Help! My Dog Is Obsessed With Balls!
Tennis balls. Footballs. Rubber balls. Some dogs just can’t get enough of anything that’s round and rolls.
Balls can be a useful tool for playtime and for training your dog (particularly if you’re a flyball fan!). They’re cheap and can easily be taken out and about on walks for a rewarding game of fetch and plenty of exercise.
The trouble starts when a dog becomes obsessed with balls, to the point where they aren’t at all interested in other dog toys and they can’t concentrate on their training or any other type of activity.
Some dogs can even get tunnel vision when their ball is thrown, bounding after it and knocking anything (and anyone) out of the way, and ignoring your commands as they do so.
Sound familiar? If the answer’s yes, then it could be time to make a plan for establishing boundaries for your dog’s playtime with a ball so they can follow commands and focus better during training.
Here are our top 4 tips for helping your ball obsessed dog:
1. Limit access to your dog's ball
If your dog is never seen without their ball in their mouth, and likes to constantly drop it at your feet to be thrown, it might help to put some limits on their time with a ball and play with it on your terms, not theirs.
Try keeping their favourite balls in a box and bringing them out once or twice a day for a play session. Or opt for a ball that's slightly less appealing - such as a ball without a squeaker.
If you want to address your dog's ball obsession, then reducing the time they spend practising and reinforcing their ball addiction will help a lot.
2. Have a ‘finish’ time – and mean it
After your dog has enjoyed playing with their ball for a period of time you’re happy with (15 minutes can be plenty!), tell them with your choice of command that the game is over and then put the ball away. The key here is to stick to a set period of time and when you say the game is over, and mean it!
Try not to go from a high intensity game of fetch to stopping cold turkey! Lowering your dog’s arousal level by switching to an alternative ball game such as ‘find it’ or rolling the ball along the ground gently will help bring your dog’s obsession levels down a notch so they can give the ball up.
3. Teach your dog to drop the ball
When playtime is over, work on teaching your dog to ‘give’ back their ball.
You can try holding their ball and when they let it go say ‘give’ and reward them with a treat. Keep practising until you only need to hold out your hand. Of course, always train positively using positive reinforcement methods.
If your dog is very ball obsessed and refuses to drop their ball, The Clam is a brilliant training aid.
It’s round and can be thrown just like a ball, and it has a magical secret compartment for filling with treats that your dog can help themselves to, so you can train from a distance.
You can use this to help teach your dog to drop their ball, since they’ll be more eager to return it to you to be refilled with treats!
Make sure when you’re training your dog to drop the ball, you frequently reward with another game of fetch so your dog doesn’t begin to expect the ball being packed away the second they give it up.
4. Introduce alternative games to fetch
Balls can be great fun, but their use as a training aid for learning new skills and behaviours is limited. At Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear, we make a range of motivational and interactive training toys for dogs of all shapes and sizes that can be used for all types of training – and some of them are particularly popular with ball-obsessed dogs.
Our Powerball range is excellent for encouraging ball obsessed dogs to enjoy playing tug. With a tough dog ball on the end, and a tuggy handle, you can use your Powerball toy to play fetch AND tug.
Our dog frisbees are another great alternative to playing fetch with a ball. They float a little more gently, reducing the intensity of the chase but still providing lots of fun! Our frisbees are compact and foldable, and tough enough to tug. They're also waterproof and tear resistant.
Real fur taps into a dog’s in-built hunting instincts and can prove irresistible, particularly those who don’t show an interest in ‘ordinary’ toys.
If a ball is your dog’s number one motivator, but you want to use it in a more constructive way, our sheepskin chaser with tennis ball is a game changer! It has a bungee handle which takes the impact out of playing tug, keeping you and your dog comfortable as you partake in their new favourite game.
Our bungee food bag was our first ever dog training aid. Our own dog Indy wasn't interested in play at all. She had some behavioural issues and my Mum invented this food toy to encourage her to play. You pop treats inside the bag and this added incentive can power up play drive in even play shy dogs.
If you want to wean your dog off of their ball obsession, this one is a great choice!
7 games to play with your dog (that aren't fetch)
There are tons of games you can play with your dog that go beyond fetch. They will help boost your bond, engage your dog's brain and improve commands too. If you're in need of some inspiration, check out these 7 game ideas to try:
Some breeds are more predisposed than others to be obsessed with playing fetch. Learn more about what drives this behaviour in our blog on why your dog loves to play fetch.