Is Your Dog Ball Obsessed?

is your dog ball obsessed

Is you dog completely and utterly ball obsessed? Do they love a ball more than just about anything else? From those plastic ball throwers to Nerf guns that launch tennis balls and even automatic ball launchers, there’s something about these games that dogs find irresistible.

In every pet shop, there will be those plastic ball throwers in a multitude of colours – there are even some dog-friendly hotels that give them away with every stay. At every park up and down the country, there will be happy dogs tearing off after yet another tennis. Everyone uses them, dogs love them, they must be good, surely?

Is your dog ball obsessed
Is your dog ball obsessed

Is throwing the ball good for dogs?

Balls can be a useful tool for playtime and for training your dog, they are cheap, easy to carry and are a simple way to tire out your dog. 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 ball obsessed, to the point where they aren’t at all interested anything else.  Repeatedly chasing after a ball encourages your dog to run at high speeds, often with little to no warm-up for their joints, and results in sharp (hard) twists, turns and sudden braking which all put your dog at high risk of injury. This becomes even worse, using one of those plastic launchers, where the ball is effortless and repeatedly flung to the horizon.

In addition to the physical effects, your dog’s excessive excitement and ball obsession can result in reactivity, difficulty concentrating, and possessive/aggressive behaviours.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should get rid of the ball altogether. In fact, if your dog is motivated by the ball, it can serve as a powerful reward.  We some slight modifications you can harness your dog’s love for the ball in a positive way, allowing you to avoid the drawbacks and cultivate a healthy bond through ball games.

alternative to throwing a ball

Using your dog’s ball obsession positively

Have you ever wondered why dogs become ball obsessed to the point where they can’t concentrate on their training or any other type of activity? We don’t get to choose what our dogs find rewarding – and many dogs are hard-wired to want to play fetch. If your dog loves a ball, that’s fine! And it can be used positively to reward your dog, keep their attention around distractions and to give them physical AND mental stimulation. You can absolutely use a ball with your dog without doing it to the detriment of their joints or their behaviour. 

If you are concerned about your dogs behaviour when playing with a ball, if they are barking or resource guards it from other dogs or you, please get in touch.

Here are 5 tips to help 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 the ball in your pocket or out of sight in a bag when out at the park and only bringing it out when you are ready to start a game of fetch. 

If you want to address your ball obsessed dog, then reducing the time they spend practising and reinforcing their ball addiction will help a lot. 

2. Have a ‘finish time – and stick to it.

After your dog has enjoyed playing with their ball for a period of time you’re happy with (5 minutes can be plenty!), 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. If you need some help with this, get in touch and I will send you my ‘Drop’ worksheet.

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. Alternative games.

Balls can be great fun, but their use as a training aid for learning new skills and behaviours is limited. Here are some games you can try at the park that are safe and enjoyable for your dog:

Find it: Find a nice spot in the grass and throw the ball. Hold your dog by their collar or harness, then release them to find the ball. This game reduces the speed at which your dog chases the ball and puts less pressure on their joints.

Hide and Seek: Use a treat ball like The Clam from Tug-e-Nuff, which holds treats inside. This provides mental stimulation for your dog as they have to sniff out the ball and open it to retrieve their reward.

Tug and Fetch: Use a dog ball on a rope to play two games in one. Throw the ball a short distance, let your dog fetch it, and then reward them with a game of tug when they bring the ball back.

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!

5.    Understand your dog

Although many of us believe that our dogs are ball obsessed because they enjoy chasing and retrieving, the reality is that what dogs truly find rewarding about playing with balls may vary according to their breed. By observing your dog’s traits and behaviour, you can discover what it is that makes fetch so rewarding for them. This knowledge can then be used to incorporate the ball into their playtime positively and beneficially.

Gundog breeds (spaniels, Labradors, HPR’s) are born to retrieve, pick it up and bring it back. It’s what they were bred for. But a gundog who was bred to retrieve gets a lot of satisfaction from carrying their prey. – so let them carry the ball for a while rather than just repeatedly retrieve it. 

Collies and other herding breeds love to control movement. ! They are bred to want to stop the movement of the ball – they are basically rounding it up. –  so throw the ball to them rather than away from them, and they’ll get the dopamine hit without the damage. 

Terriers? Well, they likely want to shred the ball and tear it to pieces! NB – another fact about tennis balls in particular is most are made from a toxic, abrasive materials that are REALLY bad for your dog’s teeth. A super tough chaser tug toy would be so much better!


You don’t need to ditch your dog’s ball entirely, but to help a ball obsessed dog stay safe I highly recommend that you approach it more mindfully for your dog’s physical and mental health. I’d love it if you’d share this blog to help other dog lovers learn more. 

About The Blog

We are Activdogs. We love helping people and their dogs to have the very best relationships, together.

Subscribe for Updates


More Posts