Welcome to the wonderful world of automatic ball throwers for dogs! If you’re a pet owner, you are probably familiar with these products. They’re battery- or AC-operated machines which shoot balls across the yard or the house (generally 10-30 feet) so that your dog can chase and fetch them.
Your dog can be trained to return the balls to the funnel-shaped opening in the machine and enjoy hours of entertainment fetching balls without any involvement from you whatsoever!
Which is the best automatic ball thrower for dogs? The iFetch, PetSafe, and Go Dog Go are the primary dog ball launchers on the market today. They are sturdy, well-built machines that have been proven to work with dogs of all types. A number of companies make smaller hand launchers as well. These aren’t electronic or automated, so you’ll have to use your own hand power to make them work.
Whether you’re an experienced pet owner, or you’re a newbie researching the latest dog toys, we’ve got a ton of information here for you to help decide which type and brand of dog ball launcher might be best for you and your best friend.
Ball Throwers for Dogs: Buyers Guide
|Picture||Item||Cost||Description||Our rating (1-10)|
|iFetch Too||$$$$||Larger version of the iFetch designed for bigger dogs.||9.7|
|GoDogGo Automatic Ball Launcher for Dogs||$$$||Automated ball fetch machine with bright green design and drop in bucket||9.4|
|iFetch||$$$||Extremely popular and sturdy automated ball fetch machine.||9.1|
|PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher||$$$||Attractive ball launcher with numerous distance setting options.||9.0|
|iDogmate Dog Ball Launcher (Large - Midi)||$$$$||Automated ball fetch machine with bright green design.||8.9|
|iDogmate Mini Dog Ball Launcher with 5 Balls for Small Dogs||$$$||Smaller Automated ball fetch machine with bright green design. Specific to smaller dogs.||8.5|
|Chuckit!||$||Simple hand grip with the ability to toss tennis balls up to 140 feet.||8.9|
|Bazooka Ball Dog Toy||$$||Tennis ball bazooka launcher with various distance settings.||9.0|
|Hyper Pet™ K-9 Kannon™||$$||Gun launcher that shoots balls 30 feet when trigger is squeezed.||8.5|
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Dog Ball Launcher
Size of your pet. The iFetch shoots smaller balls (1.5 inches in diameter), so it works best with small- to medium-sized dogs, while the iFetch Too, PetSafe, and Go Dog Go shoot tennis ball-sized balls and would make a better choice for large dogs. The iFetch Too is basically an iFetch for big dogs since it operates in the same fashion as the original smaller model.
You also want to consider how much space you have available. The iFetch has three different settings allowing you to launch the balls distances of 10, 20, or 30 feet. The GoDogGo fetch machine shoots balls farther, but for that reason it is not as ideal for indoor use as the iFetch.
Here’s one user’s video showing how their doggie plays with the iFetch.
Cost. The original iFetch is generally more affordable than the Go Dog Go however the Go Dog Go is more affordable then the iFetch Too. Either way, it’s a significant investment, but in our experience, the price is worth it, because you’re getting an automatic ball thrower for dogs that you can use for years to come.
If your budget is much smaller, stick with one of the non-automated products by companies like ChuckIt or Hyper Pet.
Reviews of Some of the Best Automatic Ball Throwers for Dogs
In our opinion, the king of the automatic ball thrower market is the iFetch, which only hit the marketplace in 2014 and has already built up a rabid fan base. Dog owners love the fact that the iFetch shoots balls far, the device looks cool, and the machine itself is sturdy. It’s also flexible enough to be either an indoor or outdoor product.
The iFetch can either be plugged into the wall or operated on battery power. The C batteries (not included) will provide up to 30 hours of machine life, which means you can potentially go several months without needing to replace the batteries.
The iFetch uses small, soft blue balls that won’t hurt your dog. They are easy for any small to medium dog to fetch. Best of all, smart dogs can be trained to retrieve the balls and drop them into the funnel, which causes the machine to shoot them out again. It’s a neverending game of fetch that you don’t even have to be involved in! Read our full iFetch review
Though the iFetch is popular as well, the GoDogGo has a few advantages over it. With a bright green ball bucket and sharp black body, the GDG is more eye-catching than the white iFetch. It’s also versatile enough to shoot different kinds of balls, from smaller mini balls to regulation tennis balls. The launcher is very powerful and can shoot balls several feet into the air and also works well outdoors.
At most retailers, the GoDogGo is more expensive than the normal iFetch but less then the “ifetch Too”, but it does boast a nice color and appearance. Dog owners love this one, so do your research to make an informed decision. Read our full GoDogGo review
For medium to large-sized dog breeds, there’s the iFetch Too, a bigger, more powerful machine than the original iFetch. The iFetch Too uses balls that are the size of regulation tennis balls, which is convenient because you can easily replace them when the original balls wear out.
This device stands more than 12 inches tall and it can shoot balls up to 40 feet, one of the longest distances offered by any automatic ball thrower for dogs. It also uses a rechargeable battery which comes with the machine. That’s great because you won’t have to invest in new batteries all the time!
The iFetch Too was tested with large breeds like Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, and Italian Mastiffs, and they all loved it. In our own field tests, we observed that both a Viszla Beagle and even a smaller Jackrat Terrier both learned how to use the machine very quickly and couldn’t get enough. Don’t be scared off by the high price tag – the iFetch Too earns our highest recommendation. Read our full iFetch Too review
The big advantage of the PetSafe is that it has nine different distance settings and six angle settings. No other ball launcher can even come close to that many options. This allows you to use it virtually anywhere – in small spaces indoors, or out in a big park or backyard where you can shoot the balls higher into the sky.
On the con side, some users are reporting that the PetSafe isn’t as durable as they’d hoped. So while the PetSafe may cost less than the iFetch Too, whether it will last as long is questionable. Read our full PetSafe review
One of the advantages of this product are you can use standard sized tennis balls. Another advantage is it comes with a remote with an adjustable range setting for dogs.
On the con side, some users are reporting that the iDogmate isn’t as durable as they’d hoped. Since this launcher is the most expensive product out there, top quality should be expected. However some users have complained of quality control issues. Other cons to this product include the launch distance varies quite a bit. It’s also quite load in some cases so if your dog is spooked by load noises you may want to consider another launcher. Read our full iDogmate Midi review.
This Dog Ball Launcher is intended for smaller dogs that have a hard time with normal sized tennis balls. This machine requires the 1.5″ diameter balls to function but this can work well for smaller dogs. This machine also features a remote and adjustable range much like the iDogmate Midi.
Like the iDogmate Midi, some users are reporting that the iDogmate Mini is inconsistently reliable. The unit we tried out worked well but other users have found issues. This unit also works better plugged in. It shoots further and more accurately when plugged in but is still very usable when not plugged in. Read our full iDogmate Mini review.
ChuckIt makes several different dog fetch toys, from basic hand launchers to the more sophisticated fetch wheel. The ball launchers are simple. Instead of tossing a ball with your hand, you grip the ball with the launcher, then fling it forward. ChuckIt balls can travel up to 140 feet with this technique, which is a lot farther than the other throwers on this list. It’s a guaranteed way to wear out your pup in just minutes.
ChuckIt products are affordable, but their biggest strength is that they are durable. ChuckIt has a reputation for producing quality products that stand up to a ton of wear and abuse from excited dogs. The launchers come in several different sizes, from mini versions to the biggest “Pro 26” model. Read out ChuckIt ball launcher review
Here’s a product that is a nice compromise between the expensive electronic models and the cheap hand version. The Hyper Pet K-9 Kannon Ball Launcher is a plastic gun that shoots tennis balls around 30 feet or so. Some users have complained that the range isn’t big enough, but if you wanted to heave balls by hand, you could do that without a machine. The Hyper Pet is for folks that want to avoid tiring out their arms and prefer to simply squeeze a trigger instead.
Plus, it’s cool and kind of empowering to walk around with a pretend weapon in your hand. As you might expect from a product that is sort of a compromise hybrid of the other types of ball throwers, the Hyper Pet Kannon Ball Launcher price is between the iFetch and ChuckIt brands, making the Hyper Pet a nice value in our estimation.
Teaching Your Dog to Use A Ball Fetch Machine
An automatic ball thrower for dogs only works when your canine buddy knows how to use it. In order to maximize the benefits of a machine like the iFetch or GoDogGo, you’ll need to train your pooch to respond to certain commands and teach them how to drop the balls into the slot. iFetch has conveniently created a video that helps pet owners work through this process.
The video uses shaping and positive reinforcement techniques to help doggies learn that good things happen when they fetch balls and return them to the machine. Give this clip a look for more details!
Why You Should Avoid Cheaply-Made Ball Launchers
In recent months, a bunch of new dog ball ball launchers have appeared on Amazon. Most are very cheap, both in price and quality. These products can be appealing to some because of their low prices, but check the reviews. Most reviews are negative or neutral, because these poorly-made products are breaking down not long after purchase.
We strongly strongly advise against buying one of these items. We can’t mention specific brand names here, but if you’re only paying $30 for an automatic ball launcher, you can almost be certain it’s not going to last. It’s much better to make the bigger initial investment for a product like the iFetch that is going to provide years of fun.
For more on this topic, see our full article on the drawbacks of purchasing a poorly-made ball launcher.
Automatic Ball Throwers for Dogs: Summary
Automatic dog ball throwers are becoming more and more popular these days, as pet owners try to relieve some of their own burden while ensuring that their pooches still get plenty of playtime fun. Based on our personal experience, we highly recommend the iFetch if you’re looking for an electronic ball launcher, and the Hyper Pet and ChuckIt if you’re seeking a simple hand launcher.