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Let’s talk about the best alternative to tennis balls for dogs!
Because if your dog is as ball crazy as my 75 lb pup Buzz used to be, chances are you can’t keep up with the amount of tennis balls he goes through.
…unless you live close to tennis courts and pick up the lost tennis balls that players maneuver outside of the courts!
That’s actually what Buzz and I used to do back when we lived in D.C. suburbia for a couple of years. It was super convenient because we were guaranteed to find at least a couple per day.
At first I was stoked that we discovered a free source of tennis balls for Buzz!
But unfortunately, he also destroyed them almost as quickly as we found them because tennis balls are clearly not made to hold up to dog teeth – and especially not to those of a large pup like Buzz.
I mean, they’re made of a soft material for a reason – to play tennis with, not baseball!
And Buzz wasn’t even trying to destroy them because he was super motivated to play fetch with his humans.
So he learned real quick that the sooner he brought the ball back to us and dropped it at our feet, the quicker he’d be able to run after it!
Either way, since tennis balls didn’t cut it for us because of their short lived existence around Buzz, I went to find alternatives to tennis balls for dogs.
When I did, I also learned about potential hazards of tennis balls for dogs I hadn’t considered before.
Did You Know: tennis balls and frisbees are on the “not allowed” list as toys for guide dog puppies in training at our school. Why? Because tennis balls and frisbees are used in public so frequently we don’t want our puppies getting an unhealthy obsession over these items.
The Drawbacks of Tennis Balls For Dogs
While their short lifespan is more of an inconvenience, the fuzzy felt they’re covered with can actually cause several issues in dogs.
For example, if they manage to tear it off and swallow the fuzz, it can cause gastrointestinal problems like obstruction or irritation in the digestive tract.
Also, because of the abrasive nature of tennis balls, if a dog chews repeatedly on the felt surface it can lead to dental problems. Like wearing down the enamel and irritating the gums.
Some tennis balls also contain dyes or glues that can be harmful if dogs ingest them.
Thankfully, Buzz never ate the fuzz nor chewed on the balls because he really wanted to play with them rather than take them apart.
But I sure have seen client pups go to town on tennis balls back in my professional pet sitting days.
And yes, I did remove them and talked to their owners about safer dog toys!
5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Dog Toys
Which brings me to the next section I want to talk to you about – how do we know if a given dog toy is safe for our furry loves?
After all, there’s SO MANY dog toys to choose from these days.
Well, you’ll want to consider your pup’s size, activity level and chewing style when selecting toys for them.
That said, ask yourself all of the following before you buy any given dog toy as an alternative to tennis balls for dogs:
- Is the size appropriate? Consider the size of your dog and choose toys that are appropriate in size to ensure safe play and minimize the risk of choking hazards.
- How durable is it? Look for dog toys that are made from durable materials like rubber and that are designed to withstand your dog’s chewing habits. This will help prevent the toy from easily breaking apart and becoming a potential choking hazard.
- Does it cater to high energy or low energy dogs? Think about your dog’s energy level and play style. Active and high-energy dogs benefit from toys that encourage physical exercise, such as balls for fetching or rope toys for tug-of-war.
- Is it made for your dog’s age? Different toys are designed with different age groups in mind. Puppies may require softer toys to soothe their teething gums, while adult dogs may enjoy more interactive or mentally stimulating toys.
- What about safety features? Ensure that the toys you choose have appropriate safety features. Check for sturdy construction, no small or easily detachable parts, and non-toxic materials. Avoid toys with strings or ribbons that could pose a strangulation risk.
Since some features are more obvious than others, especially if you buy dog toys online where you can’t touch them, I suggest you spend a little time on reading reviews.
Although your dog is obviously unique, reviews from people who have dogs with similar characteristics to yours can still help you determine if the toy may be a good fit.
Best Alternatives to Tennis Balls For Dogs
Now that you have a general idea of what to pay attention to, let me share several safe alternatives to tennis balls for dogs.
They’re a mix of dog toys that worked well for my pup Buzz, but also for my current dog Wally as well as for many of my dog walking and pet sitting clients.
Chuckit balls are a wonderful alternative to tennis balls for dogs because they’re made from durable materials like natural rubber or sturdy synthetic materials.
That’s because they’re designed to withstand rough play and repeated fetching without easily breaking apart.
Besides lasting Buzz much longer than tennis balls, they’re also safer because they don’t have the felt covering.
Buzz had a few different ones:
- Large Ultra Chuckit Fetch Balls
- Chuckit The Whistler Balls
- Chuckit Max Glow (glows in the dark)
- Chuckit Ultra Squeaker Ball
- Chuckit Kick Fetch Balls
He loved them all and didn’t care one bit if it rained or not as long as he could play with his beloved Chuckit balls!
Several of my clients also had the Chuckit Ball Launcher which – admittedly – I stopped using with Buzz because the balls always went way over our fence whenever I used it.
Although I will say that it was great to keep my hands from getting all sorts of slimy! So once I stopped using it, I wore garden gloves for Buzz’s extended fetch sessions.
Client Sydney with her Chuckit Ball & Launcher
Buzz with the regular Chuckit Fetch Ball and the Chuckit Kick Fetch Ball (in the back)
Buzz playing fetch in the rain with his ChuckIt Fetch Ball. In the back: His sister Missy who didn’t share his love for balls.
Buzz with his ChuckIt Glow Ball
Buzz taking a break from playing fetch with his Chuckit Ultra Squeaker Ball
One of my Wiener clients, Zoey, also had lots of Chuckit balls, but the smaller version since she weighed a fraction of what Buzz did!
Zoey with her Chuckit balls! Isn’t she cute?!
My current pup Wally is not a fan of playing fetch, so he only has the Chuckit squeaker balls he chews on until he “kills” the squeaker.
Stuffable Kong Rubber Dog Toys
Stuffable Kong rubber dog toys are another great alternative to tennis balls for dogs.
Similar to the Chuckit balls, Kong dog toys are made from high-quality, natural rubber that is tough, non-toxic and long-lasting.
The rubber material is designed to withstand vigorous chewing and comes in different thicknesses so that it also works for power chewers.
Unlike the Chuckit balls, the stuffable Kong toys are a mix of mentally engaging and physically challenging toys for dogs.
- You can fill them with edibles like peanut butter or yogurt for an entertaining food puzzle. If you want them to last extra long, go ahead and freeze overnight.
- Once they’re empty, you can use them as a bouncy fetch toy!
Bonus: The stuffable Kong dog toys are top-rack dishwasher safe, so that makes clean up super easy.
For Buzz and his sister Missy, I had them in a variety of styles to suit them from puppyhood through their adult lives:
I also have the Kong Extreme version for my current pup Wally, and several of my client pups had them as well to keep them entertained in-between their dog walking visits.
Missy (left) and Buzz (right) with their stuffed Kong toys
Client pups Winston & Zoe with their peanut butter-stuffed frozen Kongs
One of my clients’ puppies with a puppy Kong toy
Kong Flyer Rubber Frisbee
Next on my list of recommendations for alternatives to tennis balls for dogs is the Kong Flyer Rubber Frisbee.
It’s designed to resemble a classic flying disc or frisbee and just like the stuffable Kongs, it’s made from Kong’s rubber material.
That’s what makes it both durable AND gentle on your pup’s mouth and gums compared to traditional plastic frisbees!
It also comes in different thicknesses to suit a variety of chewing styles, and Buzz – again – had them all:
Buzz (left) with his classic Kong Flyer and his sister Missy (right) at a doggie pool
One of my daily dog walking and pet sitting clients, Bailey, also had a Kong Flyer.
Before the Flyer, she had a hard plastic frisbee that caused her gums to bleed when she played fetch with it, so her owners switched it out for the rubber dog frisbee.
Client Bailey playing fetch with her (puppy) Kong Flyer
Rope Toys and Tug-of-War Options
Westpaw Zogoflex Dog Toys
The Westpaw Zogoflex dog toys also make great fetch alternatives to tennis balls for dogs.
They’re made from a proprietary material called -you guessed it – Zogoflex, which is a non-toxic and eco-friendly material designed to be tough, yet gentle on a dog’s teeth and gums.
They come in a vast variety of shapes and colors, but in my opinion, the ones below work best as dog fetch toys:
Buzz didn’t have any of these, but a few of my pet sitting clients and friends’ dogs did.
My current pup Wally also has one of them, the Air Skamp.
While he’s not into playing fetch, he does enjoy playing tug, and the Air Skamp is perfect for that, but it obviously also works for fetch.
Client pup Macy with her Zogoflex Bumi fetch toy
Playing tug with a friend’s GSD and the Zogoflex Echo Zwig toy
Playing tug with Wally and the Zogoflex Air Skamp
Tuffy Dog Toys
Last but not least on my list of fetch alternatives to tennis balls for dogs are Tuffy dog toys.
As the name suggests, they’re durable and tough dog toys designed to withstand rough play and chewing that come in all sorts of fun shapes and colors.
Tuffies are made from multiple layers of durable materials such as nylon, reinforced stitching, and strong fabrics, making them resistant to tearing and shredding.
Popular Tuffy dog toys include but are not limited to the:
Buzz didn’t have any Tuffies, but several of my clients did and my current pup Wally also has a few to play tug with.
While Tuffy dog toys aren’t made of rubber like the toys I mentioned from Chuckit, Kong and Westpaw, they’re not made of abrasive felt like tennis balls.
Bonus: They’re machine-washable because they also float and make great water toys. Plus, we all know they’re going to be slobbery at some point!
Wally with the Tuffy Boomerang
Client Stanley with his Tuffy Dinosaur Triceratops
Additional Tips and Safety Considerations
Now, while the dog toys I just mentioned are much safer than tennis balls for dogs, please remember to always supervise your pups during playtime.
There is no such thing as a totally indestructible dog toy, and of course dogs can also choke on bits and pieces of natural rubber should they try to swallow them.
Additionally, it’s also a good idea to regularly inspect your dog toys for signs of wear and tear.
Even the most durable dog toys can break at some point!
I wanted to end this list of safe dog toys by saying that some dogs can safely play with tennis balls without any issues.
However, it’s important to be mindful of the potential risks and observe your dog’s behavior closely during playtime.
If you notice any signs of discomfort, dental issues, or excessive chewing on the tennis ball, it may be wise to consider alternative toys such as the ones mentioned in this blog post.
Overall, I feel confident in saying that they are likely better suited for your dog’s safety and well-being than traditional tennis balls.
For more fun dog toys, check out our blog post Most Durable Dog Toys here!
Are you aware of additional safe alternatives to tennis balls for dogs? Let us know in the comment section below!
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