Rules Guy: Is it legal to train my dog to help me locate my ball?

Is it permissible to enlist the help of a four-legged friend to help find your ball?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

Many great courses in my area allow dogs to accompany players on their rounds. Is it okay to mark my ball with a scent and train my canine caddie to assist me in finding it?
—Stuart Copeland, London, UK

A dog may be man’s best friend, but, by definition, a caddie is a human.

Though bemused by your query, Rules Guy’s contacts within golf ’s governing bodies declined to offer a ruling. Until we hear otherwise, having Rover help find your ball in the, er, ruff is up to you.

For more animal-on-course guidance from our guru, read on …

golf ball in tree
Rules Guy: Can you take free relief from an animal hole in a tree?
By: Rules Guy

As my friend and I were approaching his tee shot in the fairway, a fox trotted out of the woods, sniffed the ball and then urinated on it. Is my friend allowed to clean or replace the ball? —David Cole, via email

Well, presumably unlike the now “marked” golf ball, the rules here are cut and dried.

In equity, the player is entitled to the lie present when the ball came to rest. Thus, your friend may lift and clean the ball. If there is, um, “casual water” present, the player can take relief under Rule 25-1, which also allows the ball to be cleaned (and disinfected). 

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8 AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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