If you’re looking for an eco-friendly, non-toxic ball for your dog, my advice is to go check your dryer. No, seriously, one of the best toys for your ball obsessed pup may well be what you already use to keep your towels fluffy: a simple wool dryer ball.
Wool dryer balls are not only a great way to ditch those toxic dryer sheets, they’re also great for indoor fetch as they bounce but are much quieter than tennis balls and less liable to do damage to furnishings. They can also be used outside, ideally in dry weather, and can be put in the wash and, of course, the dryer, to keep them clean. Wool balls even float for a little while but will sink eventually if you abandon them to a watery grave.
Dryer balls are ideal for senior dogs who still like to fetch and chew on a ball, and for puppies who are teething. These balls are not as hard as most dog toys and are gentle on teeth and gums; they even help keep teeth clean! And, because the balls are solidly made with wool, there’s little risk of them cracking and falling apart. If any wool fibers do lift up off the ball, you can just dampen the ball with water, pat the fibers back into place, and leave the ball to dry.
Not all dryer balls are the same, though, so look for those made with organic or EcoWool, made without any dyes.
The best eco-friendly, non-toxic dog balls
Coyuchi (one of my favorite ethical brands at Leaf Score, mostly for duvets and pillows) offer a set of three felted wool dryer balls that are perfect as dog toys. And, if your dog doesn’t love them, you have new dryer balls to keep your clothes in good shape.
Another good option is the TennisWool Balls in the Raw Grey color from Twin Critters. The Raw Grey TennisWools are just raw sheep’s wool with no dyes. This company also makes a three-pack of colored TennisWools (View Price on Amazon) that look like slightly smaller tennis balls. These are chemically dyed, however, but are free of -azole dyes, and the color can bleed and stain your dog’s gums, teeth, and fur as well as your floor and furnishings.
Twin Critters is a company founded by twin brothers, one a doctor of endocrinology and one a veterinarian – not too shoddy as far as credentials go for making safe, non-toxic dog toys. The TennisWools are handmade in Nepal using 100% natural merino wool.
There are plenty of other dog balls around that are made with wool, but these are almost certainly dyed with chemical dyes and are mostly made in China or other countries where safety standards aren’t great. As such, I’d encourage you to go for the Coyuchi wool dryer balls as your top choice and consider the Raw Grey TennisWools as your back up option.
Other eco-friendly dog ball options
Hands down, the wool dog balls are the most eco-friendly, natural, non-toxic option, but if your dog likes a more ‘traditional’ ball chasing and chomping experience, you might want to look at Beco Balls.
Highlight: A durable chew toy that you can put treats in.
Beco Pets have made the world’s first rice husk and natural rubber dog toys and are a UK company that gives back to the community, donating a portion of profits to various animal charities. The Beco Ball is tough, free from toxic chemicals, and has a slight vanilla scent (View Price on Petco). They also offer a ball and rope toy that features a natural cotton rope (would be great if this was organic cotton), which allows you to throw it even farther in the park.
One thing I like about the Beco Ball is that, while it seems to hold up well to enthusiastic chewers, there’s not all that much cause for concern if your pup does ingest small pieces, given that the ball is made with natural and biodegradable materials. This ball howls and whistles when thrown, making it fun for your pup.
Beco Balls have a slightly wonky shape, meaning they can bounce in a fun and erratic way to keep your pup entertained. There’s also a small hole in the bottom of the ball, so you can stuff treats inside for a fun treasure hunt game with your pup. They also seem to float and come in small, medium, large, and extra large sizes ranging from around $6 to $16.
Planet Dog Orbee Tuff® Recycle Ball®
Highlight: Made in the USA and can withstand some significant chew action.
Planet Dog makes their Orbee Tuff® Recycle Ball (View Price on Amazon) entirely from material left over after the injection molding process used to make other toys in their range, which are themselves said to be eco-friendly. This process virtually eliminates manufacturing waste for the company and helps reduce their carbon footprint.
Unfortunately, as I note in my article on Popular Dog Toy Companies to Think Twice About, we don’t actually know what’s in these toys, only that the toys contain recycled number 7 plastic and a chemical the company seems to have given a whitewashed name.
So, why have I included the Recycle Ball as an option to consider? Well, because this ball may be marginally better than buying a dog ball made with brand new plastic or synthetic rubber that contains phthalates and BPA. Also, Planet Dog make all of their dog toys in the USA, helping to minimize emissions and ensure decent working conditions for those making the toys. They also use eco-friendly paper stocks and inks on catalogs, signage and collateral, and they participate in local composting initiatives and other environmentally friendly programs.
The Recycle Ball measures 3 inches in diameter and is durable (a 5 out of 5 on the company’s toughness scale), buoyant, bouncy, and vaguely minty, presumably to help freshen your pup’s breath. Colors vary depending on the materials the company has left over after making their other toys.
Chuckit! Rebounce Ball
Highlight: A durable, bouncy toy that will keep your dog entertained.
Made with recycled plastic in Chuckit!’s familiar blue and orange colors, the Rebounce Balls (View Price on Amazon) have the same durability, bounce, firmness, and fun as their regular balls but are a little more eco-friendly. They’re also compatible with the Chuckit! Launcher. Be warned, though, that these have two holes in them, which means they whistle when thrown and tend to sink rather than float.
Chuckit! claim their toys are made with natural rubber but they offer no certification to prove as much. There’s also no real information about the company, other than that they’ve been in business making dog toys since the 1990s and appear to have been acquired by Petmate at some point in the last few years.
Final thoughts on dog ball toys
As I’ve noted elsewhere on LeafScore.com, my pup is a big fan of frisbees and other flying toys, but that’s not to say that she doesn’t like to chase a ball every now and again. There are certainly plenty of dog balls to choose from, and I’ve used a fair few over the years, even though I haven’t bought a new ball for a good long while. We have a knack for finding balls in the wild, so I’d argue that the most eco-friendly dog ball is the one you already own or that your pup finds at the beach or park.
Barring found treasure, my top pick for an outdoor ball would be one of the Coyuchi wool balls for a dry day, followed by the Beco Ball for more rigorous outdoor conditions. The classic Chuckit Ball has a great bounce and the Rebounce is the same, but these come with the caveat that Chuckit don’t seem to particularly care about eco-friendliness or toxicity.
As for the Orbee Tuff Recycle Ball, I can’t say that I’ve used one, but this ball consistently gets good reviews so would be one to check out if you’re not put off by Planet Dog’s lack of transparency over materials and processes.
As always, if there’s an eco-friendly, non-toxic dog ball you and your pup love, let me know so I can check it out and perhaps add it to this roundup.