Do you have an active dog who always wants to play? Or maybe you’re just looking for a fun alternative to playing fetch and promoting an active lifestyle for your pets. If so, automatic ball launchers are the perfect fit for both you and your dog. In addition to fitness, auto ball launchers also enable beneficial mind stimulation, training, and independence in your dogs. Oh, let’s not forget one of the main selling points: they’re incredibly fun!
Automatic dog ball throwers work by dropping a ball (usually a tennis ball) into the opening of the device which then launches the ball anywhere from 10 to 30 feet! Most ball launchers can adjust the distance so that they can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Some models, such as the iFetch ball launcher, can be used with either batteries or an AC power cord which is amazing, allowing you to use the power cord when indoors and use batteries when outdoors so you do not need to run an extension cord. Many dogs can even be trained to use the automatic ball launchers themselves by fetching the ball and returning it into the ball launcher opening.
If any of these amazing benefits sounds like a good fit for you and your dog, check out our list of best automatic ball launchers for dogs to find out which model is best for you.
Best Dog Ball Launchers
When looking for a ball launcher for your dogs, it is important to first know the different types available on the market including automatic ball launchers, regular ball launchers (including cannons!), and ball throwers. Keep reading below for more information on each type of ball launcher including our top picks for each category.
- Best Dog Ball Launchers
- Best Hand-Held Dog Ball Throwers
- Automatic Ball Launcher Buying Guide
Our Ranking Methods
A quick note before we get started – we hands-on tested every dog ball thrower in this article! This isn’t some fluff piece where we have only seen the products online.
We played with each of these, measured their performance, and saw how our dogs interacted with them before coming up with rankings so that we can give you honest and truthful information to base your decision on.
Ball Launchers for Big Dogs
Out of all of the products we tested, the two below standout as the top choices for pet owners with big dogs. They come highly recommended from our team!
iFetch improved upon their flagship automatic ball thrower by introducing the iFetch Too, a slightly larger version which launches standard sized (2.5”) tennis balls. We were thrilled when iFetch announced this model because we have larger dogs and the original iFetch balls could probably be eaten!
In addition to launching bigger tennis balls, the adjustable distance now goes from 10 feet, 25 feet, 40 feet, or random. The added “random” feature makes for a lot of fun when playing outdoors with lots of room as it keeps the dogs guessing. The iFetch Too also comes with a built-in rechargeable battery, so you don’t need to lug around an extension cord to enjoy it.
Read our full thought in our iFetch Too review.
iDogmate comes in two sizes; large can launch standard 2.5” tennis balls and small can launch 1.5” mini tennis balls. Apart from iFetch, the iDogmate is one of the only other ball throwers on the market that have multiple products to suite every dog’s needs!
The iDogmate ball thrower also has four distances to choose from, ranging from 10ft, 20ft, 40ft, and 50ft! This automatic ball thrower can definitely launch balls the farthest, and it even comes with a remote control to operate the device from a distance. If long distance fetching is what you’re after, iDogmate is your go-to dog ball thrower, and you can read our hands-on iDogmate review to get the full scoop.
Ball Launchers for Small Dogs
Now for the small dogs! These launchers are built just as good as those for bigger dogs, but use smaller balls that small dogs will find more fun and manageable. Here are our top 2 picks in the small dog ball launcher category.
iFetch is one of the original manufacturers to introduce interactive ball launchers to the masses. Their flagship iFetch ball thrower is designed for small to medium sized dogs and launches 1.5” mini tennis balls at an adjustable distance of 10, 20, or 30 feet.
The adjustable distance makes the iFetch suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. We absolutely love the iFetch lineup of products, because they have a unique design and offer a variety of toys that dogs seem to love. Let’s not forget the most important reason we love iFetch: the ball throwers work amazing! Check out our honest iFetch review.
SmartPult is definitely one of the more unique and innovative ball throwers on the market. This app-enabled smart ball launcher dispenses treats while also engaging your dog in a game of fetch and mind stimulation.
From the app you can launch balls, dispense treats, and even adjust the distance from anywhere in the world. SmartPult can be battery operated or use the included AC charger and the thrower is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
Right now, SmartPult can only be used with mini tennis balls. If you have large dogs, check out our other options above.
See our SmartPult review for a more detailed look at this high-tech thrower.
Doggy Fun interactive ball launcher is a new addition to the exciting automatic fetch market. While features may be limited, Doggy Fun makes up for it in cost by being one of the most cheapest auto dog ball throwers.
This gadget can also be used indoors or outdoors and can be powered via AC adapter or 6 C batteries. Doggy Fun is specifically designed for small to medium dogs due to the 1.5” mini tennis balls. The balls that come with the unit aren’t very durable, so we would suggest getting replacements if your dog is a chewer!
The thrower can also be adjusted to Near, Middle, or Far depending on where you plan on using it (inside or outside). Read more about our experience with this launcher here.
iFetch Frenzy is a unique and innovative mind stimulation game for small to medium sized dogs. While technically not an official ball thrower, we still felt it was necessary to include this interactive game within the category.
iFetch Frenzy does not use any power or batteries; instead, your dogs can place the mini tennis balls into the Frenzy and have it roll out from one of three chutes at the base of the gadget. The lack of predictability makes the iFetch Frenzy a great game for keeping your dogs entertained and not becoming bored from repetition.
One thing to realize about the Frenzy is that there is in power needed, and thus it doesn’t “launch” the ball with any force. The way it works is the ball is placed into the funnel on top, then it drops into the unit and randomly comes out one of 3 holes, powered by gravity. Don’t expect anything fast or wild from the Frenzy!
GoDogGo Fetch Machine
GoDogGo is actually the original dog ball launcher and has been around since 1999! They are currently on their 4th iteration of the GoDogGo Fetch Machine, which is now called the “G4”. They also have a “Jr” model that fires smaller dog balls. The G4 works with standard sized tennis balls.
The G4 has a few features that make it unique. One is that the bucket design allows you to load up many balls at once and fire them off either in set intervals, or with the use of an included remote control.
Another unique feature is the “Safety Arc” design, which shoots the dog balls high into the air, rather than in a more direct line at your dog. Because of this high arc, it’s not well suited for indoor use, and it doesn’t feature a rechargeable battery. You can power the Fetch Machine with an AC adapter or by 6 D batteries.
We review the GoDogGo G4 here.
PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher
PetSafe has long been a leading manufacturer of pet products, including interactive ball throwers and other “pet tech” gadgets. PetSafe’s automatic ball launcher includes highly adjustable settings from 8 feet – 30 feet and even 6 different angle settings. It also has a safety sensor that prevent balls from being launched when a person or pet is standing in front of it.
One major drawback is if your dog can fetch the balls very fast, the PetSafe automatic ball launcher has a long delay between reloads. Some people report the safety sensor is more of a nuisance than anything, as it requires your dog to be at least 7 feet away from the launcher, or it will pause for 5 seconds, check the “safety zone” again, and then fire if clear.
Best Hand-Held Dog Ball Throwers
If you want to take a more active role in playing with your dog or prefer to save some money, then you should take a look at these handheld dog ball throwers. Many of them have cool features that let you pick up and load the ball without having to touch a slobbery dog ball, and fire them great distances like a Nerf gun!
Here’s a list of some of the throwers we have tested and enjoyed.
Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster
The legendary children’s toy manufacturer, Nerf, introduced a lineup of toys specifically designed for dogs including the Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster.
This ball launcher is one of our favorites as it has hand-free ball pickup, comes with 4 standard-sized Nerf tennis balls, and you can cock it back to fire easily with the sliding top handle.
This handheld ball launcher feels more reliable than others we tested, and we measured its distance as being from 50-60ft on average. Here’s our review of this fun dog toy.
Next on our list is the Max Launcher, a uniquely designed ball AND disc launcher. While the price is a bit more than the K-9 Kannon or Nerf Blaster, it makes up for it by having the ability to use both tennis balls and frisbees.
Max Launcher includes hands-free pickup but does not have storage for additional balls. You can also adjust the distance setting with the tension knob on the back.
The Max Launcher is the most powerful handheld launcher on our list, firing tennis balls up to 90 feet and flying discs up to 120!
Because of the arc it fires balls at and its power, we wouldn’t suggest using this one indoors. You can read more of our thoughts at our Max Launcher review post.
Hyper Pet K-9 Kannon
The Hyper Pet K-9 Kannon is a patented ball launcher in the shape of a cannon! The K-9 Kannon offers hands free pickup and has storage for one additional ball, and it comes with 2 standard-sized tennis balls.
The launcher works by loading a ball in the front of the Kannon which can be done with the ball directly on the ground, and pushing the muzzle of the cannon into it. From there, you pull the handle on the back to load the ball, and fire it with the trigger.
The ball was able to be launched roughly 60 feet in our testing, including the roll.
OxGord Bazook-9 is a very cool looking ball launcher that comes with a shoulder strap for easy carrying.
This launcher comes with two squeaky tennis balls and also has storage to hold 3 balls at one time.
In our testing, we found this launcher could shoot up to 65+ feet! When you pull back the firing arm, you can choose different firing power based on how far you pull back which is nice for indoor use.
Chuckit! Classic Launcher
The Chuckit! manual ball thrower is an all-time classic for high-energy, fetch-loving dogs. The Chuckit launcher can throw a ball much further than an automatic ball launcher, and is particularly great when used in wide open spaces with tons of room to run.
The classic Chuckit can throw a standard tennis ball 2x – 3x as far and even offers hands-free pickup to eliminate touching slobbery balls. Chuckit! launchers also come in a variety of colors and sizes.
This thrower takes a bit of practice to get used to, but can really tire a dog out quickly.
Hyper Pet Launcher
The Hyper Dog Ball Launcher is an innovative patented design that can throw tennis balls over 200 feet in any direction. Similar to Chuckit, Hyper Launcher also offers hands-free pickup and eliminates shoulder strain from throwing balls; however, the product itself is much bulkier than the original Chuckit and also costs a bit more.
We feel the original Chuckit is hard to beat, however the Hyper Dog Ball Launcher is a great change of pace for exercising your dog.
Automatic Ball Launcher Buying Guide
We reviewed nearly every ball launcher on the market for dogs in order to understand the main features, benefits, and performance of each one. Our goal is to make your buying decision easy by supplying detailed information and reviews. Before making a purchase, we encourage you to read our buying guide for automatic ball launchers, starting with the main features to look out for.
Main Features of Automatic Dog Ball Launchers
- Ability to Train Dogs, Stimulate Mind. Many of you have probably seen the video of an incredibly fun and happy dog playing fetch by himself with help from the GoDogGo ball launcher. If you haven’t, please watch the video below; and if you have, watch it again! An impressive feature of automatic ball launcher is the ability to train your dogs to drop the ball back into the chute for reloading after fetching the ball. Not only is this amazing mind stimulation for dogs, but it also enables very active dogs to continue playing if their owners are busy, not home, or simply exhausted.
- Adjustable Distances. Being able to adjust how far the ball is thrown is a great feature because it enables you to accommodate for indoor use or outdoor use. Most automatic ball throwers can be adjusted between 10 – 30 feet, with some upwards of 50 feet.
- Indoor and Outdoor Play. We already mentioned the distance adjustments are great for being able to play outdoors or indoors, but most launchers also come with optional battery power so you do not have to run extension cords.
- Various Tennis Ball Sizes. Depending on the model, many auto ball launchers work with standard tennis balls which are great for medium to large sized dogs. However, if you have a small dog, many manufacturers such as iFetch created ball launchers for small dogs by tossing out smaller tennis balls. If you have a small dog, we definitely encourage you to consider the iFetch Too or another ball thrower that uses small tennis balls.
- Reasonable Prices, Options for Low and High Budgets. Costs for an automatic ball thrower typically range from $100 – $200. However, there are more budget-friendly options well below the $100 mark for those interested in trying one without breaking the bank.
Benefits of Automatic Ball Launchers
Automatic ball launchers are a growing trend in the pet industry as the technology aims to make your pets health a top priority. From fitness to mind stimulation, the benefits of auto ball launchers are impressive and the amount of fun your dog will have is irreplaceable.
One of the great benefits of auto ball launchers is the ability to play with your dog by dropping the ball into the device or letting them play independently.
Considerations before Buying a Ball Thrower
The size of your dog is very important when looking to buy an automatic ball thrower due to the size of the tennis balls used with the devices. When doing a quick research at the available launchers, you may not realize that many of them are actually using 1.5” mini tennis balls. If you have a big German Shepherd, the mini tennis balls can serve as a choking hazard. Thankfully, iFetch, iDogmate, and GoDogGo sell large versions of their automatic ball throwers which use standard 2.5” tennis balls.
Small and medium sized dogs may be better suited for the mini tennis balls that are used with many ball launchers including the original iFetch, SmartPult, and Doggy Fun.
Indoor or Outdoor
Nearly all ball throwers are suitable for indoor or outdoor use, and many of them even come with the choice of battery operation or AC power. With indoor/outdoor use in mind, an important feature to look out for is distance. If you plan to primarily use the device outdoors, you may be more interested the the furthest distance setting to have your dog run the furthest. However, if you have a small yard or want to use it indoors, the lower distance settings may be more important to you. The standard adjustments are 10ft, 20ft, and 30ft; however some go up to 50ft.
Training your dogs to place the ball back into the launcher by themselves may be your primary goal of purchasing one of these ball launchers. If this is the case, you will want to look for a launcher with a large ball chute (the area to drop the ball into the launcher) to make it easier for your dogs.
GoDogGo definitely has the largest “reloading” area to return balls and is often one of the easiest to train on. Another thing to look out for is sound; dogs that are nervous around weird things that make noises will have a harder time to train since the ball throwers do make some sound. All of our reviews take noise levels into account to help find the most quiet dog ball thrower.
The prices of automatic ball throwers vary widely from one to another. You can typically expect to pay between $100 and $200 for a reliable product, which is where the majority of our recommendations fall. Automatic ball throwers under $100 tend to be less reliable.