Jack Russell using a dog ball launcher

The Best Dog Ball Launcher -
Ultimate Automatic Fetch Machines

Our #1 Pick

The Best Value for Money

iFetch Original Automatic Dog Ball Launcher

  • Makes almost no noise when on
  • Sturdy and lightweight plastic design
  • Comes with three balls (4 cm)

For some dogs, the ball is really the best dog toy and the centre of their world. They seem to never get tired of playing fetch. And even if your dog is not so crazy about playing fetch, a dog ball launcher can still be a great way for them to get enough exercise.

Today, we walk you through all the options when it comes to ball launchers for dogs.


What to Look for in Ball Launchers for Dogs?

Getting enough physical and mental stimulation every day is essential if you want your dog to be happy.

“Dogs whose exercise and social needs are met are better behaved and more enjoyable pets. Many unruly behaviours that clients are concerned about are a result of a pet being under stimulated. Exercise and play are important for the pet’s mental and physical health and social development.” - Authors of Canine and Feline Behavior for Veterinary Technicians and Nurses (1).

However, it often happens that we don’t have as much energy to match the entertainment levels our dogs require. In this case, a ball launcher can be the perfect solutions you need. Here is what to consider before buying a ball launcher:

Distance and Variability

How far does a launcher throw the ball? These distances can vary - the distance ball launchers can reach starts from about 3 meters to over 20. What you’ll want to do is find a launcher that matches your dog needs. For a small dog, you don’t want too much distance or the dog will get confused. For larger, energetic dogs, you’ll want the ball to go as far as possible. Therefore, make sure to check the distance before settling on a launcher. Some automatic throwers also offer the option of adjusting the distance or even randomized throwing to keep the dog interested.

Ball Size

Many ball launchers use standard tennis balls. However, some of them use balls that look just like tennis balls but are smaller. Checking the size of the balls is very important in order to avoid dangerous accidents. You want a ball that is not too big, so your dog can grab it, but not so small that the dog could swallow it!

Automatic or Manual?

The type of launcher you get depends on the level of engagement you want to have with it. With fully automatic launchers, your dog will essentially be able to play alone (once property trained), Other options include semi-automatic launchers that you need to stomp on, for example, or something as simple as a manual launcher (essentially a ball-grabber that extends your hand).


Dog Ball Thrower 2021 Top List

From completely automatic throwing machines, over stomp-launchers, to simple designs that simply extend your reach when throwing, there are many options to choose from for your game of fetch. Below, you’ll find the best launchers on the market.

What sets this product apart from the rest?

  • Makes almost no noise when on
  • Sturdy and lightweight plastic design
  • Comes with three balls (4 cm)

The award-winning brand iFetch is one of the automatic ball launcher pioneers. Since it came out, iFetch is the number one selling fetch toy. There are a couple of different versions of this product, but the Original is still the most popular option, and probably the best one.

The iFetch Original ball launcher uses balls that are 4 cm in diameter, which is a bit smaller than the standard tennis ball. Beware that for very large dogs, like Mastiffs, for instance, these balls might pose a choking hazard.

This dog fetch machine has an adjustable throw distance. You can choose if you want the thrower to launch the ball 3, 6, or 9 meters far. That makes this launcher suitable for both indoor and outdoor games of fetch. It’s perfect for those moments when you’re away or busy with chores and your dog’s ready for playtime. Its funnel design helps your dog throw the ball into the launcher without much effort. 

The iFetch Original is a bit more pricey than some other ball launchers on the market, but well worth the price. It has a streamlined plastic design and rubber feet which keep it in place. Finally, this ball launcher comes with a long power cord but can also run on 6 C-cell batteries so there is no need to worry about where to plug it in.

Pros

Cons

  • Makes almost no noise when on
  • The balls included are not very durable
  • Sturdy and lightweight plastic design
Cell
  • Comes with three balls (4 cm)
Cell

  • Supports 4 balls loaded at a time
  • 4 distance options
  • Features side handles for portability
  • Doesn’t make much noise

The iDogmate Mini is a simple yet effective ball launcher that will keep your pooch busy when you’re not home. Its rectangular shape makes it difficult for dogs to knock it aside by accident, while the funnel at the top is convenient for them to load the machine. It’s so effortless, your dog will get a hold of it in no time.

This ball launcher is suitable for dogs under 14 kg. The dog’s weight doesn’t have anything to do with the usage of a ball launcher. Instead, the balls are 4.5 cm in diameter, which is the perfect size for a small dog’s mouth. However, larger dogs might swallow the ball, so this product isn’t safe for them.

The iDogmate Mini comes with three balls that are made with food-grade healthy organic paste technology. This assures the balls are safe for the dog's mouth. This ball launcher features the patented Arced Wheel design, which prevents drooly balls from getting stuck inside.

The iDogmate Mini comes with a remote controller that allows you to adjust the launch distance. You can choose several distances from 3 to 10 meters, as well as a random setting. It runs either on an AC adapter or a rechargeable Li-ion battery, which lasts up to 250 throws.

Pros

Cons

  • Supports 4 balls loaded at a time
  • Big dogs risk choking with these small balls
  • 4 distance options
Cell
  • Features side handles for portability
Cell
  • Doesn’t make much noise
Cell

#3: Best For Large Dogs: iFetch Too Dog Toys, Medium

  • Suitable for dogs of all sizes
  • Has a distance randomizing option
  • Long-lasting rechargeable battery

The iFetch Too is a larger variant of their original automatic ball launcher. The original one is designed for small to medium-sized pooches, so it was only appropriate to make another one for our large canine companions that enjoy playing with standard tennis balls. The package includes three balls that are non-abrasive to a dog's teeth.

There are three throw distance options you can choose from 3, 7.5 and 12 meters, or you can choose the feature that randomizes each throw’s distance. This is great for outdoor playtime, since it keeps your pooch wondering how far the ball will go.

Unlike the original version, the iFetch Too comes with a rechargeable battery. It lasts up to 300 throws before it needs to be recharged. That’s long enough to make this ball launcher suitable for dog parks and such. It weighs 5.6 kilograms which is quite heavy for a ball launcher, but it features a nice carrying handle which helps with portability.

Pros

Cons

  • Suitable for dogs of all sizes
  • Balls it comes with get easily soaked with drools
  • Has a distance randomizing option
  • Expensive
  • Long-lasting rechargeable battery
Cell

  • Ideal for small to medium-sized dogs
  • Non-abrasive tennis balls it comes with are safe dog’s teeth
  • The wind-up time allows the dog to get in front of the machine before shooting

If you’re searching for an interactive toy that will keep your pooch occupied when you’re busy doing chores, then this automatic ball thrower for dogs from All For Pawz is a great choice for you. With such a simple yet effective design, every dog will learn how to use it in no time.

This dog ball thrower uses three distance settings: 3, 6 and 9 meters. The distance adjustment allows you to adapt to different spaces, and it’s done with a simple click on one button. The package comes with three tennis balls included. These are a mini version, since they’re only 5 cm in diameter. Considering the distance options and ball size, it’s safe to assume that this ball launcher is more suitable for small to medium breeds.

The ball launcher comes with an AC adapter, but you can put a rechargeable battery in if you prefer using it cordless. It shuts down after a 10 minute-long throwing session, or after a short period of idleness. This is done automatically, which can be annoying, your dog can’t use the launcher while home alone, meaning it requires your supervision. While this feature was probably added for extending the battery life, it’s really unnecessary.

Verified Review - 4/03/2021
Noah Loves It
"Product was as per picture. What I think doesn’t matter because my dog absolutely loves it. Getting him to bring the ball back beside the shooter, but doesn’t quite have the idea of dropping it inside. Most happy with this purchase."

Pros

Cons

  • Ideal for small to medium-sized dogs
  • The automatic shutdown can be annoying
  • Non-abrasive tennis balls it comes with are safe dog’s teeth
Cell
  • The wind-up time allows the dog to get in front of the machine before shooting
Cell

  • Suitable for standard-sized tennis balls
  • Very affordable
  • Compact and lightweight

Foot-controlled pitching machines are a great way to play the fetch game with your dog while not straining your arm by throwing balls endlessly. Instead, you step on the launcher and watch your pooch chase the ball like crazy. This tennis ball launcher from Zelica is a perfect choice for dogs of all sizes and ages.

This pitching machine features a simple design that resembles a balloon. It works on a simple principle - by stepping on it, you force the air to push the ball out through the shooting tube. The distance varies with these kinds of ball throwers. The harder you step on it, the further you’ll send the ball. That’s what makes this product a great option for playtime in the open, but inadequate for indoors.

The launcher comes with one standard-sized tennis ball. While additional balls would be nice, this pitching machine can’t hold more than one ball at a time, so it’s not a big deal. And since it’s so compact, you can throw it in the backpack and take it to a dog park with you.

Pros

Cons

  • Suitable for standard-sized tennis balls
  • Even a light stomp can be too strong for playing indoors
  • Very affordable
Cell
  • Compact and lightweight
Cell

#6: Best Range: Nerf Dog Stomp Launcher

  • Launches ball up to 23 meters
  • Works with any standard tennis ball
  • Made of a sturdy, recyclable material

Nerf Dog is a line of Nerf-inspired dog toys made of rubber and plastic. One of their most popular products is this long-distance ball thrower that can launch a ball up to 23 meters in distance. Owners of fast breeds like Whippets or Malinois know the struggle of not being able to throw the ball far enough for their pooches to make more than two jumps before catching it. But with this stomp launcher, that will no longer be an issue.

This ball thrower comes in a bright red colour, and it’s made of durable thermoplastic rubber. Don’t be afraid to stomp heavily on the launcher. The TMR is a sturdy and moldable material commonly used for making durable toys. Always wear shoes when using this launcher, otherwise you might slip when stepping on it.

The neck is perfectly angled, and one stomp sends the ball flying high in the air before falling. Your high-jumping canine companion will finally feel challenged when playing a throwing game with you. The launcher is designed to work with any standard-sized tennis ball. You also get one Nerf ball with the purchase, however, the quality of that ball is not commendable.

Pros

Cons

  • Launches ball up to 23 meters
  • The ball is poorly made
  • Works with any standard tennis ball
Cell
  • Made of a sturdy, recyclable material
Cell

#7: Best Automatic Ball Launcher for Dogs: PetSafe PTY17-15849 Automatic Ball Launcher

  • Nine distance and six angle settings
  • Audible tones and motion sensors for safety
  • Automatic sleep mode prevents your dog from over-exhaustion

Every dog loves a good game of throw, but not every pet parent is a talented ball thrower. Luckily, automatic ball launchers can be of great aid with that. Especially in the case of this product by PetSafe with unique features.

The first thing you notice about this ball thrower is its futuristic design and beautiful grey and purple colour combination. The launcher is pretty large and it can hold three standard tennis balls. It’s water-resistant, which makes it safe to use outdoors during different weather conditions.

If you had to use one word to describe this ball launcher, it would be diversity. There are nine distance settings ranging from 2.5 to 9 meters. You can also choose from six different throwing angles. You can customize the throwing game to suit your pooch’s preferences. This personalization feature makes this launcher great for both indoors and outdoors.

The ball thrower has motion and safety sensors that detect pets and people standing in front of the launch hole. The last thing you want is a black eye from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, there's a beep before a ball’s launched, which is your signal to move out of the way.

This ball launcher has a 15-minute interval rest feature, which ensures your pooch catches a breath for a bit before going for another ball catching session. Like other automatic ball launchers, it comes with a power cord but can also run on 6-D cell batteries.

Pros

Cons

  • Nine distance and six angle settings
  • Sensor motion can be annoying as it delays the throw
  • Audible tones and motion sensors for safety
Cell
  • Automatic sleep mode prevents your dog from over-exhaustion
Cell

#8: Best Manual Dog Ball Thrower: Chuckit! Sport Launcher

  • Affordable
  • Allows you to throw the ball up to 3x farther
  • No need for touching slobbery balls with bare hands
  • Variety of sizes

Automatic ball launchers are practical, but playing one on one with your pooch is so fulfilling. For those pet parents who insist on being the main ball thrower, this launcher from Chuckit! is a perfect tool. It doesn’t take up much space, so you can carry it in a backpack or a car trunk.

This manual thrower has a simple design. Basically, it’s a long-handled plastic spoon. It comes in different sizes. The longer the thrower’s handle is, the greater the launch distance you’ll have. However, don’t think that the short-handled version is suitable for indoor use. The thrower creates such a strong force that will break any vase or window it comes across.

If your dog is an excessive drooler, then you’ll love this manual launcher. The same goes for outdoor plays in the mud. With Chuckit! you can pick a ball up without getting your hands dirty or wet. You can also do that without bending over or kneeling, which is great for elderly pet owners.

Verified Review - 24/03/2021
Looks Great But Not Meant For Golden Retrievers
"I like the design but the ball was to small for my Golden Retriever and German Shepard. They would easily swallow it. I returned it and exchanging it for the medium size."

Pros

Cons

  • Affordable
  • It requires a bit of practice getting used to throwing with this
  • Allows you to throw the ball up to 3x farther
Cell
  • No need for touching slobbery balls with bare hands
Cell
  • Variety of sizes
Cell

Best Automatic Ball Launcher: The Final Verdict

So which ball launcher should you get? The iFetch Original Automatic Dog Ball Launcher is definitely amongst the most popular options. It’s an automatic ball thrower that works flawlessly and is easy for dogs to use.

The iDogmate Mini Ball Launcher is an alternative that comes pretty close and has a similar design to the iFetch. Both throwers let you choose how far you want the balls to fly and can work using batteries.

Want more information on dog toys? Check out our below guides:

FAQ

How do you train a dog to use a ball launcher?

There are a couple of ways to get a dog used to the ball launcher, but the easiest one is probably using positive reinforcement and going slow. If you are using an automatic ball launcher, first get the dog used to it when it’s turned off. After that, you can turn the machine on and get the dog slowly used to that. After that, the trick is mostly getting the dog to put the ball inside the hole. Most dogs quickly start liking the game after that.

How do dog ball throwers work?

Most ball launchers use air pressure in some way. Automatic launchers for dogs usually work just like tennis ball launchers. They draw the air inside using a fan and then create air pressure to push the ball out at high speed. The launchers that you have to stomp on operate on the same principle - only without electricity.

Do dog ball launchers require special balls?

Most ball launchers work with standard tennis balls. However, some manufacturers make throwers that use balls in a different size. In that case, you’ll have to get balls in that specific size. Always make sure to follow the instructions of the manufacturer, otherwise the thrower can get damaged.

References
  1. Martin D, Campbell L, Ritchie M. 2017. “Problem Prevention”. In: Martin, D., Shaw, J., Eds. Canine and Feline Behavior for Veterinary Technicians and Nurses. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.: Chichester; pp. 145-203
Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is a professional writer, anthropologist & dog lover with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying the communication between animals and humans. Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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