While there can be a wide assortment of playthings for dogs, from rope toys to chew toys to Frisbees and interactive gadgets, dogs will always pick a toy ball anytime. Whether your hound is a Labrador or a Shih Tzu, roll or toss a ball and they’d happily go after it, fetch it, and, if properly trained, bring the ball back to you. Given that toy balls are such an important part of a dog’s playtime activities, it is our inherent responsibility as pet parents to give them only the most durable, safest, and most fun toy ball that they can play with. Our team came up with a list of the 20 best toy balls for dogs to help you determine the best one for your pet.
Best Toy Balls for Dogs Buying Guide & FAQ
If you look at your favorite pet shop you’ll be presented with a lot of options for the best toy balls. They come in all sizes and shapes as well as a few other extras that will make you wonder whether your pet really needs them at all. Well, we know how mind-boggling it can be to choose the right one for your pet. Allow us to enlighten you with our buying guide for the best toy balls for dogs.
Importance of Ball Toys and Exercise
Toys are as important in the growth and development of young children as it is on puppies and dogs. While it is easy to dismiss ball toys as nothing more than spherical objects that dogs seem not to get enough of, experts say that these play a very important role in their development.
Playing with toy balls gives your pet something to do. While it is true that the idea of a dog today is more like a lap dog, these pets were primarily bred for work. For thousands of years they have helped and assisted man in his pursuits. They hunted and retrieved game, herded flock and livestock, and even defending their master’s family and property.
Long before they began assisting man, however, dogs have already been very busy scavenging for food, hunting prey, defending their territory, and even caring for the young members of their pack. Dogs led complex and busy lives, solving problems that undermine their survival, and even interacting socially with other dogs in the area. Simply put, dogs thrive a lot better when they are given something to do.
Sadly, most of the dogs that we have today are pet versions of the human couch potato. Giving them ball toys or any toy for that matter gives them the chance to relive their ancestral ways, the way they were created by nature itself.
There is a very serious effect of dogs leading a very sedentary lifestyle and this can be gleaned from the rising numbers of pet parents complaining of behavioral problems in their respective dogs. Animal behaviorists believe that the lack of physical exercise is what leads dogs to present with a variety of canine behavioral issues such as the following.
- Destructive chewing, scratching, and even digging
- Unusual hyperactivity and hyper-excitability including increased activity during nighttime
- Rough play and play biting
- Unruliness, jumping up on individuals especially kids, and knocking over items and furniture
- Garbage-raiding, scavenging, and other unnecessary or uncalled-for investigative behaviors
- Nuisance barking, howling, and whining as well as other attention-getting behaviors
- Excessive predatory play and unnecessary social activities
These behavioral issues in dogs arise from the lack of activity. Some pet parents think that having a spacious yard is enough to have the dog get its exercise. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. They won’t run several laps around your yard without you telling them to. That is why you need to interact with them and use gadgets or items to entice them to use their muscles.
For example, giving them toy balls will not really count as exercise unless you toss or throw it and then they will be running after it. Sure, they will place the ball in their mouths and chew on it, but this is not a vigorous exercise that will afford them the various health benefits of exercise. You’d have to throw the ball, let them run and fetch it, and bring it back to you, preferably running, too. Do this several times and you’ll get your dog panting heavily from running to and fro.
Compare this with merely giving the ball to your dog without so much as an interaction from you. They will chew on it and perhaps run with it. But how many times do you think they are going to run to and fro if you don’t entice them to?
Dogs need direction, too especially on what they need to do. They’re essentially like young kids that will look for something else to do if you don’t give them something more constructive to do. We all say that our dogs are little bundles of joy and there’s a very good reason why we call them as such. They’re filled with lots of energy that need to be spent. Giving them work will give them the opportunity to spend this energy in a more constructive way. If not, they will be spending this energy on something else. This ‘something else’ is easily translated into canine behavioral problems. Some of the more well-known benefits of exercise in dogs include the following.
- Minimizes, if not eliminates, canine behavioral problems
The various behavioral issues in dogs that we have listed above are just a few of the many problems that can be solved if only you let your dog play and exercise. It may not be with its favorite toy ball, as long as you are able to give it meaning or purpose to its existence, then it should not feel bored. The tremendous amount of energy that it has for doing meaningful work will also be put to good and constructive use.
- Improves agility and joint flexibility
Running and jumping can substantially increase the range of motion of the dog’s joints. This helps prevent certain diseases from developing while improving the overall agility and flexibility of your pet. This can have a lot of implications in their overall health. Improved joint range of motion helps facilitate better movement or mobility. Increased mobility allows dogs to enjoy their existence a lot better.
- Enhances cardiovascular health
Exercise, in general, improves cardiovascular health. Sure your pet will increase the heart rate. But a more important physiologic effect is that the increase in heart rate will stimulate a compensatory mechanism that sees an increase in the strength of heart muscle contractions. Just like humans who exercise regularly, they have better cardiac outputs. This can lead to better endurance in the long run. Your dog can obtain the same benefits. Improving its cardiovascular health improves the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to all the tissues of its body. And as we all know, oxygen and nutrients are important for life.
- Reduces constipation and other digestive problems
In relation to the improvement in cardiovascular health, your dog will also experience dramatic improvements in its digestive system, especially in the removal of wastes through the gut. Improved blood flow to the digestive tract facilitates better digestion which, in turn, provides all the nutrients for your pet to use.
- Boosts canine confidence and trust
You may not believe it, but animal behaviorists say exercise can help boost your dog’s trust and confidence in itself. This is especially true if your dog is the timid or shy type. This also means reduced incidence of dog bullying and other problems associated with low self-esteem in dogs. It may be hard to believe especially since there are no definitive literature that can best describe canine psychology. However, based on existing studies and general observations, dogs that receive their daily exercise are better-rounded and more confident than dogs that don’t have enough exercise.
- Helps keep healthier weight
Chewing on a toy ball will not really lead to a significant reduction in your dog’s weight; directing it to run several laps around your yard can, however. Just as human couch potatoes tend to be obese, the same is true with dogs that do nothing everyday than to lie down and wait for their next meal. Obesity begets its own set of problems. You can avoid these problems altogether by simply engaging your pet in a more vigorous physical activity such as playing fetch. You don’t even have to throw it yourself. You can use one of those automatic fetch ball machines in the market, let the device do the work, and watch your pet maintain healthier weight.
Different Types of Balls
Choosing the right ball toy for your dog means you also have to look at the different types of balls in the market. There are those that are designed more like tennis balls while there are also those that come in different styles such as soccer balls and even footballs. There are balls that come with added features such as holes for gripping as well as for inserting treats. There are ball toys that are best thrown manually while there are those that fit in fetch ball machines. They come in various materials, too. Technically, whenever choosing a ball for your pet you’re given a plethora of options that can make picking the right one especially challenging.
Safety Tips When Picking the Best Ball Toys
Like everything else, ball toys for dogs can also pose substantial safety issues. That’s why it’s equally important to keep the following safety tips in mind when picking the best ball toys for your pet.
- Always buy a ball toy that is appropriate to the size of your pet. It is equally important to make sure that all the balls that your pet can access are of the right size; lest, you risk choking or even accidentally swallowing the entire ball.
- Steer clear of products that contain harmful chemicals such as BPA and other chemical additives. Your pet’s safety is anchored on the absence of these harmful chemicals on the ball toy that they will eventually grab with their mouths.
- Be careful where you bounce the ball at. You might bounce the ball into a street or perhaps even a river where the current can be exceptionally strong.
- Always supervise your pet whenever it is playing with its toys whether it is a ball toy or any other plaything.
Things to Consider When Buying Toy Balls for Your Dog
There are certain things that have to be taken into consideration when buying toy balls for your dog. These are as follows.
This is one of the most important considerations basically for safety and comfort reasons. You don’t want it to be very big that your pet will have a really difficult time grabbing onto it with its mouth. You don’t want it to be too small relative to your pet’s size either since this can increase the risk of choking which can lead to a veterinary emergency. The larger the ball, the easier it is to spot; the smaller it is, the more difficult it is for your pet to see.
Pay attention to how the manufacturer of the toy ball rates its product. If it says that it is for light to moderate chewers, then don’t expect it to last if your pet happens to be a power chewer. While this actually has something to do with the ball’s material construction, another consideration in buying toy balls for your dog, it is more a function of how well you understand your pet’s chewing behavior as well as jaw strength. Remember, it may be labeled as ‘moderate chewer’ but if the material upon which the toy ball is made is simply not suitable for the bite force of your pet, then you will most likely end up buying another set of balls anytime soon.
We mentioned in the preceding point that the material used in the manufacture of a dog toy ball has a bearing on its durability. This is just one part of the equation, however. It may be durable for light to moderate chewers but definitely not for power chewers. If it is durability that you are after, then industrial-grade rubber materials offer you the best. If you prefer light rubber that is covered in felt such as what you see in standard tennis balls, you don’t want to play with it near bodies of water as it can get soggy once wet. If you prefer to play in a rather small dog park, you don’t want to get a high bouncing ball as this will only bounce right over the perimeter fences. Make sure you understand the pros and cons of each type of material used in the construction of the toy ball.
You may also want to consider the weight of the ball toy. Even if you do manage to use fetch ball machines and save your arm from having to throw a really heavy ball, remember that your pet will be grabbing it with its mouth. If it is too heavy, it might not be able to carry it. If it is light, you won’t be able to throw it as far as you like. If it is quite heavy, you’ll need more space to throw it in.
Q: What should dog ball toys for heavy chewers be made of?
A: There are certain materials that dogs are known to be especially averse to or are tough enough to withstand repeated powerful chewing.
For instance nylon and rubber are two of the most often used materials for making dog ball toys that are especially designed for power chewers. Nylon is especially durable and can withstand bite forces in the hundreds of pounds per square inch. The same is true with rubber. KONG makes one of the most indestructible rubber materials for dog ball toys, a feat they achieved in their Classic KONG dog chew.
There are also dog ball toys that come with rope attachments. These are extra heavy-duty, too so they should be excellent choices for heavy chewers. There are also newer materials that are proprietary in nature, meaning they are only found in products designed and manufactured by the same maker of the super-strong material.
Q: How can I get my dog to play with toy balls?
A: A very important responsibility of any pet parent is teaching their respective pets how to use the different gadgets or items that are bought for their pets. As we have already mentioned in the early sections of this buying guide, dogs need to be directed or taught on how to play with their toy balls. Otherwise, you will not give them all the benefits that only exercise can provide. So how do you get your dog to play with toy balls?
The first thing is to encourage your pet to go after the ball. Once it grabs the ball reward your pet with its motivator of choice. It could be a treat or plenty of hugs or even both. You can even play with your pet. Make sure to remove the ball once you give the reward. Practice this many times always rewarding your dog every time it grabs the ball with its mouth. Your goal is to toss the ball and get your dog to run after it even without the reward.
Dog trainers actually recommend holding your pet back while giving the command to run after the ball. The natural reaction is for your pet to keep on tugging against you. Once the ball is about midway to its intended destination you can release your hold and watch your dog blitz towards the ball. Fetch ball machines can help in this regard so you can hold your dog while the ball is being launched some distance. As soon as the ball hits the ground you can release your dog.
Once your dog consistently runs after the ball even without receiving a reward for it, you can start training the retrieving aspect of the ball fetch game. This can be tricky because the natural tendency of dogs is to run off with the ball. You can avoid this by having another ball that is of the same kind as the one that you tossed. As soon as your dog grabs the ball, call it back to you. Wait until your pet sees the second ball in your hands and then throw it in the opposite direction. Your dog will naturally drop the first ball and run after the second ball. The goal here is to teach your dog to run back to you once it has grabbed the ball in its mouth.
If your pet brings the ball but drops it short of where you want it, move backwards and command your dog to ‘bring it’. As soon as it is on the spot where it needs to drop it, say ‘drop it’ and reward your pet.
The retrieving aspect of the ball fetch game is where most pet parents fail. Patience and consistency are, thus needed.
Dogs need toy balls to help them get the work that they need to find meaning in their existence and help them avoid developing canine behavioral problems. With these 20 toy balls for dogs you’re more than ready to pick the best one for your hound.