogs like to chew tennis balls for several reasons, as mentioned below.

  • Natural Behavior: Chewing is a natural behavior in dogs. It can be a good stress-reliever and pacifier and gives them something to do when they are bored. Some dogs benefit from chewing on tennis balls so long as it is not overdone. Light chewing can help remove plaque and tarter, but too much chewing can case table-wearing of the teeth.
  • The Texture: The texture of the ball might satisfy the dog. It is soft and squishy (furry even), and can remind them of chewing on prey.
  • They Like the Smell/Taste: Tennis balls have a distinct odor and flavor. Dogs, over time, become attracted to the familiarity.
  • Boredom: Dogs that do not have enough to do may take to chewing on tennis balls out of pure interest.

Please note that too much chewing can wear down a dog’s teeth or the dog can swallow the pieces of the ball. This can cause gastrointestinal blockages. Make sure your dog is supervised and safe at all times. Check the tennis balls they have available to them for wear or damage regularly.

How Can I Tell If Tennis Balls Are Damaging My Dog’s Teeth?

There are various ways to check to see if your dog's teeth are being damaged by chewing on tennis balls. Below, are some of the common indications and side effects of obsessive chewing.

  • Table-wearing: Table-wearing occurs when a dog chews on a hard object repeatedly. It can also occur when a dog chews a tennis ball repeatedly. This happens because the felt texture of the tennis ball is abrasive on the teeth over time. This can damage enamel and the structure of the teeth. The wearing of the teeth is essentially caused by persistent friction so the teeth become flattened. You will notice flattening of your dogs teeth, especially the back teeth (or molars) or the front canines (which stand out).
  • Tooth fractures: Repeat chewing can also cause teeth to fracture because the enamel has been weakened. Dental sensitivity also occurs when the dentin underneath the enamel of the tooth becomes exposed.
  • Gum irritation: Gum irritation may also occur from constant chewing. This can further triggers gingivitis, gum inflammation, and bleeding.
Dogs can inhale/ingest too much water when grabbing at tennis balls in lakes, oceans, and streams.

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Do Dogs Like the Bright Color of Tennis Balls?

Dogs do enjoy the vivid color of tennis balls. Dogs have different vision than humans (dichromatic vision). They have two types of cone cells of the eye (associated with color perceptive) and their range of visible color is more limited than humans, that is, they primarily see blues and yellows rather than reds and greens. Some studies even suggest that dogs have a degree of color blindness. Dogs, however, do well in low-light conditions and, with their sense of smell, are extremely perceptive in ways that humans aren't.

Tennis Ball and Toy Safety With Dogs

Whether or not tennis balls are dangerous for your dog really depends on their unique behavior. Your dog may be allowed to play with or chew on toys (specifically tennis balls) for a limited amount of time only to avoid table-wearing of the teeth, as mentioned above. Rubber or nylon toys are recommended for dogs because they are slightly more gentle than hard bones or abrasive materials.

Talk to your veterinarian if you suspect your dog’s teeth are affected. Remember, tennis balls can be choking hazards, especially if caught mid-throw or broken down into small pieces. Always watch your dog and their interactions with toys carefully.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2023 Laynie H

(Excluding for the Headline, this article ("story") has not been edited by MiBiz News and is published from a web feed or sourced from the Internet.)