The Reason Your Dog Goes Wild Over Tennis Balls


Jun. 8 2023, Published 7:13 p.m. ET

Dogs are known to chase after and pounce upon tennis balls — often to the exhaustion of their humans, who are forced to toss the ball a hundred times. As a dog parent you can see the obvious thrill in your dog's body language when you throw a tennis ball. But have you ever wondered why dogs love tennis balls so much?

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Just what is happening inside a dog's brain is often a mystery, of course. But humans have still managed to figure out a few things about our canine friends, and if you're curious about the reasons for your dog's excitement whenever the tennis ball comes out, check out these findings.

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Most dogs enjoy the chase.

Dogs tend to like chasing moving objects, which some attribute to their innate "prey drive," or desire to pursue and catch prey, as PetHelpful explains. Chasing a tennis ball can be a substitute for living prey, and since not all breeds have an equal level of prey drive, certain dogs may enjoy chasing tennis balls more than others. A dog can simply be inspired by the rapid movement of the ball, and catching it may feel like catching a small wild animal.

Chasing after a moving target, and succeeding by catching it, can stimulate the reward centers in a dog's brain, Dogtime notes. Basically, dogs enjoy the thrill of the chase as well as the moment they capture the target, whether it's live prey or a tennis ball. Endorphins and dopamine make the dog happy throughout the process.

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The color of tennis balls could make them easy for dogs to see.

Since dogs can detect a limited color spectrum, blue or yellow tennis balls may be easiest for them to spot. When you throw a blue or yellow tennis ball, it likely will contrast nicely with the green of their outdoor surroundings.

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Dogs enjoy the act of chewing.

It's pretty universally understood that most dog breeds love to chew on things. This can be especially prevalent during the puppy stages, but often continues throughout the dog's life. Tennis balls are just one of many toys that dogs love to chomp down on, possibly in part due to their instinct to attack prey and in part simply for the sensation of chewing.

Since tennis balls aren't the toughest items around, you may want to check out these great dog chew toys as alternatives. In particular, aggressive chewers can destroy a tennis ball in a matter of minutes, which makes a mess and can be dangerous to your dog.

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Supervise your dog's time with tennis balls.

Although tennis balls present a fun diversion for your dog, it's important to monitor dogs with tennis balls. The American Kennel Club (AKC) warns that tennis balls pose a choking risk from the ball themselves and the fuzz coating them. In addition, the fuzz can be abrasive on dogs' teeth, which could wear down their teeth.

Be sure to teach dogs the "drop" command so you can get a tennis ball away from them quickly without endangering your dog — or yourself. If your dog can't stop obsessive chewing, a tennis ball may not be the best toy.

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