After reviewing 10 different automatic ball launchers, in my opinion, the iFetch Too Interactive Ball Launcher is the best. With this battery-operated automatic ball thrower machine, you can let your dog plays a non-stop fetching game without straining your arm and back.
Our Top Picks for The Best Automatic Ball Launchers for Dogs
- iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher – Best for Large Dogs
- PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher – Best for Small Dogs
- iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher – Small
The Best Automatic Ball Launcher Reviews
Best For Large Dogs
1. iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher
iFetch is an award-winning, US-based innovative ball launcher company that has won a number of awards and praises from various pet magazines, pet expos, and pet shows.
The iFetch Too Interactive Ball Launcher is their latest model designed for big dogs like German Shepherds. It uses a standard size of 2.5″ tennis balls. With this 2.5″ tennis balls you can let your dog play on his own without worrying the balls will be swallowed and become lodged in his throat.
In addition to bigger tennis balls, you can launch the balls to an even farther distance, ranging from 10 ft, 20 ft, and all the way up to 40 ft. Aside from the regular three distance settings, there is also an option to set the distance settings to “random” setting. This random setting will make the game even more fun for your dog since it keeps him to stay on his toes and keep guessing.
This new model features a rechargeable internal battery which is a great improvement over the previous models which use A/C power. With this rechargeable internal battery, you can play anywhere without carrying around an extension cord. Once fully recharged, this launcher can continue to launch up to 250 times in one play.
Once in a while, when my GSD played with it the balls got stuck, and there is no way around it unless you unstick it. So you may want to be around when your dog plays with it since your dog might become frustrated and start pawing and chewing the machine when the balls get stuck.
When playing for the first time, my GSD was looking nervous and worried by the sound that the launcher produces when the ball launches. But after a few turns, he started to ignore the sound and enjoyed the play. Some dogs might become terrified with the sound and end up don’t want to play with it again, be sure you see your dog’s reaction when he plays with it.
The launcher comes with 3 non-abrasive standard sized tennis balls which can be replaced easily, an adapter, and a guideline booklet. It’s backed with a 6 months warranty, during those 6 months you can ask for help from their customer support for any issue that you might have at hand. And to tell the truth, iFetch has the best customer services compared to their competitors. The customer services respond quickly and really helpful.
Best For Small Dogs
2. PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher
The PetSafe Ball Launcher is a great alternative if you can’t find an iFetch model. When I came across this PetSafe launcher, I was taken aback by the fact it has a whopping nine different distance settings and six angle settings, more than any other automatic launchers on the market.
With the nine different distance settings which you can easily adjust using the distance knob on the side of the launcher, you can virtually use it anywhere you like — in a small room inside your home, or out in a big dog park. You can set the launcher to throw balls from 8 ft to 30 ft of distance.
The launcher is designed to work best with standard size tennis balls 2 5/8″, which are the recommended size for big dogs but can also be loaded with smaller tennis-type balls, though I found it didn’t work quite well with smaller tennis-type balls. You or your canine can load up to 3 balls at a time.
There is a motion sensor located in front of the launcher. The sensor is designed to protect you or your canine if the sensor detects there is people or dogs standing up to 7 feet in front of the launch area, the launcher will immediately pause preventing a ball from launching into your dog’s face. This is great to keep your dog safe. However, the sensor can become a problem if your dog is a type who won’t back away when he has dropped the ball into the launcher. In this case, you can put some duct tape over the sensor to disable it.
There is also a musical chime to alert your dog when the ball is about to be launched. You need to train your dog to prepare and get in the right position when he hears this musical chime to minimize the risk of getting his eyes socked.
Some dog owners reported the launcher was not as durable as they expected. In my case, I used this launcher for 6 months and it was durable enough, however, I did find a problem with the motion sensor as explained above. Also, I don’t know if it was just my launcher, but I found the distance settings were not working and completely random. However, if you encounter any of these issues, you can always contact the customer service and ask for a replacement since the launcher is backed by a 1-year warranty.
3. PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher – Small
The iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher Small is the first ball launcher ever made that started all the rage of an automatic dog ball launcher.
This original iFetch model is designed to launch 1.6″ mini tennis balls at a distance of 10, 20, and 30 ft, which is suitable for small to medium-sized dogs.
Upon unboxing the box, you’ll find the following three things: iFetch thrower, three mini tennis balls, and one AC adapter. You can use a power cord to play indoor or 6-cell batteries to play outdoor. For most parts, it has the same features as the “iFetch too” series.
The only concern that I have with this model is the quality of the balls. It is poorly made and rather expensive. It’s better to replace the balls with Kong Xsmall Sqeeky Balls which are cheaper and more durable.
The benefits of automatic ball launcher for dogs
Fetching is a game that all dogs love to play. The thrill of chasing and fetching are so alluring for some dogs which make them run back-and-forward non-stop across the yard just to chase the throwing ball. The game will make them keep active and stay healthy.
However, if you are like me, after an hour playing this fetching game, you will realize the game is more fun for them than for us, especially with our arms and back are getting strained after playing this game for an extended period of time. This is where this automatic ball launcher machine can literally be a life-saver (I’m not joking here). With this machine, you can let your dog plays the fetching game as much as he likes without straining yourself.
Furthermore, if you just like me a wimpy thrower, you might not be able to make a ball go a long distance which means less fun for your dog. But with this automatic ball thrower, you can easily shoot balls across the yard over a distance of 10-30 feet which means more fun for your dog. The game of fetching is simple the farther you can throw a ball the more fun for your dog.
Different types of a dog ball launcher
There’re three different types of dog ball launcher which you can buy. There are a manual launcher, semi-automatic launcher, and automatic ball launcher.
A manual launcher such as the ChuckIt Ball Launcher is the most friendly-budget launcher around. You can use this launcher if you want to spend a bright sunny day together with your dog outside. With a little bit of practice (assuming you’ve no physical limitation) you can throw a ball as far as 100 feet.
Some launchers such as the Hyper-4 Tennis Ball Launcher can even shoot balls over 220 feet! I really recommend getting at least one of these manual launchers to play with your dog if you have free time later on. It’s a great way to exercise and develop a bond with your dog. Remember, a manual launcher is only best suited to play outdoors, don’t try this inside your house. This manual launcher is also best suited if you want to play a floating water fetch game with your dog.
A semi-automatic launcher such as the Hyper Pet K9 Kannon Ball Launcher Dog Toys is quite popular among kids. This launcher is essentially a ball blaster gun, now you know why it’s quite popular among kids. With this semi-automatic ball launcher, you can shoot the ball up to 75 feet.
An automatic ball launcher is a type of launcher that we’re going to review in this article. With this automatic ball thrower, you can let your dog play a fetching game all day long with a limited or even without any involvement from you at all. It’s easy to learn and to operate tough it may take time for your dog to learn to operate the machine on its own, which is great to stimulate your dog’s mind.
This is the most pricey launcher but this type of launcher comes with all the cool features that you will love. Some automatic launchers come with a remote control that allows them to switch it on and off from distance. Some launchers have inbuilt sensors for detecting heat, and others have a feature to control how far the balls are thrown.
Both a semi-automatic ball launcher and an automatic ball launcher are best suited only to play on dry land and they can be used to play with multiple dogs since they have an ability to shoot multiple balls quickly.
What To Look For When Buying an Automatic Ball Launcher?
Before buying an automatic ball launcher for your dog, there are several things that you may want to consider:
Different types of automatic ball launchers support different sizes of tennis balls. Automatic ball throwers that shoot 1.5″ mini tennis balls work best for small to medium-sized dogs but for a big dog breed like German Shepherds or Great Danes, these 1.5″ mini tennis balls could become lodged in their throat and get them chocked.
Similarly, a large version of automatic launchers that use 2.5″ tennis balls are too much for a small dog breed to handle. No matter which brand that you’re going to buy eventually, you should always consider your dog’s size and jaw size first.
An automatic launcher that throws the ball at 10-30 feet is fun for small to medium dog breeds, but for large dogs that distance will bore them pretty easily. If you have a big dog like German Shepherds, you may want to get a launcher that allows the furthest distance settings all the way up to 50 ft.
The place where you play the game is also an important thing to consider. If you use the launcher to play inside the house or a small backyard, then it’s not necessary to buy a launcher that supports 50ft distance settings regardless your dog is a small, medium, or large dog. A launcher that can throw 10-30 ft is suitable enough to play inside the house or a small backyard.
Easy to use
You want to make it as easy as possible for your dog to learn to operate his launcher. A chute is an important area that you want to look for this is an area where your dog drops the ball into the launcher. Generally speaking, it’s easier for most dogs to put a ball into a large chute, so you may want to get an automatic launcher that comes with a large chute.
Some dogs are quite sensitive with a motoric noise coming from the launcher. Your dog might respond reactively if the noise coming out of the launcher is too loud and make it harder for him to learn to operate it. Therefore, you want to get a launcher that has less noise.
For an automatic ball launcher, the reliability of the auto-shooting part and precision of the different settings are important factors to take into account. Also, look for a launcher with a ball sensor, it is a plus point since the sensor can prevent the launcher from getting heated up as the sensor shuts down the machine when it detects there is no ball to throw. This ball sensor feature is an even more important factor to consider especially if you plan to leave your dog alone to play with his launcher all day long.
The cost of an automatic ball launcher can be varied. A quick search at Amazon shows a price range from $59.99 to $199,99. When it comes to buying an automatic ball launcher, you must remember “you get what you pay for”.
There are some unscrupulous companies that only want to make a quick buck from the rising popularity of an automatic ball launcher by offering low prices launchers that only last less than a month. If you meet one of these low price products, you better check the reviews and ratings first before buying. I would recommend sticking only to well-known, reliable brands such as iFetch, GoDogGo, and PetSafe. Sure they have a higher price tag but you get a better quality product that can last for years.
Best Replacement Balls for Automatic Dog Ball Launchers
All of the automatic ball launchers come with at least three tennis balls as a package. However, many of those balls are poorly made and not as durable as I expected. If you’re looking for a replacement for the balls, I would suggest Kong Air Squeaker Tennis Balls.
Kong Air Squeaker Tennis Balls
The Kong Air Squeaker Tennis Balls is a great option if you’re looking for replacement balls for your ball launchers. These products are more durable, and softer than the standard tennis balls that come with the launcher. It’s smartly designed balls that can squeak for added fun. The balls are made of a durable, high-quality rubber that can withstand the jaws of a heavy chewer. They can also float, so you can play fetch in pools and ponds. They come in multiple sizes (from small to large size) and quantity.
How to teach your dog to use an automatic ball launcher
iFetch comes with a great video that teaches dog owners how to teach their dogs to operate the launcher. Watch this video below for more details:
Some tips to teach your dog to use an automatic ball launcher:
- Be sure your dog has understood some basic commands and has learned to play fetch.
- Make sure your dog is watching you, then show him how to operate the launcher. It’s best to do it next to the launcher so your dog can watch clearly what you’re doing.
- You should train your dog at least three times a day and not more than 10 minutes for each session.
- Just stay persistent when your dog looks frustrated and doesn’t want to play with it. Reward him when he makes an attempt to learn and try.
- Ignore all sorts of behaviors that are not related to learning to use the launcher.
- Clean up the ball after play with a wet cotton cloth. Replace the ball immediately when it shows a sign of damage.