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Why Does My Dog Love Balls? Reasons, Training Tips, & FAQ

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

woman playing-with her dog

Balls are like a dog’s best friend, after their owners, of course, but some love balls more than others, so much so that you could even say they are obsessed. Many activities involve balls that humans love, which is understandable as it is often incorporated into a sporting activity, but why do most dogs love balls? This is mostly related to their prey drive.

If your dog is a ball-loving canine and you want to understand the fascination a bit deeper, we’ll explain their love for balls in this article and everything it involves, from fetching, dropping, training, and safety.

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Why Does My Dog Love Balls?

A pocket male American Bully puppy dog is playing with tennis ball on grass
Image Credit: Zanna Pesnina, Shutterstock

Most dogs love balls for the same reasons. One of the primary reasons is their prey drive. The prey drive of various breeds varies depending on their history, which is why some dogs love balls more than others. Dogs with high prey drives that were bred for hunting or retrieving are typically more interested in chasing balls than breeds with lower drives.

Now think about the ball from a dog’s point of view. A ball is the manifestation of prey, as it moves unpredictably and ignites the desire to catch it. As a result, dopamine is released from their reward centers, which is why they enjoy playing fetch so much. While several toys are loved by dogs, the ball typically remains the most fun.

Balls are also a perfect size to fit into your dog’s mouth for chewing, which is their next step after catching prey. Chewing can also be a form of self-soothing and relaxation for dogs since it releases endorphins.

Why Do Dogs Like Playing Fetch?

Fetch is an interactive game between a dog and their owner, which is another reason your dog may love balls and a game of fetch with their human. When you initially brought your puppy home, you may have started throwing and playing with balls to satisfy their demands for mental stimulation and exercise, which led them to develop positive connections and habits around the game of fetch.

Since it provides quality time with you and makes them feel valued, fetch is a great way to build trust and connect with your dog. The combination of their prey drive, interacting with their beloved owner, the feeling of accomplishment, and the physical and mental stimulation, makes fetch a favorite among dogs.

A Dog Playing with a Ball at a Park
Image Credit: Samuel Haché, Pexels

How Do You Train a Dog To Fetch a Ball?

Some dogs love to play with balls but haven’t mastered the game of fetch, where they fetch the ball after you have thrown it and brought it back. If this sounds like your dog, here are some tips to help them share their love for balls and play fetch with you.

Before you start, you will need two balls and your dog’s favorite high-value treats.

  • Encourage your dog to touch the ball by holding it at arm’s length in various positions. When your dog touches the ball, say, “Good dog!” and reward them with a treat.
  • At an arm’s reach from you, place the ball on the ground. Reward your dog with a treat and praise when they take the ball in their mouth.
  • Repeat this several times until your dog understands that putting the toy in their mouth results in a reward.
  • Toss the toy a short distance from you and say, “Fetch.” When your dog retrieves the ball, offer a treat and praise.
  • To get your dog to bring the ball back, you will need a second ball. You can throw the second ball right after your dog drops the first one as a reward.
  • Before you throw the second ball, say “drop,” and reward your dog with a treat when they do, and throw the second ball. The concept behind this is that your dog won’t get another ball toss unless they drop it for you first.
  • If your dog does not drop the toy after the command, end the game. That way, your dog will learn that the game will only continue once they drop the ball. It may take some time, but dogs typically catch on very quickly.


How to Safely Play Ball with Your Dog

Throwing a ball around or playing fetch with your dog is excellent for your dog’s physical and mental needs, but It’s important to pick the right ball when playing fetch with them. A more durable ball is better for them to play with than a lighter, bouncy one.

When you play fetch with your dog, ensure that you are in an area where your dog won’t take off. Also, ensure that you don’t throw your dog’s ball into a thorny bush, a deep body of water, or too close to other animals or pets that may want to chase the ball.

Ensure you have enough water to keep your dog hydrated, and monitor your dog for signs of exhaustion or discomfort. The suggested duration depends entirely on your dog’s health, breed, strength, and pace, but it should never last longer than one hour. If you go on too long, your dog can become exhausted.

border collie dog playing fetch with the male owner
Image Credit: elbud, Shutterstock

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Most dogs love balls, and some may love balls more than others. Your dog may particularly love balls if they have a high prey drive. Balls are enticing for dogs because they mimic the actions of hunting prey, which is innate in most dogs. Furthermore, it is a fun way to expel energy and bond with their owner.

If you introduced your dog to balls as a puppy, they would have associated playing with the ball with a positive experience, which may be another reason your dog loves balls. Be sure to get involved and take the opportunity to bond by playing a game of fetch with your furry friend!

Featured Image Credit: Prostock studio, Shutterstock

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