Features August 2001 Issue

Best Dog Ball Brands for Playing Fetch

The bounciest, shiniest, sturdiest toys around.

Few among us have not at one time or another hefted a ball, drawn our arm back, and pitched it with all of our strength while urging our dog to retrieve. Dogs across the decades have obligingly charged after the small round prey-object and eagerly brought it back for another go. What is it about the basic ball that brings joy to canine and human hearts alike?

A rousing game of fetch is a team sport; it requires a thrower and a retriever. Dog and owner work together, or the game doesn’t happen. This partnered activity helps to cement the dog/human relationship. It’s also a perfect outlet for a dog’s excess energy. The ball-fetching dog gets to satisfy his hard-wired instinct to chase and catch prey, while benefiting from the regular exercise that promotes good physical and mental health. Besides, there is something intrinsically soul-satisfying about watching a dog in hot pursuit of a ball, stretching his legs in full flight across open space, whether it’s with the lithe grace of a sighthound, the determined strides of a retriever, or the scrabbling charge of a stubby-legged terrier.

Once upon a time, the tennis ball was the ubiquitous dog toy. In recent years, dog-toy makers have waxed creative; today’s canine consumers have an impressive variety to select from. There are little balls, big balls, rubber balls, plastic balls, balls on ropes, balls that float, balls that make noise, and balls that dispense treats, to mention just a few. What are the qualities that distinguish average balls from super balls? We compared our past favorites with some newer models from pet store shelves and the pages of pet supply catalogs.

We settled on the following criteria to use in our search for the perfect ball: durability, safety, aesthetic appeal (canine and human), and, of course, value – cost compared to function. The ideal ball is indestructible, endlessly engaging, and not all that expensive! The perfect orb serves many purposes – as a training tool, fetch toy, or a prop for tricks. The safest ball may also keep Fido self-entertained when the humans are gone (see “Safety First,” below.) Like all dog toys, the best balls will invite attention and play from both dog and human, and should be priced affordably and consistent with their quality.

We selected nine new balls to test, choosing products that appeared to fit our criteria, and tested each to see if they fulfilled their promise. We also re-examined three of our favorites from past reviews. Here are our findings:

Click here to view the Product Rating Guide.

Click here to view the Ball Product Reviews.

Click here to view "Safety First."

 

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