Some dogs are natural herders. If you have a Collie or a German Shepherd, this will come as no surprise to you. They have been bred to move livestock from one place to another. That instinct is still strong, even though they are living with a human family. If they don’t get to do some herding, they get frustrated and bored and can start nipping at ankles or chasing cars.
A herding ball is the perfect remedy. They are large and robust and your dog can move them around using their chest and head. You can train non-herding breeds to play with them as well. Dogs can spend hours herding balls around a garden and can get plenty of exercise. Here’s a no-nonsense guide to why you may want to invest in a herding ball and what to look out for when you buy one.
Best Dog Herding Balls Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Consider When Buying a Dog Herding Ball
Just about every dog loves to play with a ball but they do so in different ways. Some like to chase them, some like to chew them and some like to herd them. Here are some of the things that you should consider before you select a ball for your dog.
- What is it made of?
Any ball that is designed for dogs needs to be tough. Most are made from a hard, polyethylene plastic which dogs cannot destroy. Indestructible dog toys will last. They are available in a variety of colours and some are embossed with a design although others are shiny to make them even more difficult to chew. Some owners have reported that the herding balls can become sharp where their dog’s teeth have scored the surface but this can be sanded off quite easily.
- What size is it?
The whole point of toys for herding dogs is that your dog pushes them around the place with their chest and nose. It needs to be big enough to stop them getting in their mouth. Some dog balls are made from special material that will not puncture when bitten and these tend to be smaller. There may be a size guide provided with the ball.
- How durable is it?
It has to be able to withstand a lot of rough play. It will be played with outside where there could be sharp surfaces and they get knocked around a lot. There will inevitably be some attempts at biting it. However, it is important to remember that even though it is durable, it is not a chew toy and will not satisfy your dog’s need to chew. Puppies, in particular, will need another chew toy for this.
- Has it got a handle or a plug?
Some balls have a handle or a plug that sticks out. It is possible for dogs to get obsessed with these and chew them or carry the ball around using them. This is not such a good idea because it can damage the ball and can damage your dog’s teeth.
- How heavy is it?
The toys for herding dogs are not generally designed for indoor use. They are too robust to be herded around a house and would end up damaging furniture. If you want a ball for indoor use, one of the smaller balls in this review would be more suitable.
- What is it filled with?
Herding balls are not just filled with air like ordinary balls. Some models can be filled with water or even sand or gravel. This makes them heavier and makes them move around more like another animal which makes it more realistic for your dog. However, it means that they are even more unsuitable to be used indoors and if you try to kick or throw them you could end up hurting yourself.
- Will it float?
Some of the foam-based balls will float on water and so they can be used for fun water games at the river or the beach. Remember to make your dog’s safety a priority when playing in open water.
- Does it come with a guarantee?
Perhaps your dog will be the one that actually manages to break the ball? You may want to check the manufacturer’s guarantee to see what your rights are with tough dog toys.
Benefits of Giving Your Dog a Herding Ball to Play With
Dogs love to play with toys and will frequently steal footballs and tennis balls from their owners and destroy them in a day, or less. There are plenty of benefits of investing in a durable herding ball for your fun-loving furry friend!
It won’t break
Dog toys have to be durable because a dog’s teeth are tough! This is one toy that will last for ages and will not have to be replaced every week. They will continue to try to break it and that keeps them amused!
Your dog can’t bite it
The larger herding balls are 14 inches in diameter and made from tough plastic material. It is virtually impossible for a dog to get a grip of it in their teeth and that means that they can’t bite it. Instead they chase it around the place and this gives them plenty of exercise.
They can express their natural instinct
A herding breed of dog will want to herd! If there are no livestock around they will try to herd other objects or humans. That can get pretty annoying. A herding ball for dogs allows them to act instinctively and that makes them happy. If they cannot express their instincts in this way, they will try to herd you around the house and will start snapping at your heels.
All breeds can get bored and a bored dog is not a great animal to have around. If your dog is not stimulated both physically and mentally it can lead to negative behaviour including:
- Excessive barking that will annoy the neighbourhood
- Chewing soft furnishings, shoes and doors
- Digging holes in the lawn
- Chasing bikes and cars that travel past your yard
An opportunity for you to bond
The herding breeds will naturally herd a ball but most other breeds can be taught to do so. Teaching your dog to herd is a great way to spend time with them and bond with them. There is even a new sport called Treibball which is gaining popularity and is played competitively. Dogs and their handlers have 15 minutes to herd eight balls into a ‘goal’. Learning to do this at home is a lot of fun – for both of you!
Q: What is a dog herding ball?
A: Herding balls are tough and usually large balls that are specifically designed for dogs to move around. Normal footballs simply aren’t tough enough to withstand the constant biting and are just the right size to fit in a dog’s mouth. Herding balls are usually made of tough material that does not give way when it is bitten. The balls are so big that your dog will find it very hard to bite them.
Q: What kinds of dogs should use a herding ball?
A: Herding dogs are bred to chase and control livestock and instinctively want to do this to just about any object they come across. They are known for being highly intelligent and they do not like to be unchallenged! A herding dog that cannot herd will soon get bored, frustrated and destructive and a herding ball for dogs is the perfect solution. Some of the typical herding dog breeds are:
- German Shepherd
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- Australian Shepherd
- Shetland Sheep Dog
- Border Collie
- Swedish Vallhund
It’s not just the herding breeds that would benefit from a herding ball. Any energetic breed can be taught to herd a ball and it will be great exercise for them and keep them entertained for hours.
Q: How can I train my dog to herd a ball?
A: All you need to train your dog to herd a ball is patience and a few supplies. Make sure that you have plenty of time to go into your yard or garden with some rewards for your pooch. You obviously need a herding ball and something that you can use as a goal. Goal posts are ideal but a couple of poles in the ground will suffice.
The touch method is a good training approach. Start by teaching your pup to touch your hand and reward them each time they do it. It may take some time for them to get the idea. Then move on to them touching a post-it note on your hand. Next, place the note on the ball and gradually make the note smaller and smaller until your pup is touching the ball without a post-it note being attached. Then introduce some herding commands such as ‘come by’ and ‘away’ to get them to bring the ball to you or move it away from you. Remember you will need plenty of treats and don’t rush it.
Once they can move one ball around, you can introduce other balls and eventually you can work up to getting a full eight balls into a goal. The fun does not have to stop there. You can work together on increasing the speed. Before you know it, you’ll be entering competitions!
Q: What size is right for my dog?
A: Most herding balls are large. They are meant to be too big for your dog to get inside their mouth and therefore do not get bitten or punctured. They are usually available in several sizes so it is important that you get one that is big enough to avoid getting chewed. Most of the larger herding breeds like German Shepherds will need a 14-inch ball.
There are some tough balls available that can withstand chewing and 10-inch balls are recommended for breeds such as Great Dane and Bull Mastiffs. At the other end of the scale, a four-inch ball is perfect for a Jack Russell. They do not puncture when chewed and maintain their shape.
Our Top Pick
Jolly Pets Push-n-Play
Our pick of best dog herding ball is just what you need for your energetic dog or for one of the herding breeds. The hard, durable plastic resists bites and the ball is so big it is hard for your dog to get its mouth around. It would suit dogs over 110 pounds who are bursting with energy. It can be filled with gravel, sand or water and you can choose from three bright colors.