Playing ball games with your dog is one of the best ways to strengthen your bond while providing them with much-needed physical and mental stimulation. Dogs naturally love to run, jump, chase, and retrieve, making ball sports an ideal activity for our canine companions.

Floyd from Pickleballify says that the key is finding the right types of ball games that match your particular dog's size, energy level, abilities, and interests. With so many fun ball games to choose from, you're sure to find several that you and your dog will enjoy playing together.

Fetch - A Classic Ball Game Dogs Love

Fetch is likely the most well-known and beloved ball game for dogs. This classic game never seems to get old for most pooches. It provides great exercise as they run to chase the ball or toy. Playing fetch also satisfies your dog's innate desire to chase after prey.

To play a simple game of fetch, all you need is a ball or dog toy and some open space. A backyard is a common place, but you can play it just about anywhere. Start by throwing the ball or toy a short distance away from your dog. Give the command "Fetch!" as they take off running after it. Your dog will pick up the toy in their mouth and excitedly bring it back, anticipating you throwing it again. 

You can make fetch more challenging and engaging by throwing the ball farther distances, incorporating obstacles for your dog to run around, or using balls that bounce unpredictably to make your dog work harder. Rotating different types of balls and squeaky toys will also help keep the game interesting for your pup. Just make sure the ball is sized appropriately, so your dog can pick it up and carry it.

Soccer - A Fun Twist on Fetch

If your dog loves chasing and biting soccer balls, turning a game of fetch into a soccer match can be a fun way to exercise and bond. Use a size-appropriate soccer ball that your dog can easily grab in their mouth. Kick the ball around an open yard or field and encourage your dog to run after it. 

When they've stopped the ball, prompt them to bring it back to you for their next "goal." Some dogs even learn how to dribble the soccer ball with their nose or paws to keep it moving! Always reward your pup with praise or a treat when they pass the ball back to you. This helps reinforce the retrieval.

Teaching Your Dog to Play Basketball

While it takes plenty of patience and practice, you can teach your dog to put a basketball through a hoop. Start small with a short basketball hoop set low to the ground. Use a mini basketball or volleyball sized for a dog's mouth. Gently guide your dog to touch and nose the ball towards the hoop, using treats to mark and reward progress. 

Verbally praise as the ball goes through the net. Once your dog gets the hang of a close-range drop-in shot, slowly increase the distance from the hoop. You can also gradually raise the hoop height over time as their skills improve. A dog nailing a basketball shot is an impressive trick sure to impress friends and family!

Disc Tossing for Endless Fun

Specially designed dog Frisbees allow you to play disc golf and target tossing games with your pooch for endless entertainment. Look for soft, flexible frisbees made of durable, high-quality materials. To introduce your dog to catching a disc, start by rolling it along the ground in front of them until they get the hang of picking it up in their mouth. Once they’ve mastered grabbing it, begin tossing a very short distance for your dog to catch. 

Use an underhand gentle throwing motion and verbal praise to boost their confidence. Slowly increase the Frisbee tossing distance as your dog’s skills improve. Work up to longer distances and different angles. You can also teach them to bring the disc back each time. Discs offer great aerobic exercise and mental stimulation.

Backyard Agility Fun

Incorporate ball toys into a homemade backyard agility course to add an extra fun challenge for your pup. Set up a simple course including tunnels, low hurdles or poles, and other safe obstacles in your yard. Weave the course through trees, around lawn furniture, under picnic tables - get creative! 

Then toss a ball or disc toy over the various obstacles for your dog to chase after and retrieve. As your dog navigates through the course, it will help improve their speed, agility, coordination, and confidence. Finish with verbal praise and treat rewards. Rotate different ball toys to keep backyard agility playtime engaging.

Important Tips for Safe and Enjoyable Play

While playing high-energy ball sports with your dog can be very rewarding, there are some important considerations:

  • Always match the intensity and duration of playtime to your dog’s current fitness abilities. Start short if they’re out of shape.
  • Take regular water and rest breaks to prevent overexertion or overheating.
  • Monitor for signs your dog is tiring or losing interest like lagging, panting excessively, or lack of retrieval.
  • Avoid playing fetch or other chasing games with dogs that have arthritis or joint issues.
  • Rotate a variety of ball toys and games to keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated.

The key is adjusting the games to be energetic enough for fun yet safe for your canine companion. Ball sports provide great exercise, mental challenges, and most importantly - bonding time with your beloved dog!


Playing ball sports allows you to strengthen your relationship with your dog while unleashing fun for both of you. From classic fetch to backyard agility, there are so many engaging ball games to enjoy with your pup. Experiment to find which types of balls and sports your dog loves most. Just be sure to keep playtime active but safe. Ball games are a great way to enhance the bond with your furry best friend while keeping them healthy and happy!