September 22, 2021

No Take, Only Throw: When Dogs Love Balls

No Take, Only Throw: one of the most iconic memes of the internet. Any lab-owner or collie caretaker knows the drill. The dog brings you the ball. The dog won't give you the ball. The dog wants you to throw the ball. Repeat as needed. But what's behind this fascinating piece of dog psychology? Here are my thoughts.

Desmond, a No Take, Only Throw Connoisseur

So here's the deal: I am owned by a ten year old Lab/Border Collie mix. He's cute. He looks like a weird lab with a curly tail and a spotted tongue. He's got some white to his fur nowadays, but he's still a puppy at heart. His name is Desmond.


i threw the ball over a privacy fence into a vacant field. #dogs #doglover #doggo #xyzbca

♬ original sound - Nonbeenary Designs

Desmond has three loves in this world. Ball, not giving the ball up, and his two people. But the ball? Our lab's love for tennis balls far outstrips any affection he has for us. He will die with a tennis ball in his mouth.

You could ask, why tennis balls? Well, it turns out that our Desmond is half Labrador Retriever. Labs are working dogs, and they love to chase things that move quickly. The naughty ones also LOVE playing keep-away.

So here's how the game goes: He'll drop the ball (it does happen on occasion) into my lap. I'll toss it for him. He sprints after it, faster than the speed of light. He'll chase it down and bring it back and then, he'll just... pace back and forth in front of me. With the ball in his mouth.

If I try to extract the ball out of his mouth, he'll turn his head away or offer me his butt, instead.

If I ignore him, he'll headbutt me or stick his nose under my arm. But if I go for the ball? It's keep-away time.

Excuse the ball - it's pretty gross looking.

So how do you get the ball away from a No Take / Only Throw dog?

Consistency. For us, if we grab the ball and he doesn't let go, we immediately release it and ignore him until he offers it again. This may happen a few times before he finally relinquishes hold. Sometimes, we have to repeat this a few times before he'll let go. It's more fun for him than it is for either of us.  

The other thing you can try is to have multiple balls. This doesn't work with Desmond because he only wants the one he currently possesses. In other words, he's smarter than us. But dumb dogs? Or young dogs? They might fall for it.

Finally, you really can just ignore him until he drops the ball. Sometimes it takes a long time. Pairing it with a verbal command would help speed the process along. But if we're being honest, we're too busy laughing to make a big deal out of it.

What's this have to do with your art?

Oh, right. This is an art blog, and I am an artist. Of course. I took the many years of fighting with Desmond over this ball, and I channeled it into a great little sticker. I feel like it really captures the heart of this dog who would rather drop the ball into fire than let me have it.

I've done a No Take Only Throw design in the past, but it was right when I was beginning. I've upgraded a little, and so, here's my lovely new design. If you've got a lab that loves balls as much as Desmond does, this will be perfect for you.

PS - I do take commissions if you want me to draw your dog, instead 😉 Stay safe, and throw the damn ball!

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