Dog Ball Skills

Canine love affair with these toys is revealing
By Karen B. London PhD, October 2017

There are dogs who will play to the point of exhaustion with just about any kind of ball. Understanding dogs’ relationship with these toys tells you quite a bit about who they are. Even in a 25-second video of a dog playing with a soccer ball, you can see a lot about what makes them tick.

It’s amazing how much fun dogs can have by interacting with anything that’s round and that rolls. So many dogs live for the chase, and without a live squirrel in their toy box, balls have a tendency to become priority one. There is great joy to be had by following a ball, even by many dogs who don’t like to fetch.

Dogs are fast. This is not exactly stop-the-presses news, but I still often find myself saying, “Wow!” The speed of dogs makes them fun to watch, though it’s this speed that can make many backyards too small for them to truly make use of this talent. Whenever I see a dog running at high speed, I am reminded again how amazingly fast they are, and what a kindness it is to find spaces for them to really turn on the jets.

Dogs can maintain amazing focus if something interests them. Many dogs show moderate interest in various objects, but when they have access to something that really excites them, their focus can be intense. It’s worth finding out what your dog’s true passion is, because the opportunity to pursue it (sometimes quite literally!) may be a source of great satisfaction.

The agility of dogs is incredible. There’s nothing like a little ball play to allow dogs to show off their athleticism. The ability of the dog in the video to accelerate, decelerate, turn and run, all while controlling a ball, is impressive, and yet many dogs have skills this good or even better.

The love affair that many dogs have with balls is extraordinary. Balls make many dogs deliriously happy, and a side benefit is the fun we can have watching a dog experience such rapture. Are you blessed with a dog who loves to play with balls?

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.