Anyone who has a dog as a part of their family will know that there are a few things our dogs love more than a good, old tennis ball. When it comes to tennis balls, the rule for our furry connoisseurs seems to be the grubbier, the older and the smellier the better! It’s no secret that dogs just love to chew and chase balls, and there is nothing they enjoy more than playing with their owners.
A game of fetch is one of a dog’s favorite thing to do with us, and it can help us bond and create a closeness with them. However, we don’t always have the time to spend hours each day throwing a ball back and forth. Luckily for us and our eager pooches, there are many contraptions on the market designed to automatically throw balls for our pets, so we don’t have to take time out of our busy schedules and our dogs can enjoy fun in the sun. Take a look at our top eight best automatic fetch machines that your dog will simply adore!
The Best Automatic Dog Ball Thrower
The first automatic fetch machine we have selected is the iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher. Designed especially for smaller dogs, this ball launcher comes with the addition of three mini tennis balls, ideal for use in the machine. The balls are 1.6 inches in diameter and the fetch machine is compatible with other balls of a similar size.
With its automatic ball throwing action, this unique dog toy is just the thing for busy owners who don’t have excess amounts of time to play fetch for hours but still want to make sure their beloved pet is happy, entertained and stimulated. You can choose from three different distance settings depending upon how much space you available for play. Select from either 10, 20 or 30 feet with a simple touch of a button. This allows you to customise playtime to your dog’s individual needs. Created by the Hamil family based in Austin, Texas, you can be sure of a high-quality product, as this ball thrower has been personally tested by their own precious pooch, Prancer!
Choose from three different distance choices, 10, 20 and 30 feet
Designed for small dogs
A family-owned business based in Texas
- Weight3 lbs
Next on the list is a ball launcher that is designed to be used by both you and your dog. Made by the reputable sports brand Franklin Sports, this ball launcher includes six white aero-strike plastic baseballs, which are perfectly streamlined for maximum speed.
This automatic ball thrower allows the user to adjust the height as they need to, so whether you have a tiny toy poodle or a huge Great Dane, you can switch up the height to suit your dog. It pitches a ball every ten seconds and a red, flashing light indicates when it will be launched, so you can always be prepared!
Dimensions: 17.75″ X 9.5″ X 9.875″
Pitches a ball every ten seconds
A red, flashing light indicates when a ball will be pitched
Includes six white aero-strike plastic baseballs
- BrandFranklin Sports
- Weight3.19 lbs
The PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher does exactly what it says on the tin, and is guaranteed to keep your dog safe from harm. This is because it has multiple sensors, including a front motion sensor which will prevent the contraption from launching balls when someone is standing up to 7 feet in front of it. Better still, the loading bucket is at the side of the ball thrower, so you or your dog do not need to stand in front of the machine in order to reload it.
An incredibly powerful machine, the ball launcher throws balls a distance of between 8 to 30 feet. Furthermore, it has nine distance settings and six angle settings to customise play to your dog’s specific needs. It also has both a special distance knob and pull out and twist angle knob which adjusts the launcher’s range.
It’s water-resistant so can be used outside without fear of rusting. In fact, this ball launcher is perfect for use both indoors and outdoors. The distance adjustment comes in very handy when using inside. You can use many different sizes of tennis ball within this fetch machine, so it’s ideal for all shapes and sizes of dog. It works best with standard 5/8 inch tennis balls, however, smaller sizes will work just fine. Three balls can be loaded in at the same time for maximum fun!
You will be alerted that a ball is about to be thrown through the use of audible tones that both you and your dog can hear. Alongside this, a two-second motion detection delay begins when 15 minutes of rest time starts and ends.
Includes motion sensors for you and your dog’s safety
Audible tones alert you as to when a ball is about to be launched
- Weight8 lbs
Our next option is the iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher, however, unlike the first one on the list, this one is designed especially for large dogs. This fetch machine launches standard sized tennis balls for your big furry friend, at either a distance of 10, 25 or 40 feet, thanks to its adjustable distance buttons. To keep play exciting, it includes a ‘random’ setting which will change up the distances to keep your pooch on their toes. You can also lock in the distance setting easily.
You need never worry about changing the battery of the automatic ball thrower, it runs using a rechargeable built-in battery. It comes with three standard sized, non-abrasive tennis balls, but you can also use your own. Created by a family owned company in Austin, Texas, you can be sure of high-quality when you purchase this product.
Distance options of 10, 25 or 40 ft. Also has a random option for extra fun
Includes three standard sized tennis balls
Rechargeable built-in battery
- Weight12.35 lbs
The Playball Automatic Ball Launcher is ideal for keeping your furry companion entertained for hours on end. Specifically designed for smaller dogs, it launches mini, smooth balls of about 1.5 inches in diameter. It’s incredibly easy to use and allows your dog to reload it themselves by simply dropping the ball in the hole at the top, ready for auto-launch just a few seconds later.
It can be used both indoors and outdoors, making use of a wall plug for inside and six batteries so your dog can play outside too! It also includes three saliva resistant balls, so they will not become sticky or dirty and clog up the mechanism of the fetch machine. Offering three different options for distance depending on how much room is available, this toy also has light up settings to show which distance is selected.
Designed for smaller dogs
Includes saliva resistant balls which prevent the ball launcher from getting clogged up with dirt
Three different distance settings and includes light-up icons to show what distance is currently selected
Can be used both indoors and outdoors
- BrandCouch Potato
- Weight5.6 lbs
The iDogmate midi is designed for medium-sized dogs and makes use of tennis balls of about 2.5 inches in diameter. In fact, it comes with the addition of three non-abrasive, non-toxic felt tennis balls, specially designed for this fetch machine. It boasts one of the furthest distances on the market, offering four distance options of 10, 20, 40 and 50 feet. What’s more, it also allows you to switch the distance settings to ‘random’ to keep your dog guessing for ultimate fun. It also permits you to operate the machine through the use of a remote control.
Run by an AC adapter and rechargeable Li-ion batteries, it’s able to give your dog up to 1000 ball launches when fully charged – that’s a whole lot of playtime! To conserve energy, it also has an automatic power save mode and a 90-degree adapter connector, which helps to reduce the risk of accidental removal.
Perfect for use both indoors and outdoors, you can play with your pooch or allow them to play all by themselves. Either way, they’ll be entertained for hours on end.
Four distance settings, 10, 20, 40 and 50 feet
Up to 1000 ball launches on a fully charged battery
Comes with three non-abrasive, non-toxic tennis balls
- Weight9.37 lbs
This interactive, automatic ball launcher is set to become your dog’s new favourite toy! Featuring three distance settings, it is ideal for both older dogs and young, energetic puppies alike. Select your pooch’s ideal pitch distance from 10, 20 or 30 feet, it’s easy to change up play as your and your pet please. This dog ball throwing machine is specifically designed for small to medium dogs and comes with 3 dog-safe, non-abrasive mini tennis balls of 2-inch diameter.
Due to its small size, it is easy to store away when not in use and take with you anywhere you like. Play fetch inside, in the garden, on the beach or the dog park – you can take it literally anywhere!
Choose from three different distances settings, 10, 20 and 30 feet
Designed for small to medium sized dogs
Comes with three non-abrasive, dog-safe mini tennis balls
- BrandKARMAS PRODUCT
- Weight4.4 lbs
The final dog ball launcher on our list of favourites is this talking option. Yes, you heard that correctly, this automatic ball thrower actually talks to your dog! As it launches the ball for your dog, the machine says ‘get the ball’ and rewards your pooch with an affirming ‘good dog’ once they reload the machine by placing the ball back inside the funnel. Not only will this reinforce training and help to keep your dog obedient, but it will also give them a sense of companionship and encouragement as they play. Perfect for owner’s who have limited amounts of time for fun and games!
It is designed for small dogs and works with mini-sized tennis balls. Launching balls as far as 12 feet, it’s ideal for senior dogs as well as small breeds. It is powered by both an AC power adapter and also 4 ‘C’ batteries, which means it can be used both outside and inside.
Speaks to your dog, tells them when to fetch the ball and rewards them with a ‘good dog’ when they reload the machine
Specifically designed for small dogs
Two methods of charging so can be used both inside and outside
Launches ball up to 12 feet, ideal for older dogs
- Weight1.8 lbs
Best Automatic Dog Ball Thrower Buying Guide
Things to Consider When Buying a Dog Fetch Machine
One thing to consider is the distance of the pitches thrown from the machine. Are you going to allow your dog to only play with their ball launcher outside or do you have room to use it inside too? Be aware of how much space is available to you before selecting a fetch machine. Think about the size of your dog also, will they be able to catch a large-sized tennis ball or would they be better off with a machine that uses mini-sized balls? Your budget is another thing you will need to consider, it's important not to purchase a cheaply-made one, however, you don't need to spend hundreds to get a great quality product. Take a look through our list for the best automatic ball throwers available, there's one to suit every pocket!
Benefits of Using an Automatic Dog Ball Thrower
- Keep your dog entertained
We all love playing fetch with our dogs, however, we can't spend all day throwing a tennis ball back and forth, much as we'd like to. Purchasing an automatic ball thrower means that your dog can be kept entertained for hours and hours without any help or attention from us. This means we can get on with other, more pressing issues whilst our pets enjoy their playtime. This alleviates us of guilt during those times when our pets are bored but we just don't have the time for play.
- Reinforces good behaviour and training
In order to get your dog to use their automatic fetch machine properly, you need to first teach them how to use it. This extra training time and effort will reinforce their overall training and will encourage good behaviour. You can find the instructions on how to teach your dog to use a ball fetch machine below.
- Extra exercise
As any responsible dog parent will know, it is imperative to give your dog regular walks. In fact, you should be walking them at least once a day to ensure that both their minds and bodies are kept healthy. A bored dog who does not get enough exercise can become stressed, miserable and even rather destructive. Whilst you should make sure you are walking your dog regularly, purchasing an automatic ball thrower can offer your dog extra exercise which will keep their brain entertained and their body moving. This is particularly useful for owner's who work long-hour jobs or very busy lifestyles and don't always have the time to give their pets sufficient walks.
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How to Teach a Dog to Use a Ball Fetch Machine
When you first bring home your brand new state-of-the-art fetch machine, it's likely that your dog won't have a clue what to do with it. Check out these instructions on how to teach your dog how to use their brand new toy.
- Prepare your ball launcher
Set up the automatic ball thrower as per the instructions and be sure to have your clicker and treats ready for positive reinforcement.
- Create a positive association for the ball thrower
Before you even think about turning the ball thrower on, you need to create a positive association around it. Remember, to a dog, a large new piece of machinery can be quite intimidating and frightening. Making sure that it is turned off, allow your dog to approach the fetch machine. As they do, either give them a treat or use the clicker or both.
- Create a positive association for the sound
Your pooch may have gotten used to the look of the new, strange ball thrower, but if you don't get them accustomed to the sound it makes, they will get freaked out and you will be back to stage one! The best way to do this is to position the ball thrower far away from your dog and turn it on. When it begins to make noises, use the clicker and say 'yes!' in a reassuring, encouraging tone.
- Launch the ball
Once your pup has had the chance to get used to the sound that the ball launcher makes, allow them to come near to it. Use the clicker reinforce the positive association your dog has with the ball thrower and then turn it on so that the ball is launched. Encourage your dog to retrieve the ball and use the clicker and treats again.
- Reinforce the retrieval of the ball
When your dog brings the ball back, be sure to reinforce this with encouraging words, the clicker and treats if necessary. Your dog will normally relinquish the ball so that they can take a treat, but you may want to use the command 'drop it' alongside this.
- Show your dog how to reload the ball launcher
Whilst holding a treat, hover your hand over the loading bucket of the ball thrower so that when your dog drops the ball, they will inadvertently drop it in. Be sure to use your clicker and offer your pet a treat, whilst saying 'drop it'.
- Practice makes perfect!
Keep going over the steps with your dog until they start to get the idea of what they need to do. Gradually reduce the number of the clicks you give as your dog gets used to how the ball thrower works.
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Why You Should Avoid Cheaply-Made Automatic Ball Launchers
We all want to save money where we can, however, If you are in the market for an automatic fetch machine, you do not want to select a cheaply-made one. Purchasing an inexpensive ball thrower for your dog might seem like a good idea at the time, but quality tends to suffer as prices drop, and if it is not constructed properly, your dog could be in danger. For example, it could fall apart as your pet is using it, potentially causing injury to them. The best way to differentiate between a great product and a cheap, poor quality one is by taking note of the reviews. Also, you should make sure to choose a ball launcher from a reputable, well-known brand, such as iFetch or PetSafe. Choosing a ball thrower machine from our list of favorites will guarantee that your dog is kept safe and sound whilst playing.
Types of Dog Ball Throwers
Our list of the best automatic ball throwers offers pet parents many options to choose from when picking out the perfect toy for their dog. For example, the Gotcha Talking fetch machine literally 'speaks' to your pooch, telling them when to fetch the ball and calling them a 'good dog' once they reload the ball into the funnel. Many options also allow the user to adjust the distance of pitches, for a truly customized playtime experience. You could always go old school, and use a manual ball launcher to play with your dog. These are shaped like large spoons and scoop up the tennis ball, ready to throw as far as you can!
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Best Automatic Dog Ball Throwers FAQ:
Q: What are automatic ball launchers for dogs?
A: Automatic ball launchers are special dog toys which allow dogs to play fetch without the need to bother their owners with a grubby tennis ball. To get the maximum amount of fun out of these interactive ball throwers, your dog will need to be shown how to use it properly before playtime can begin. However, there's no need to panic, teaching your dog to use these machines is actually very simple. To make life easier, we've included a comprehensive guide on how to train your dog to use a fetch machine in this article.
Q: How do automatic dog ball throwers work?
A: This depends upon what kind of fetch machine you select. Some are battery operated, whilst other require an AC power adapter to work. There are some eco-friendly options that make use of rechargeable battery packs that never need to be changed or discarded. Battery operated ball throwers allow you and your dog to use the machine outside as well as inside.
Q: Why do dogs love playing fetch?
A: A game of fetch is one of a dog's favorite things to do with their owners. But why are our pups so obsessed with this simple ball throwing game? Here are some of the most likely theories as to why dogs are so into throwing and retrieving balls.
- It's in their nature
Although to us, it may just seem like an uncomplicated game, the idea behind fetch is deep-rooted in the nature of our dogs. Ever since dogs became man's best friend, they have been trained by humans. Tens of thousands of years ago, humans first attempted to domesticate wild dogs and taught them to find and retrieve food. These skills would have been passed down from generation to generation through their puppies, and still remains within them as an instinct now. In fact, we continue to reinforce it by training dogs such as spaniels and retrievers to fetch game birds that hunters have shot.
- It makes them feel happy
It is no secret that dogs love to spend time with their human family members, and nothing makes them happier than pleasing their owners. Because of their ingrained disposition and instinct for catching and retrieving, dogs can quite quickly become addicted to a game of fetch, this is why they never seem to get bored of bringing the ball back to you, even after hundreds of throws!
The author of A Guide to Living with and Training a Fearful Dog, Debbie Jacobs, spoke about how playing fetch affects your dog. She said, “All of these behaviors are self-reinforcing, meaning they make the dog feel good. They don’t need to be rewarded for the behavior. If you like playing football, you play football even if you don’t get paid to do it. It just feels good to do it. Same is true for dogs.”
- Spending quality time with you
Perhaps the main reason that dogs love to play fetch is that they get to spend time with their owners. A dog's world revolves around their humans, and when they get the chance to play with them constantly, it is the most exciting thing ever for them.
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Our Top Pick
We have selected the iFetch Interactive Ball Launchers for Dogs our top pick of the bunch. It comes with the addition of three mini tennis balls, of about 1.6 inches in diameter. They are the perfect size for this contraption, however, do be careful to not get it wet or dirty as this can affect the overall performance of the ball thrower.
Once you have taught your dog how to load up the machine, they will be free to play to their heart's content, without the need of outside help. You can adjust the distance to suit your area and your dog's needs with the simple click of a button. You can choose from 10, 20 or 30 feet. A company ran by the Hamil family in Austin, Texas this unique dog toy is tested by their 'resident fetcher', Prancer!
- How to Train Your Dog to Use an Automatic Ball Launcher, Wag Walking
- Why Do Dogs Like To Play Fetch?, Labrador Training HQ