Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Art of Playing Ball - Is Your Dog a Natural Athlete?

The picture of a dog playing with their favorite ball is a classic. Is it not true that playing fetch every dog's favorite past time? Although many canine companions have a favorite ball and love to play, playing fetch is not necessarily an ingrown talent. Some dogs are a natural, some need to be taught, and others just either have no interest or don't understand the need for play.

Working as a dog walker and pet sitter I have many doggie friends with a wide variety of different personalities.  Some greet me at the door, ball in mouth, insisting on a few throws before we head out to walk. Others live to play ball, opting for a short walk for the "necessities" and then out to the yard for a lively game of fetch.

My Sheltie, Dallas, sees no need for play. As a pup, I spent a lot of time with her in an attempt to teach her to love a great game of fetch. But Dallas is a herding dog and always on the job.  I would throw, she would run, and then quickly get distracted by a squirrel, bird, blowing leaf...anything that moved she felt she needed to herd. Her inbred instinct would take over and she would forget all about the thrown object but obediently run back to me, happy as can be , without the ball.

Though some dogs are born athletes and just seem to instinctively know how to play ball with ease others may need a little instruction to master the game of fetch.

A few simple rules:

  • Introduce your pup to playing ball at a young age. When they are old enough to focus and take some commands they are ready.
  • Throw the ball and give a command (ex: "fetch" or "go get").
  • When your pup is successful in bringing the ball back give lots of praise. Make playing a fun experience.
  • Refuse to take the ball if it turns into a "tug of war" between you and your dog. Instead, give the command "drop it" and only resume play when the ball is released from your dog's mouth.
The correct ball can make all the difference:
  • Choose an appropriate size ball for your pup and, if necessary, change it to a larger or more sturdy one as your dog grows.
  • If your dog is a chewer, or a breed with a strong jaw, only use balls made from tough materials that won't tear.
  • If tennis balls are your dog's ball of choice be sure not to allow your dog to eat the "fuzz" off the ball and be sure to provide a new one as soon as the ball shows wear.  Eating the outside of the tennis ball can be a choking hazard or cause stomach and intestinal issues if swallowed.
Whether it be a lively game of fetch or a long walk, enjoying time together with your pup is always time well spent.


  1. Our first Golden would look at us after we had thrown a ball with the attitude "You threw the ball, you go get it". The Golden we have today wants to play ball 24/7!

  2. Our Dakota is a Sheltie too and most of the time if we throw the ball he WILL bring it back. He also likes to tease US and has US chase HIM when he has the ball!