Bid to replace Wimbledon ball boys with dogs flopped as they didn’t return them
A bid to replace Wimbledon ball boys and girls with trained dogs flopped – when the pooches refused to give the balls back.
A nearby local tennis club tried to teach the mutts to fetch stray balls and return them at lightning speed. But though they hurtled after them the hounds refused to drop them – and had to be bribed with treats.
Tennis chiefs decided humans were quicker. The experiment was conducted at Wilton Tennis Club where the pooches underwent a series of speed and agility tests including running up and down the court and high-jumping over the net.
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Club coordinator Martin Schiller said though the dogs excelled at ball retrieval they under-performed in other areas – including returning balls to the players.
He said the dogs love for tennis balls proved a little too strong as they were reluctant to give the ball back.
"Our players did find themselves in a game of tug-of-war," he said. "We had a stash of treats on the sidelines to offer up as a bit of encouragement which certainly did the trick."
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The trial was backed by animal insurance provider ManyPets which encouraged the potential use of dogs on tennis courts.
ManyPets has contacted Wimbledon bosses urging them to consider swapping its 250 ball boys and girls for pooches.
The company is still waiting for a formal response. Every year around 1,000 teens apply to work at the tournament which started on Monday (June 27).
A quarter of the applicants are chosen to take part. Ball boys have been used since the 1920s but girls were only introduced in 1977.
Mixed ball teams followed in 1980 and ball girls were allowed on Centre Court for the first time in 1985.
The Brazil Open tennis tournament has previously used trained ball dogs from animal shelters in a bid to help find them new homes.
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