There’s really nothing easier – or, frankly, more fun – than playing fetch with a dog. Sure, some pups are more enthused by the activity than others. But generally speaking, this age-old past time hits all the spots. While sticks are a sure runner-up, balls are always number one with the canine set. They’re sturdy, yet chewy. They bounce, and most of them fit perfectly between the jaws. But beyond their characteristics and the play/exercise they facilitate with a favorite human, why do dogs love balls?
Herding and Hunting
Dogs began living in tandem with people thousands of years ago, possibly due in large part to their extreme hunting skills. Domestication of a type of grey wolf helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors thrive, and the sort of mutually beneficial interdependence between our species evolved over generations.
Contemporary canines ranging in size from 1-200 pounds have many things in common. Perhaps their familiar connection to prey is the most obvious. From the second they’re born, dogs have the instinct to chase. In other words, dogs are predisposed to tracking moving objects and bringing them in.
This natural canine behavior is called prey-carrying. In the wild, captured prey is carried back to then den for the pack to consume.
The Confidence Bridge
Allowing your dog to connect to this basic, natural instinct really pays off in the behavior department. Providing an outlet is paramount to building their confidence. Plus, playing fetch is a wonderful exercise for ultimate bonding. Your enthusiasm is a great reward when the “prey” is retrieved and released back to you.
Most family dogs do not have the opportunity to hunt anymore, which partially explains why dogs love balls. The sort of unpredictable bounce, coupled with how great they are to chew on, make balls truly excellent targets.
Characteristics of Perfect Dog Toys
When purchasing balls for your dog, please be sure that they are appropriately sized. Too small, and you could be looking at a choking incident or intestinal obstruction. Dogs love balls they can really sink their teeth into, so if one is too big your dog may get frustrated. Also, be careful not to allow your dog to endlessly chew on them.
Can Dogs Love Balls Too Much?
As many dog owners can attest to, yes, some dogs love balls more than they should. A fetch-obsessed dog will only want to play with a ball 24/7. They may stare at a ball or toy storage, endlessly beg to play, guard their ball, and experience anxiety when the ball is missing. In extreme cases, they can run into traffic, hurt someone, or completely forget to sleep, eat or drink water.
You Know Your Pup Better
If you have questions about your dog’s behavior, we encourage you to pursue dog training to help them be the best member of the household they can be. Undoubtedly, by facilitating opportunities to spend all their energy, you are meeting your dog halfway.
Our veterinarians and staff members are always here to help. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.