Tennis balls are a common toy for dogs, regardless of the design’s original intents. Why do dogs gravitate to tennis balls, why do these balls resonate with dogs everywhere? Whether it is due to anxiety, compulsive chewing, or just a way to alleviate boredom, dogs everywhere find their way into tearing tennis balls up all over the yard. These fixations can often come from everyday games. Playing fetch with tennis balls will reinforce the behavior and encourage them to continue to destroy tennis balls and the like. During younger years, chewing is pretty common during the teething process and whatever you put that fixation on, be it tennis balls or antlers, can move into their later years out of habit or boredom.
The Root of the Behavior
A simple game of fetch in early years can inadvertently teach your dog that chewing on tennis balls is good, and reinforce that behavior. In truth, a tennis ball is not likely to cause any harm to your dog and are relatively cheap and replaceable, so there are worse things your dog could want to chew on. Boredom causes dogs to do odd things, simple because they have nothing better to do. If chewing on a tennis ball can help them to pass the time, then often they will do just that. In this case, offering a tennis ball to chew on may be the better alternative, as many use tennis balls and the like as toys or a way for your dog to spend some time. Dogs often chew on things compulsively. This is typically in dogs with high levels of stress or rapidly changing environments. Introducing new people or pets into the household can exacerbate these issues. Your stress levels can easily rub off on your dog, and if you find yourself highly anxious or stressed, this could be leading your dog to engage in compulsive chewing behaviors. Tennis balls don't cost much and are easily replaceable. Many dog owners would be jealous that your dog chews on those instead of tearing your pillows to pieces.
Say you are a tennis player, though. What if you care about your tennis balls and want to get your friend to stop tearing them all to pieces? There are definitely ways to go about it. Products are available to curb the attraction of certain fixations. A trainer or behavioral specialist can help a great deal, and installing some best practices around your house can change the behavior of most dogs. However, can tennis balls harm your dog? Is it important that you change this behavior?
Encouraging the Behavior
A number of anti-chew sprays are available and work to varying degrees. These sprays are intended to imitate a repulsive smell and taste to canines, and so when they go to chew on them they find it to be disgusting and therefor drop the chewing behavior all together. These sprays however do not work on all dogs, as some just simply do not care. On some of the dogs it does work well with, the compulsive behaviors simply move from one target to another. If you spray your tennis balls down, then they just chew on your couch instead. Proper training and best practices are the most effective way to deal with any compulsive behavior issues. Providing a suitable chew toy will work to focus their attentions, and then giving it to them less and less over time works well to stop chewing in general. If they are young, then letting them chew on the tennis ball may just be your best bet. It is relatively safe and as the teething process completes then the need to chew will typically subside, it probably won’t even take many tennis balls. Just a bit of time is the best cure for the pains of the teething process.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Contact a behavioral specialist or trainer to find your best way forward and to learn more about chewing habits in general. Making a comfortable area they can retreat to when they are scared and stressed can do a lot to reduce chewing in general. Many dog owners use a kennel for this type of thing, but a dog bed works well. Leave a few toys around the house they enjoy so your dog has a way to spend some of their time without chewing everything away! These distractions can provide a lot of relief since dogs often chew on things simply because they have nothing better to do.
Overall, chewing on tennis balls is unlikely to hurt your dog. During their young life, it is actually a common and suitable behavior while they are teething. Once their teeth are grown in your dog will typically stop chewing in general, but can certainly be trained if they do not stop chewing of their own accord. Dogs with high stress and anxiety are more likely to be chewers as chewing reduces stress and anxiety.