What dog doesn’t love playing with a ball? Find out how to choose the safest and most durable product for your canine companion.
“Who wants to play ball?” usually elicits a burst of frantic energy, tail wags and head-jerking barks. Playing with your dog is a great bonding experience, and balls are a perennial favorite for activities such as fetch and retrieving games, played both on land and in water. They’re also a good training tool. But choosing a safe, durable ball can be challenging, considering the vast number of products on the market. Read on for some tips to help you find your way towards a smart purchase.
Nix the tennis ball
The most common ball given to dogs is the tennis ball. According to some veterinarians, however, tennis balls are unsafe for canine companions. The fuzz that covers them is abrasive and can wear your dog’s teeth down to the nerves. As an alternative, the Air Kong Squeaker looks like a tennis ball, but it’s covered in a non-abrasive material that won’t eat away at your dog’s teeth. It also contains a securely-concealed squeaker for extra fun.
Some vinyl and plastic balls contain toxic materials such as di-isononyl phthalate (DINP), lead, mercury and cadmium, which can cause cancer and liver damage. To ensure your dog’s safety, look for balls made of non-toxic natural rubber or latex materials. Also consider your dog’s size, strength and activity level. Is he an aggressive chewer who tears apart any toy you give him in just a few days or even hours?
The Orbee-Tuff Ball On a Rope is made from a hard non-toxic material suited to tough chewers. This product is recyclable, floats in the water and rinses clean. “Nontoxic construction is a must,” says Terry Fisk of Show and Sport. “The Orbee-Tuff has two air holes to prevent vacuum effects. It’s an appropriate size to prevent swallowing or accidental airway obstruction. It’s tough enough to prevent the dog from chewing pieces off while its semi-soft density prevents injury to the teeth.”
A lot of dogs need mental as well as physical stimulation. To meet this need, some ball products offer extra features to help keep canines interested and engaged. For example, the Huck Ball from Doggies Unlimited has a grooved shape that makes it jump in all kinds of crazy directions. “It’s made from our extremely durable Zogoflex material, which makes it a good choice for dogs that may have a tendency to chew through a traditional ball,” adds Mary Paoli.
Many balls are made with a lot of bells and whistles – literally! The Bird Ball is great if your dog loves toys that make noise. It doesn’t squeak, but whistles and chirps when thrown through the air. It’s made primarily of EVA plastic, a non-toxic, flexible and durable material. Its bright colors make it easy to locate on land or in water. The wings on the sides of the ball make it accessible to dogs of all sizes. “Bird Ball is the same size as a tennis ball, and because it has small winged appendages, it is suitable as a fetch toy for small or large dogs,” says Justin G. Hill. “Big dogs can retrieve the toy by grabbing the whole ball in their mouth, and small dogs can grab hold of the wings.”
One of the beauties of a ball is that it encourages interactive play between you and your dog. Choosing a product that’s safe, durable, fun and colorful makes the time you spend together even better!
Extra safety tips
• Avoid buying balls that have polystyrene or nutshells inside them.
• Make sure that squeakers are well hidden to prevent accidental ingestion.
• Look for unsafe parts by pulling on anything that sticks out or makes noise, to ensure they won’t come off easily in your dog’s mouth.
Sara Jackson lives on a 12-acre farm in American Canyon, just outside the Napa Valley. She is a graduate from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and has a B.F.A. in Screenwriting. She is also a freelance writer for several publications, and has written on a range of topics from politics to animal rights. She has also written a number of short stories and two horror scripts which are being read by two production companies in England. Her first book, Jack's Dreams Come To Life, was published in 2009.