Nice puppy pictures,James! Congrats on the new camera too.
About the ball - I'd prefer the image without the ball. My reasoning goes like this: The puppy isn't interested in the ball and it doesn't add to the picture other than color. If color was important, it should probably be associated with the item that holds the puppy's interest. Also, the ball takes away from the picture in the same way as the o.o.f. right rear foot and knee because it forces the viewer, sooner or later, to devote attention to it even though it's unrelated to the essential image. The path of the viewer's eye hits a bit of a visual glitch when pausing to consider the ball.
My edit of the image is an experiment to see what happens when both distracting elements are eliminated. Personally, and I understand this may be, to some extent, a matter of taste, I like the image without those elements.
I did a few other things:
1. Used the shadow/highlight tool (PSCS4) to recover some of the puppy's hair around his outline and balance the lights and darks overall.
2. Cloned the puppy's R paw and transformed its shape to fit on his/her L, then copied the text from another photo, separated it from it's background and placed it out of the way just so I could better see the Puppy as a whole (I understand the purpose of the text vis a vis ownership issues etc.)
3. I used the lasso tool with an edge feather to darken the background and lighten the central area of the image. In the process I lost the texture of the fabric. Some subtle texture and gradient variation would be useful and, if working with full size RAW files this could be easily accomplished.
4. Eyes and catchlights - more times than not I get into trouble when futzing with already present catchlights during post-processing, so I did minimal work with the catchlights. I did, however, use curves and hue/saturation tools to enhance contrast in the eyes to bring them in balance with the overall enhanced contrast of the puppy.
5. Not knowing the true colors, I used the tongue and pink skin of the paw pads as my key color and adjusted accordingly. When that looked good to me (on my monitor with my room lighting) I quit.
6. I enlarged the canvas to allow for a slightly different crop.
7. Finanlly I added a little lens blur smart sharpen filter. Not that the image is soft, but rather to stay in keeping with an image that is processed to provide a bit more "pop" or "punch."
I offer this in the spirit of useful discussion, not as a critique or an example of how I think it should be done. There are a million right ways to process a superior digital capture such as this one.
Addendum: I agree (in advance) that the absence of the rear paw and knee creates some abmiguity - eg. the puppy could be lying or standing. However, depth of field and focus, as has already been pointed out, is an issue. (That's why I remain wedded to my 90mm tilt/shift lens for shots like this one - I can control all of the variables instead of letting my choices of distance from subject, preferred lighting, f-stop, shutter speed and ISO force a d.o.f. on me that just isn't as great as I'd like.) The black backdrop, as previously pointed out, has some disadvantages but IMO, those are far outweighed by the benefits. I like the choice of background here.
These are just my own musings, as I've said, and I hope I'm not ruffling any feathers. I appreciate the opportunity here in these NWP forums to both share and learn.