best automatic ball throwers for dogs

Last Updated on : Jun 23, 2017 @ 12:35 pm

Got a bored pet? Or you just want them to have fun while you work on something else? A fantastic way to achieve both is with automatic ball throwers for dogs as these simple toys can bring hours of incredible entertainment.

My Labrador Nora was thrilled when I got her one of these toys. You can train your dog to return balls to the opening and the machine will launch it again so your puppy can enjoy fetching balls without your engagement.

These AC or battery-operated machines can shoot the balls across your backyard over a distance of 10-30 feet. But, this is where we face problems. Cheap, low-quality launchers aren’t something you want to buy. They can be quite annoying due to their constant breaking and an array of different problems. Also, if you’re not familiar with fetch toys, you will probably be overwhelmed with the sheer number of these products that are currently on the market – there are dozens and dozens of different models.

Our goal is to make this decision easier by presenting you the best automatic dog ball throwers in the form of comprehensive and unbiased reviews, making sure that you find the right device for your pet’s needs. Read on and you’ll see which ones are our favorite.

Top 7 Ball Launchers for Dogs Compared

NameDimensionsWeightAutomaticTennis Balls Included
iFetch14.8 x 10.1 x 11.4 inches 2.5 lbsYesYes, three 1.5-inch mini-tennis balls
iFetch Too14 x 13 x 12 inches12.4 lbsYesYes, 3 non-abrasive, pet-safe tennis balls
PetSafe Ball Launcher 12 x 13.5 x 13.5 inchesN/A (Shipping Weight is 8.8 pounds)YesYes, 2 standard tennis balls
GoDogGo20.1 x 16.3 x 15 inches11 lbsYesYes, 3 tennis balls of the standard size, 1 rubber ball
ChuckIt26″ handle or 18″ handle5.6 ouncesNoOne ball is included with each launcher
BazooK-923.5 x 3.8 x 7.5 inches2 poundsNoIncludes 2 squeaky Balls
Hyper Pet K-95 x 5 x 2 inches 4 ouncesNoIncludes 2 tennis balls of the standard size.

iFetch product image

1. iFetch

Weight: 2.5 lbs
Dimensions: 14.8 x 10.1 x 11.4 inches
What we like: Great performance, Lightweight, 3 Different Throwing Powers
What we don’t: Quality of the tennis balls

This is an immensely popular auto ball thrower, beloved by the users all over the world and it was even featured in the various talk-shows about pets. It also won numerous awards, so there was no way for us to avoid taking a more detailed look at it.

When we opened the box, we found three main components of the package inside of it – the thrower itself, the AC adapter, and the set of three mini tennis balls. The iFetch ball launcher looks absolutely amazing – it features a blue-and-white color scheme and has rounded edges and rolling curves, which gives the whole device a modern look. One can adjust the throwing power to 10, 20, or 30 feet by pressing the button that’s on the back of the device, above which are the LED lights to indicate the current setting. As we already said, the launcher uses mini tennis balls (2″) – this is perfect for smaller dogs, while others can use iFetch for bigger dogs. Weighing only 2.5 lbs, the device is very easy to transport, and it also gives you an option to use 6 C batteries when you’re not near a power source.

Most of the users are very pleased with the performance of this thrower – and we tend to agree with them. Our only complaint is that the included balls don’t look very durable, but you can easily replace them – the product itself is just amazing and definitely worth getting.

 iFetch Too product image

2. iFetch Too

Weight: 12.4 lbs
Dimensions: 14 x 13 x 12 inches
What we like: Powerful battery, Great Build Quality
What we don’t: A bit heavier than the previous model

Yes, your guess is correct – this would be the larger version of the popular iFetch, able to shoot the full size tennis balls. It’s a quality product, and one highly praised by the users.

Owners of medium to large dog breeds were quite disappointed when the original iFetch came out – due to the usage of small-sized balls, they weren’t able to train their large pets with it. Fortunately, the new launcher is three times bigger and uses the heavy tennis balls, while its weight stands at 12 lbs. Along with the device itself, the box also contains three balls of standard size, an AC cable, and the (pretty useful) instruction booklet. Just like its smaller cousin, this one also looks sleek and modern, while requiring no additional assembly. It has a distance slider, the distance status lights, and a power button. When it comes to sheer performance, the iFetch Too is very close to the claimed distances, giving consistent throws and working without any major problems. We really liked the powerful battery – once you charge it, you can get close to 250 launches with the device!

Many pet owners claim that this is the best of all full sized dog ball throwers. In our opinion, the device is almost flawless – on one occasion, the ball got stuck inside the machine, and we had to intervene. But this is still a well-made and reliable product, and it has our recommendation.

PetSafe fetch toy image

3. PetSafe Auto Ball Launcher

Weight: N/A
Dimensions: 12 x 13.5 x 13.5 inches
What we like: Multiple Safety Features, Motion Sensor, Great Functionality
What we don’t: Some users don’t like the motion sensor feature

With its modern and sleek looks, the PetSafe surely stands out when it comes to visuals. What about the features and the performance?

The first thing to notice about this product, along with its good looks, is the fact that it has whopping nine range settings, which is a lot more than many others. Once can set the distance by using the knob that can found on the side of the machine, and there are even the angle settings to shoot in different directions. Excellent! One other feature that we really liked is the safety sensor – it is located on the front of the device, and its function is to protect people and pets from the thrown balls to the distance of some seven feet away from the unit. If it detects the motion in this area, the launcher will pause for five seconds. This is great for safety, but we can already see that it will present a nuisance to some of the more impatient pets and their owners.

Other people are praising the looks and performance, but many of them also find the motion sensor to be quite annoying on some occasions. We think that this is a great feature, making the launcher an ideal choice for those who have the safety as their primary concern.

GoDogGo

4. GoDogGo

Weight: 11 pounds
Dimensions: 20.1 x 16.3 x 15 inches
What we like: The remote control, the wide ball chute
What we don’t: Doesn’t contain rechargeable batteries

The GoDogGo has a great number of useful features – like the launching remote, the variable timing, and the ability to load more than one ball at once.

Along with the main unit, we also found some other goodies in the box – there was an AC adapter, three tennis balls of the standard size, one rubber ball, and a remote control. The thing that you’ll immediately notice is the big, spiraling green bucket, which serves a ball-feeding chute. The bucket makes this launcher the only one on the market that can be loaded with more than just one ball, which just might be the feature that you’ve been searching for. The remote control is another great feature here – with it, the owner can easily change the throwing intervals, launch the ball, or put the device into the auto-launch mode. Of course, all of these things can be done directly from the fetch machine itself. Unfortunately, the GoDogGo does not feature rechargeable batteries, which is pretty disappointing. It also launches quite high into the air, which means that using it inside the room isn’t really a good idea.

Overall, this is an excellent machine that works like just as advertised. Many reviewers praise the remote control and the wide ball chute, and we completely agree with them. We didn’t like the lack of rechargeable batteries, but the GoDogGo is still a good choice when it comes to entertainment for your pooch.

ChuckIt Dog Toy Box

5. ChuckIt Ball Launcher

Weight: 5.6 ounces
Dimensions: 26″ handle or 18″ handle
What we like: You can throw balls much further, great material and ergonomic design
What we don’t: Standard tennis ball doesn’t fit

This would be an all-time classic for the fetch-loving dogs, as it can throw much further than any other. Let’s see how it fared on our test!

The first thing to notice here is the material – the launcher is made of flexible plastic that is very lightweight, and feels great to touch. The long (26″) handle has an ergonomic design, giving the user quite a good amount of control and comfort, while the upper part firmly grasps the ball. Swinging and throwing balls with this launcher is incredibly easy – anyone can do it, and the fact that it can launch the ball three times farther (over 150 ft) than the automatic throwers might be quite important to some people. There is also a smaller, 18″ version – it’s called the Junior ChuckIt Classic Launcher and it comes at a lower price.

The users and other reviewers mentioned how easy it is to throw the ball far away, as well as its build quality and the ergonomic design. We didn’t like the fact that you have to use the included ball (the standard tennis ones don’t fit), but it’s still a simple solution that can bring hours of outdoors entertainment to the owner and his pet.

BazooK-9 Gun

6. BazooK-9 Tennis Ball Launcher Gun

Weight: 2 pounds
Dimensions: 23.5 x 3.8 x 7.5 inches
What we like: The safe plastic, carrying strap, the performance
What we don’t: It can be loud

With cool looks and great efficiency, the BazooK-9 Launcher Gun is certainly something special. It provides a fun experience for both the owner and the pet, and we had to give it a more in-depth look and take a peek at its build quality and the additional features.

Nothing beats this when it comes to looks – styled like a gun from the cartoons; this device is a perfect choice for kids and their pets. The whole thing is made out of safe plastic that has gone through a vigorous control and feels very smooth to touch. One thing that we really liked is the storage space for the additional tennis balls – it is located in front of the trigger, and it allows you to carry two extra balls right there on the launcher. The package also includes a strap for easier carrying, as well as two standard balls. We were pretty surprised with the performance of this product while testing. It launched the ball some 70 feet away, which was far more than we have initially expected. You can change the firing power by pulling back the firing arm that’s located on the back of the device.

We have to agree with the other reviewers – the BazooK-9 is very easy to use and is also pretty effective, while the affordable price comes as an additional plus. Our only complaint is that it is pretty loud, but that’s not something that should stop you from purchasing – it’s a well-made and fun device!

Hyper Pet K-9 Kannon Toy Image

7. Hyper Pet K-9 Kannon 

Weight: 4 ounces
Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 2 inches
What we like: The performance, hands-free pickup of the balls
What we don’t: Some users were not satisfied with the launching distance

Affordable and efficient, this is one of the best options for the pet owners who wish to save as much money. Is it really as good as the other reviewers are claiming?

When it comes to looks, we have no complaints – the Hyper Pet K-9 Kannon sports a combination of yellow and black and looks quite sleek. Shaped like a Cannon, this product allows you to launch balls some 60 feet away, which should be quite enough for any pet to have fun. The device, fortunately, has storage for one extra ball, but the thing that we liked the most is surely the hands-free pickup. The chute at the end is tight enough to let you pick the balls up straight from the ground.

Users are quite satisfied with the performance of this simple, but effective ball thrower – it works just as advertised, and can be easily used by anyone. But it looks like some users received faulty products, as they weren’t able to throw the ball more than 20 feet away. We had no such problems, so we have to give the Hyper Pet K-9 Kannon sincere recommendation.

Labrador standing near PetSafe thrower

Important Things to Consider Before You Buy

The size of the dog

This is, actually, the most important aspect to consider if you’re about to buy an automatic ball launcher, as not all devices are using the tennis balls of the same sizes. If you only do a quick research on the internet, you probably won’t realize that many of these models are using the 1.5″ “mini” tennis balls, which could be a choking hazard for your beloved German Shepard. Luckily, some companies, like iDogmate or iFetch, sell larger models of their launchers – these are using the standard 2.5 tennis balls. But if you’re an owner of a medium or small-sized dog, you can safely go with the original models that shoot the smaller tennis balls.

The distance settings

Almost all of the automatic fetch machines are suitable for both the outdoor and the indoor use, and lots of them allow you to choose between the AC power or the battery operation. With this mind, an important characteristic to look out for would be the distance setting – if your plan is to use the thrower outdoors, you should look for devices with the furthest distance settings. On the other hand, if you want to use it inside the house or if your backyard is a small one, the machines with the lower range settings will suit your needs the best. The most frequent adjustments would be the 10, 20, and 30ft, while some launchers go all the way up to 50ft.

The ease of training

One of your primary goals for purchasing this kind of machine is probably the desire to train your dog to use it on his own. If this is the case, we advise you to look for the automatic ball launchers that come with the wide ball chutes. This would be the area through which the ball can be dropped into the thrower, and a larger chute will make it a lot easier for your pet to learn how to use it. The GoDogGo ball thrower is one of the devices with the biggest “reloading” chutes on the market and is one of the easiest launchers to train your pet on.

One other important thing to look out for is the sound – the dogs which get nervous around objects that make weird noises might have problems with the training, since the ball launchers tend to make some sound while they’re shooting the balls. So, the noise levels can be quite important.

The cost

This one is a no-brainer – like with everything else, the price of the automatic ball launchers will vary widely from the one to another. You can expect to pay somewhere between $100 and $200 if you want a reliable product, and this is what we would recommend you to do, as the devices that come at prices that are lower than $100 tend to break easily, and are far less reliable. They also aren’t as durable as the more expensive models, so you won’t be able to use them for long.

woman holding a ball throwing machine

Benefits of owning a Tennis Ball Machine

Even though it might not seem as such at the first glance, the benefits of owning a tennis ball launcher are, actually, quite impressive. Let’s have a look at them:

The pet’s health

This one obvious. Your dog will happily run and retrieve the ball and, in that way, get much needed exercise. It is crucial for puppies to walk and run on a daily basis in order to stay healthy, as the prolonged periods of staying inside the house have a very bad effect on their health.

The mind stimulation

Another pro is that these machines can have a very positive effects on the pet’s coordination stimulating its mind by making them get over all sorts of obstacles to catch the ball and bring it to the owner.  If the owner is using one of those handheld chuckit! toys, he can be sure that the sessions will strengthen the bond between him and the pet – bringing the ball back to the owner only makes the dog’s love for the master stronger and deeper.

The sheer fun

Dogs can easily get bored if their owners are not around to play with them, and that is exactly why the tennis ball throwing machines were invented. The dogs just love them. These devices can do the same thing that their owners can, letting them play fetching game even when they’re alone in the house or the backyard. The handheld ones bring the same amount of entertainment to the owners – it’s always fun watching the dog happily run around picking the balls.

Puppy standing near iFetch waiting

How to Teach a Dog to Use a Ball Fetch Machine

These important training tips will help your pooch learn how to properly play with fetch toys for dogs in no time – read them carefully and try to use them in the next session:

  1. When you’re teaching your pet how to play the game of fetch, make sure that you are doing it next to your machine of choice. In that way, your dog will be able to connect the dots between the game and the device itself.
  2. Train at least three times during one day, but never do it for more than ten minutes. In this way, the fetch sessions will stay a fun experience for your canine, and won’t become a fetch boot camp that your dog will despise.
  3. If you notice that your pooch is starting to get frustrated and just doesn’t want to put the ball back, just stay persistent and work on reinforcing any of the dog’s behavior towards the device. Also, make sure that you reward properly if he does what he needs to.
  4. If the pet tries to get the reward by engaging is some other sorts of behavior, like jumping up, rolling over, or shaking paws, it is really important that you don’t reward him for it. He will soon realize that only one kind of behavior can get him rewarded.
  5. If he or she is cautious around the device at first, don’t worry – the object is something new and different to him, and he’s probably not quite sure what it is. You can start the whole training by rewarding the dog for just going close, which will help him learn that the machine is just another part of the household. As the time passes, you can start giving him treats, teaching him to bring the ball as close as possible.
man playing with a dog using hand-held chuckit toy

Should you avoid cheaper Ball launchers?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of poor-quality throwers currently on the market. Even though some of them aren’t even worth considering, they are still priced competitively, which makes the people buy them and then get disappointed once they realize what they bought.

You can easily identify and avoid these kinds of throwers – on the websites such as Amazon, they have mostly negative reviews or no reviews at all, or have the product description written in “broken” English. They are made by the unknown companies who only want the profit, and are not interested in the building of the quality brand or the customer satisfaction. The story of the iFetch, for example, is something completely opposite – the creators of this device only wanted to make their son’s time with the dog more enjoyable, and thus made the product with lots of love and care.

We would advise you to stick with the well-known, reliable brands of automatic ball launchers – they offer a huge difference in performance and quality – the iFetch, GoDogGo and the PetSafe models are all worth considering. Don’t waste your money on the knock-offs – save some cash and go for a reliable model.

woman walking a dog and holding chuckit! thrower

Conclusion

As you can see, Automatic dog ball throwers are simple devices but actually pretty impressive. Not only do they bring the necessary entertainment for the pet when the owner is not around to play with him, but they also improve the pet’s coordination and his health. Once he learns how to use it, the dog won’t be able to stop playing with it!

In our opinion, it’s definitely worth checking out are the iFetch, both the small and the big model if you are looking for electric fetch machine and Chuckit! if you want a simple hand-held one. These sleek machines are just amazing in almost every single aspect, and it’s no wonder why they are so immensely popular. They feature a fantastic, modern design, are very easy to operate and can shoot the ball to some pretty impressive distances. The smaller model is ideal for the small and medium-sized dogs, while the iFetch Too can be an excellent choice for the entertainment of your German Sheperd or Neapolitan Mastiff.

Click to read our in-depth review of iFetch – the most popular dog ball launcher pick.

Let us know which one is your favorite.

Love, Angie Hill

Sources and References

  • https://www.rover.com/blog/how-to-help-fetch-obsessed-dog/
  • http://goifetch.com/training-tips/
  • https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-training/toys-and-play/6-steps-to-teaching-your-dog-to-fetch
  • http://www.godoggoinc.com/tips.html
  • http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/exercise-dogs#1
  • http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/7-dog-choking-hazards-to-avoid

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