Best Automatic Dog Ball Launcher - Comparison and Reviews
Playing fetch is part of a dog’s DNA. It’s an opportunity for them to bond with their owners while getting vital exercise. More importantly, it’s a fundamental expression of their hunting and retrieving instincts.
Since humans domesticated dogs, we have trained them to fetch. Some hyper-energetic breeds, like spaniels and retrievers, are predisposed to enjoy this activity more than others. Regardless of your canine’s breed or personality, the exercise is self-reinforcing. It provides a rewarding feeling every time they retrieve a ball, stick, or Frisbee.
Of course, keeping up with certain dog breeds can be a workout in itself. Border Collies, Dalmatians, and Siberian Huskies will have owners playing fetch until the sun sets. Plus, handling a ball coated in slobber is less than sanitary or desirable.
Keep your pet occupied with a dog ball launcher. There are automatic and manual launchers that ensure your dog gets the exercise and endorphins they need.
We have compiled the best automatic dog ball launchers to make your shopping more manageable. Also, read the buying guide to get more information on what features are most suitable for your dog.
Best Automatic Dog Ball Launcher 2023 - Reviews
1. iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher for Dogs
The iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher is the future. The spherical device is equal parts simple, sleek, and sound. The compact launcher allows dogs to play endless games of fetch outdoors as well as inside the house.
That perpetual fetch starts with the battery. The iFetch Ball Launcher has a built-in rechargeable energy source. Owners do not have to worry about buying or replacing batteries. All they have to do is charge it and go.
The iFetch Ball Launcher runs as long as your dog does. It shoots three standard-sized tennis balls 10, 25, or 40 feet with the touch of a button. There is even a “random” option to keep your pup guessing where the ball will go next.
The device works best when the balls are clean. Any dirt or debris will negatively affect the machine’s performance. Additional materials on the surface create unwanted friction with the inner workings, which can shorten projections and potentially cause a clog.
Operating the launcher requires two steps. First, train your dog to drop the iFetch tennis ball into the top of the machine. You may need to use the persuasive powers of a treat to help.
Once the ball launches, encourage your dog to retrieve it. You may need to launch a few balls before they make the connection. After that, your pup can repeat the launching as many times as they want.
Owners and canines love the iFetch Ball Launcher. It won “First Place” in the New Product Showcase dog category at SuperZoo, which is the largest trade show for animals. While the device has questionable durability and overall value, the iFetch is ideal for small dogs.
2. PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher
The PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher is minimalistic in its design. The orbital shell is a waterproof grey plastic that vaguely resembles a ball on Newton’s cradle. The top features a shallow funnel that leads to the inner projector. There, the device shoots a regular-sized tennis ball up to 30 feet.
Owners can toggle between nine distance and six angle settings. The PetSafe Ball Launcher shoots at a range of 20 to 45-degree angles. The complete control over launching distance and angle makes the device perfect for indoor or outdoor use.
Dogs and owners can load three balls into the hopper at a time. Dogs can enjoy spurts of play, though the dog ball launcher turns off every 15 minutes to give your canine a “rest.” The compact design and accessible carrying handle make the storage process easy, too.
One of the innovative features is the motion sensor. The sensor is on the front of the launcher and detects movement within seven feet. If you or your dog is in that range, the PetSafe Ball Launcher will pause for two seconds before launching.
Additionally, the device requires a power cord or six D batteries, neither of which comes with the dog ball launcher. The company also offers customer support Monday through Saturday. You can call (800) 845-3274 for any comments or questions.
It is best suited for short games of fetch.
3. iDogmate Automatic Dog Ball Thrower for Mini Dogs.
Puppies and small dogs want to play fetch as much as their large breed brethren. The company, iDogmate, makes that possible with its Automatic Dog Ball Thrower for Mini Dogs. When fully-charged, the launcher can support up to 250 launches for hours of play.
The dog ball launcher comes with a sizeable cube-shaped hopper. It can hold four or five balls before funneling them to the projector. There the ball flies 10, 20, 30, or 35 feet, depending on the distance setting. Owners can opt for regular or random distances on each throw.
Every dog ball launcher also comes with custom balls. The ball has the familiar felt exterior of a tennis ball but is non-abrasive to the touch. This design is a safety precaution to limit choking.
The critical technological design is how the dog ball launcher shoots items. Each launcher has a patented iDogmate Arced Wheel to facilitate the ball from the hopper to the air. This design minimizes the chance of clogs inside the machine and maximizes distance.
One major complaint, though, is the lack of durability. There are numerous anecdotes about the machine failing to work after a few days. It is unclear whether this is a user issue or a product of poor design. If you do have a problem, you can contact customer service at (702) 758-2219.
The iDogmate Automatic Dog Ball Thrower is one of the better options on the market today. While it is best for small dogs, it will provide unlimited pet play. The most significant point of concern is longevity, though the device does come with a one-year warranty.
While it can use rechargeable batteries, iDogmate recommends using an AC adapter for the desired launch distance. The battery has relatively weak power compared to the adapter because it requires battery power during every throw.
4. Playball by Couch Potato
The Playball by Couch Potato caters to pet owners with small dogs. The compact device is only five pounds and is roughly the size of a basketball, which makes it practical indoors and outdoors. There is even a wall plug for indoor applications.
The side of the Playball shows the distance setting for three launching distances. At its maximum strength, a pet can chase down Playball throws up to 20 feet. There is also a distance setting for short and medium distances.
One distinct feature compared to other automatic dog ball launchers is the Playball’s custom balls. As opposed to traditional tennis balls, your pet will fetch one of three smooth, miniature Playball balls that are 1.5 inches in diameter. It is unclear how well the device can handle tennis balls.
The most common complaint is that these balls are not durable. The relatively plush material does not last as long against biting as its competitors. Still, Couch Potato notes that the balls are “new and improved” and “will not jam in the Playball shooter even when wet.”
The Playball by Couch Potato is a budget-friendly option for small dogs. The economical design and limited range make it ideal for miniature pinschers, Yorkshire terriers, and Malteses. Any larger breeds will compromise the longevity of the Playbill and its balls.
The device does not come with rechargeable batteries, though, as users need six C batteries to power it. It also comes with a manual in addition to three balls.
5. GoDogGo Fetch Machine G4 Automatic Ball Launcher/Thrower for Dogs
Before 1999, automatic dog ball launchers did not exist. GoDogGo changed that. Today, the industry-leading company is one of the most well-known manufacturers off fetch toys.
The high watermark is the GoDogGo Fetch Machine G4 Automatic Ball Launcher/Thrower for Dogs. For starters, it has three-time and distance settings depending on the play area’s size. The GoDogGo ball launcher can shoot up objects more than 35 feet.
It also works with more than the standard tennis ball. While the dog ball launcher comes with three tennis balls, owners also get two bonus balls. It can also handle similar items, such as a lacrosse ball.
GoDogGo’s pioneering vision is on full display with its proprietary Safety Arc. The feature ensures the arc pattern avoids your pet during every shot. The Auto-Stop Safety Sensor also offers on-demand fetch whenever your pet wants to play.
How to Choose an Automatic Ball Launcher for Dogs
You want the best for your pet. In this case, that means sifting through an endless array of dog ball launcher features. We are here to make things simple. Here are the five essential features to look at while shopping for an automatic dog ball launcher.
What Features to look for in Automatic Dog Ball Launchers
Standard Tennis Balls Compatibility
A standard tennis ball is 2.57 to 2.70 inches in diameter. This width is suitable for most medium and large dog breeds. The essential component here is that the dog ball launcher has a funnel with a minimum 2.7-inch opening.
Some launchers do not have this capability. These models are typically for puppies and small dogs. If you decide to purchase a small dog ball launcher, you will likely need company-made balls. The first set usually comes with the machine, though.
Any battery purchase should be rechargeable. They are what allow owners to use the launcher in and outside of the house. Plus, non-rechargeable batteries become a repeating expense every time they need replacement.
Some dog ball launchers have internal batteries that owners never have to change. Instead, they require an AC adapter and an outlet. In these cases, the product will likely be more effective when connected to the outlet instead of relying purely on internal battery power.
Variable Throwing Distance
Variety is the spice of life. Keep your dog entertained with a ball launcher that can handle multiple distances. Top-end models can project a ball upwards of 40 feet while others, PetSafe, have nine different distance settings.
The beauty of an automatic dog launcher is that, well, it’s automatic. Some models have a button that programs random distances with each throw. If your machine does not have that, make sure it comes with a remote for hands-free programming.
Easy to Operate
Simplicity is everything. Your dog needs to learn how to operate the dog ball launcher with ease. Having an intuitive design and immediate launching system are features of the best launchers. It also helps if the dog ball launcher can shoot regardless of whether there is dirt or slobber on the ball.
Noise level is critical, too. Loud internal mechanisms can scare or intimidate a dog from using the device. While every launcher has some degree of noise, quieter ones are ideal for your pet.
Yes, there are dog ball launchers that come with treat dispensing options. This is an innovative idea but according to our research, there isn’t any good dog ball launcher with treat dispenser in the market that is worth buying. The reviews aren’t generally positive, if there is any in the future that is good enough we would include it in our best list. You can look for automatic food dispenser separately as there are many good options available.
Safety is in everyone’s best interest. Some devices cater to customer concerns about safety by installing motion sensors. These scan for a pet or human presence and delay the launch if it detects something too close to the launch hole.
GoDogGo does an excellent job of implementing a safety mechanism without compromising functionality. For instance, a dog may be on the outer range for a motion sensor, which will stall the device to their confusion. GoDogGo, however, launches each ball on a safe trajectory that allows the game of fetch to continue without delay or risk.
How Does an Automatic Ball Thrower Work?
The outward mechanisms of an automatic ball thrower are straightforward. Drop the ball into the hopper and let it trickle into the machine. Then, the device will spit it out one end anywhere from 10 to 40 feet.
The mechanics inside are more complex. A majority of dog ball launchers use a rotating wheel to queue the ball into a landing area. This queuing is possible because an electric fan draws in air that pushes a canister and rotates the ball into place.
Once the ball is in the landing place, wheels squeeze it. The pressure intensifies as the machine leads the ball towards the launch hole. Some holes will have a soft rubbery covered called a detent, which creates an airtight seal to increase pressure.
Eventually, the air pressure is higher than the resistance of the detent. When this moment occurs, the ball shoots from the barrel of the launcher. The detent will reset into place, and the process can repeat. Note that this is one version of how launchers work, though most use similar mechanics.
How Far Do Automatic Ball Launchers Throw Balls?
The distance range depends entirely on the device. Launchers for miniature dogs will typically go as far as 20 feet. Larger machines can go up to 40 feet in the air.
Of course, these are automatic models that require a machine to throw the ball. Manual devices can go further. Manual launchers typically resemble slingshots, canons, or jai alai stick and can sling objects up to 150 feet.
Are Ball Throwers Bad for Your Dog?
Generally speaking, no. Your pet is not at an advanced risk compared to a traditional game of fetch. In these cases, the primary concern is wear and tear over continual action. In the same way that runners exert their muscles while running, dogs can strain themselves playing fetch.
If your pet is uncoordinated, there might be cause for concern. Dogs that cannot stabilize themselves when slowing from a sprint or cannot control their contortions while catching may be more susceptible to injury. If that is the case for your dog, it might be best to skip the launcher altogether.