dog and ball

Safety Tips for Tennis Ball Play with Dogs

In Animal Health, Dog Behavior, Dog CPR, dog daycare owner, Dog Jobs, dog training, dog walker, Dogs, Fall pet safety, pet care professional, pet cpr, Pet Death, Pet First Aid, Pet Safety, Uncategorized, veterinarian by Cara Armour

by Arden Moore, ProPetHero Instructor Director and Master Pet First Aid/CPR Instructor

Many dogs, including my Pet Safety Dog Kona, love, love, love fetching tennis balls. Fetching ranks among the favorite of canine games. Dogs get to pursue, grab this ‘pretend’ prey and bring it back to you to toss again.

But not all tennis balls are safe. And, you do need to select carefully and always supervise playtime with tennis balls.

Depending on the size of the tennis ball and the size of the mouth of the dog, there is a major risk of tennis balls getting wedged in their mouths, blocking their airways. These dogs can collapse, even die, if you do not take an immediate pet first aid action.

But removing a tennis ball – or a slimy, hard-to-grab avocado pit – can be tricky. In our Pro Pet Hero instructor training classes, I teach students a few different “doggy Heimlich” techniques to help dogs choking on objects that need our help to dislodge.

Extracting a Tennis Ball Safely

For this blog, let’s focus on the steps needed to safely dislodge and remove a tennis ball in the mouth of a dog who becomes unconscious and collapses: 

  • Step 1. Position the dog on his back.
  • Step 2. Get on your knees and straddle the dog with your head facing his throat.
  • Step 3. Tilt the dog’s head back to open the airway.
  • Step 4. Place your thumbs on each side of the dog’s trachea, just below the ball.
  • Step 5. In a steady motion, push down and out to force the ball to be ejected from the mouth.
  • Step 6. Inspect the mouth to make sure there are no other objects that can cause obstruction.
  • Step 7. If necessary, give the dog two rescue breaths by breathing your mouth into the dog’s nostril. Be sure to close the upper and lower muzzles so no air escapes out the side of the mouth. Also, after each breath, turn at look at the dog’s chest to see if it rises – a sign that the air reached the lungs with no blockages. 
  • Contact your nearest veterinary clinic and have your dog inspected thoroughly to verify there are no other potential health dangers. 

Here is a link to a short video that shows a veterinary team quickly and successfully dislodging a tennis ball from a dog’s mouth:

dog with ball

Safety Tips for Fetching

Here are some tips to prevent the chance that your ball-happy dog will not accidentally get a tennis ball stuck in his throat:

  1. Recognize that dogs are mouthy. They explore their worlds often by putting items in their mouth. 
  2. Not all tennis balls are dog-safe. The ones people use on tennis courts materials that can cause intestinal and even bowel blockages inside dogs that may need to be removed surgically. The rubber and plastic materials in these tennis balls cannot be digested by dogs.
  3. Tennis balls for people are coated in a fuzzy material that can cause choking by dogs trying to pull it off the ball. These balls can also can wear down a dog’s teeth and cause other dental damage.
  4. Purchase dog-safe tennis balls that are made of pet-safe materials.  Popular brands include Kong’s Air Squeaker tennis balls, Hyper Pet Tennis Balls for Dogs, Banfeng giant dog tennis balls. All are available on and 
  5. Toss only one ball for your dog to fetch and bring back for you to throw again. This will prevent a dog from trying to pick up two or more tennis balls in his mouth and lead to choking or blockages. Do not leave several tennis balls in your fenced backyard to tempt your dog.
  6. Regularly inspect your dog’s tennis ball and replace it when it shows signs of wear or peeling of the outer covering. 

dog with frisbee

Finally, you can still bring out your dog’s inner retriever by engaging him in play with tennis ball alternatives. Consider such non-toxic, safe options as the Planet Dog’s Orbee ball, Wunderball and Kong PlanetRubber Ball Extreme or durable flying disks, such as Zippy Paws, Petshine Rope Flying Disc and Chuckit!. 

Learn Pet First Aid

Learn more on ways to keep your cats and dogs safe by visiting Consider taking our veterinarian-approved online pet first aid/CPR course. Enter this code: CPR – ARDEN MOORE and receive a 10 percent discount! And, if you are interested in becoming a Pro Pet Hero instructor, please click on the BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR button on the home page for more details.